Notes: A suggestion to improve HOF attendance

By Doug FergusonMay 14, 2013, 5:22 pm

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – On a night of celebration, one of the embarrassing moments at the World Golf Hall of Fame induction ceremony was early in the program, when Hall of Fame members in attendance were recognized. The introductions didn't take very long.

There were only eight of them, all women.

''Getting players to come back has always been a bit of a challenge over the years,'' PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said. ''It does raise a question in my mind about whether this is the best time of the year to do it.''

Back in 1998, the inaugural induction at the World Golf Village was held in May. The ceremony also has been in the late fall. It has been indoors and outdoors. Finchem had to be persuaded to move it to the week of The Players Championship, fearing it would detract from the tournament.

Whenever or wherever, it's not working.

Here's one suggestion. The Tour should consider working with IMG (along with title sponsor PNC Bank) and move the Father-Son Challenge from Orlando to north Florida, near the Hall of Fame. The tournament is for fathers who have won major championships, such a long list that the Father-Son often has an alternate list. Make the Hall of Fame induction ceremony the centerpiece of that week, and it's sure to be a big night.

Attendance isn't the only thing under review.

One element of the Hall of Fame that becomes confusing is players being inducted in the prime of their careers. The minimum age to get on the ballot is 40. Phil Mickelson was inducted when he was 41, and he has won twice more since then. Ernie Els won a fourth major after his induction.

Golf is a game to play forever, but why wasn't the age set at 50, the same age when players are eligible for the Champions Tour? Why 40?

''I don't really remember why,'' Finchem said. ''It seemed to be the thing to at that point in time for whatever we were looking at.''

He said the minimum age has been discussed in the last couple of years, and ''it's currently under discussion.''

There's also the matter of having a PGA Tour ballot for the ''World'' Golf Hall of Fame. It sends a subtle message that this really is about the PGA Tour. International players get their own ballot.

''I think it's timely to take a look at everything we're doing and take a fresh look,'' Finchem said. ''We haven't done that in several years.''


WORLD CUP: Rory McIlroy said two weeks ago he would not be playing in the World Cup of Golf this year. There is speculation that if he were to represent Ireland at the World Cup, he would be have no choice but to play under the Irish flag in the 2016 Olympics.

But the announcement over the weekend that the World Cup was going to Royal Melbourne this fall under a new format piqued his interest.

Northern Ireland, for the first time, can field its own team.

''That might change things a little bit,'' McIlroy said before leaving TPC Sawgrass.

Graeme McDowell certainly hopes so.

''I need my partner in crime in Melbourne,'' he said. ''Regardless whether Rory wants to play or not, I want to play this year. If it works, I'd like him to be there, as well. But we'll see.''

McDowell spoke before he was aware of the change in format and that Northern Ireland can choose to have its own team.

Padraig Harrington smiled when told that Northern Ireland could have its own team. ''It suits me,'' he said. Harrington is the highest-ranked player from Ireland.

The $8 million purse will be divided with $7 million of it for the individual competition (which also provides world ranking points) and $1 million for the team. It will be stroke play, combining the scores of the two-man teams. The field will be capped at 60 players. Countries are allowed no more than four players – provided the additional two are inside the top 15 in the world – but the two players with the highest ranking will be the team. If the cutoff were now, and everyone wanted to play, Tiger Woods and Brandt Snedeker (No. 5) would represent the United States in the team competition.

Players and countries are selected from the world ranking until the 60-man field is set. There likely will be no more than about 18 teams.

Perhaps the strangest part of this World Cup? Royal Melbourne will hold two events in successive weeks. The Australian Masters will be Nov. 14-17, followed by the World Cup of Golf Nov. 21-24.


OPEN AND OUT: Louis Oosthuizen isn't making big plans to see Merion ahead of the U.S. Open because he's not sure he will be there. His wife, Nel-Mare, is expecting their third child on the Saturday of the tournament.

In a perfect world, she will have the baby the weekend before.

''But if it's during the U.S. Open, I won't play,'' Oosthuizen said. ''If it's Monday and she hasn't gone into labor, I probably won't go. When the doctor said the date, I looked at the calendar and said, 'Wow. Well done.' But family is more important.''

His other two children were born in December and February, so the South African hasn't had to cope with babies born around the majors.


OGILVY GETS HIS MATCH: Geoff Ogilvy missed out on the Match Play Championship in Arizona when he plunged in the world ranking, a tough blow for a guy who has won the event twice and reached the championship match another time.

But he won't be shut out from his favorite format.

Ogilvy was on the charter from Sawgrass to Bulgaria to take part in the World Match Play Championship that starts this week. His agent called him a few weeks ago to make sure he had no plans to play the HP Byron Nelson Championship and to let him know he might get in the Match Play.

''It wasn't even on my radar,'' Ogilvy said after missing the cut at The Players.

Nicolas Colsaerts is the defending champion in a 24-man field that includes Graeme McDowell and Henrik Stenson. There are eight groups of three players who play a round-robin format with the top two advancing to single elimination.

''It's a good format for me, probably – hopefully,'' said Ogilvy, who is having a year to forget. He not only failed to qualify for the Match Play in Arizona, he narrowly missed out on the Masters. He already has missed seven cuts this year. Match play is his favorite format, so maybe this can shake things up for him.

''Besides, when am I ever going to go to Bulgaria again,'' Ogilvy said. ''And it's a match play tournament. And they're getting us there easily. And I wasn't going to play Dallas, anyway. Why not at this point?''


DIVOTS: Jimmy Walker has made 22 consecutive cuts, the longest active streak on the PGA Tour and only 120 tournaments short of Tiger Woods' record. ... Sandy Dawson of Australia, former captain and now president of Royal Sydney Golf Club, has been appointed captain of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews for 2013-14. He is only the second Australian appointed to the post. ... Ernie Ransom, president of Pine Valley Golf Club from 1977 through 2001, died last week at age 86. ... Phil Mickelson has confirmed that he will return to the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart, a week before the British Open. ... The European Tour returns to Denmark next year for the first time since 2003. The tournament will be called Made in Denmark.


STAT OF THE WEEK: For the second time in his career, Woods won his last tournament before the Masters and his first tournament after the Masters.


FINAL WORD: ''Nobody has ever sued the Tour for being cleared of getting a drug violation.'' – Harrington on Vijay Singh's lawsuit.

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Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'

By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 3:35 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.

Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.

“I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.

“It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”

The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.

“All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”

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Koepka still has chip on his chiseled shoulder

By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 3:06 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Brooks Koepka prepared more for this Open than last year's.

He picked up his clubs three times.

That’s three more than last summer, when the only shots he hit between the summer Opens was during a commercial shoot for Michelob Ultra at TPC Sawgrass. He still tied for sixth at The Open a month later.

This time, Koepka kept his commitment to play the Travelers, then hit balls three times between the final round in Hartford and this past Sunday, when he first arrived here at Carnoustie.

Not that he was concerned, of course.

Koepka’s been playing golf for nearly 20 years. He wasn’t about to forget to how to swing a club after a few weeks off.

“It was pretty much the same thing,” he said Tuesday, during his pre-tournament news conference. “I shared it with one of my best friends, my family, and it was pretty much the same routine. It was fun. We enjoyed it. But I’m excited to get back inside the ropes and start playing again. I think you need to enjoy it any time you win and really embrace it and think about what you’ve done.”

At Shinnecock Hills, Koepka became the first player in nearly 30 years to repeat as U.S. Open champion – a major title that helped him shed his undeserved reputation as just another 20-something talent who relies solely on his awesome power. In fact, he takes immense pride in his improved short game and putting inside 8 feet.

“I can take advantage of long golf courses,” he said, “but I enjoy plotting my way around probably - more than the bombers’ golf courses - where you’ve got to think, be cautious sometimes, and fire at the center of the greens. You’ve got to be very disciplined, and that’s the kind of golf I enjoy.”

Which is why Koepka once again fancies his chances here on the type of links that helped launch his career.

Koepka was out of options domestically after he failed to reach the final stage of Q-School in 2012. So he packed his bags and headed overseas, going on a tear on the European Challenge Tour (Europe’s equivalent of the Web.com circuit) and earning four titles, including one here in Scotland. That experience was the most fun and beneficial part of his career, when he learned to win, be self-sufficient and play in different conditions.


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“There’s certain steps, and I embraced it,” Koepka said. “I think that’s where a lot of guys go wrong. You are where you are, and you have to make the best of it instead of just putting your head down and being like, 'Well, I should be on the PGA Tour.' Well, guess what? You’re not. So you’ve got to suck it up wherever you are, make the best of it, and keep plugging away and trying to win everything you can because, eventually, if you’re good enough, you will get out here.”

Koepka has proved that he’s plenty good enough, of course: He’s a combined 20 under in the majors since the beginning of 2017, the best of any player during that span. But he still searches long and hard for a chip to put on his chiseled shoulder.

In his presser after winning at Shinnecock, Koepka said that he sometimes feels disrespected and forgotten, at least compared to his more-ballyhooed peers. It didn’t necessarily bother him – he prefers to stay out of the spotlight anyway, eschewing a media tour after each of his Open titles – but it clearly tweaked him enough for him to admit it publicly.

That feeling didn’t subside after he went back to back at the Open, either. On U.S. Open Sunday, ESPN’s Instagram page didn’t showcase a victorious Koepka, but rather a video of New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. dunking a basketball.

“He’s like 6-foot-2. He’s got hops – we all know that – and he’s got hands. So what’s impressive about that?” Koepka said. “But I always try to find something where I feel like I’m the underdog and put that little chip on my shoulder. Even if you’re No. 1, you’ve got to find a way to keep going and keep that little chip on.

“I think I’ve done a good job of that. I need to continue doing that, because once you’re satisfied, you’re only going to go downhill. You try to find something to get better and better, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Now 28, Koepka has a goal of how many majors he’d like to win before his career is over, but he wasn’t about to share it.

Still, he was adamant about one thing: “Right now I’m focused on winning. That’s the only thing I’ve got in my mind. Second place just isn’t good enough. I finished second a lot, and I’m just tired of it. Once you win, it kind of propels you. You have this mindset where you just want to keep winning. It breeds confidence, but you want to have that feeling of gratification: I finally did this. How cool is this?”

So cool that Koepka can’t wait to win another one.

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Despite results, Thomas loves links golf

By Jay CoffinJuly 17, 2018, 2:48 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Despite poor results in two previous Open Championships, Justin Thomas contends that he has what it takes to be a good links player. In fact, he believes that he is a good links player.

Two years ago at Royal Troon, Thomas shot 77 in the second round to tie for 53rd place. He was on the wrong side of the draw that week that essentially eliminated anyone from contention who played late Friday afternoon.

Last year at Royal Birkdale, Thomas made a quintuple-bogey 9 on the par-4 sixth hole in the second round and missed the cut by two shots.


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“I feel like I’ve played more than two Opens, but I haven’t had any success here,” Thomas said Tuesday at Carnoustie. “I feel like I am a good links player, although I don’t really have the results to show.”

Although he didn’t mention it as a reason for success this week, Thomas is a much different player now than he was two years ago, having ascended to the No. 1 position in the world for a few weeks and now resting comfortably in the second spot.

He also believes a high golf IQ, and the ability to shape different shots into and with the wind are something that will help him in The Open over the next 20 years.

“I truly enjoy the creativity,” Thomas said. “It presents a lot of different strategies, how you want to play it, if you want to be aggressive, if you want to be conservative, if you want to attack some holes, wait on certain winds, whatever it might be. It definitely causes you to think.

“With it being as firm as it is, it definitely adds a whole other variable to it.”

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Reed's major record now a highlight, not hindrance

By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 2:46 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The narrative surrounding Patrick Reed used to be that he could play well in the Ryder Cup but not the majors.

So much for that.

Reed didn’t record a top-10 in his first 15 starts in a major, but he took the next step in his career by tying for second at the 2017 PGA Championship. He followed that up with a breakthrough victory at the Masters, then finished fourth at the U.S. Open after a closing 68.

He’s the only player with three consecutive top-4s in the majors.

What’s the difference now?


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“The biggest thing is I treat them like they’re normal events,” he said Tuesday at Carnoustie. “I’ve always gone into majors and put too much pressure on myself, having to go play well, having to do this or that. Now I go in there and try to play golf and keep in the mindset of, Hey, it’s just another day on the golf course. Let’s just go play.

“I’ve been able to stay in that mindset the past three, and I’ve played pretty well in all three of them.”

Reed’s record in the year’s third major has been hit or miss – a pair of top-20s and two missed cuts – but he says he’s a better links player now than when he began his career. It took the native Texan a while to embrace the creativity required here and also to comprehend the absurd distances he can hit the ball with the proper wind, conditions and bounce.

“I’m sort of accepting it,” he said. “I’ve gotten a little more comfortable with doing it. It’s come a little bit easier, especially down the stretch in tournament play.”