On the verge of quitting, Frazar now in paradise

By Doug FergusonJanuary 4, 2012, 3:38 pm

KAPALUA, Hawaii – Christmas arrived a day early in Dallas at the home of Harrison Frazar.

His wife walked into the house holding the mail that Saturday, fighting back tears as she handed him an envelope from Augusta National, both of them knowing it could be only one thing: His invitation to play in the Masters.

“We went into my office, closed the door, opened it and read it,” Frazar said. “And we had a good cry.”

It was sure to be an emotional moment for Frazar, a 40-year-old who took a job in commercial real estate when he left the University of Texas because he didn’t think he was good enough to play golf for a living. It became even more meaningful considering Frazar was on the verge of walking away from the PGA Tour last year.

Frazar is among 12 players at Kapalua who will make their debut in the Tournament of Champions when it begins Friday. Most of the others are in their 20s, just getting started.

What makes this amazing to Frazar is that just seven months ago, he was ready to quit.

Coming off a shortened 2010 season because of surgery to his right shoulder and left hip, Frazar was standing on the tee at the Bob Hope Classic when he began to wonder what he was doing out there.

“I felt empty,” he said. “I began to doubt my skills, my heart, my body, my mind, my own self-worth. I doubted everything.”

He went three months without making a cut. The harder he tried, the worse it would get.

At a dinner during Colonial arranged by friends, a power figure in business and sports marketing—Frazar didn’t say who—dangled an attractive job offer. Two days later, another group of businessmen asked him to consider another job.

Frazar began to realize golf might not be in his future, that it was time to move on. Among those he consulted was Justin Leonard, a former Texas teammate and one of his best friends.

“I remember he told me about one of the offers, and I told him it sounded pretty good,” Leonard said. “I’m pretty close to him. And I could definitely tell he was pretty beat up.”

Frazar was so serious about retiring from golf that he mapped out an exit strategy.

He finally made the cut at the Byron Nelson Championship and tied for 14th. A week later he qualified for the U.S. Open, but he didn’t want his career to end at such a big, busy week.

“I wanted Hartford to be my last tournament,” Frazar said. “I told my caddie, `I’m not going to Memphis. I’m going to play the Open, and then go to Hartford and that will be it.’ He told me I was crazy, that I was hitting it good. So I went to my son’s Little League game, thought about it and said, `I need to go to Memphis.”’

It turned out to be the best decision of his career.

Frazar felt a load lifted when he made up his mind to retire, and he felt at ease with himself. Maybe that’s why he played well at the Nelson and qualified for the U.S. Open. But when he was 3 over through four holes at the St. Jude Classic, Frazar felt himself slipping into his old pattern of getting down on himself.

“I told my caddie, `Don’t talk to me about another shot. Just give me yardage to the flag.’ I’d had it with trying to be perfect. I was going to pick a shot, stand up and hit it,” Frazar said.

What happened next was a blur.

Without realizing it, Frazar was only one shot out of the lead going into the final round. He had a one-shot lead on the final hole when he pulled a 7-iron into the water and had to scramble for bogey. Frazar wound up winning with a par on the third extra hole.

After 14 years and 354 tournaments produced nothing, he was a PGA Tour winner. More than the check of just over $1 million, he received a two-year exemption on tour, a spot in the Tournament of Champions on Maui and that coveted invitation to the Masters.

Frazar never made it to Hartford for his farewell.

“Life had taken a 180 degree flip,” he said. “When I least expected it, I suddenly had a whole different set of issues.”

Retirement from the PGA Tour no longer was one of them.

“Not for two years,” he said with a smile.

His coach, Randy Smith, was giving lessons at Royal Oaks when Frazar worked his way into contention. Smith headed for his office, locked the door and watched the final hour alone, nearly breaking his hand against the desk when Frazar went into the water on the 18th.

When it was over, Smith tried calling him four times and couldn’t leave a message without his voice choking.

“He was beat up. He was worn out,” Smith said. “He felt resigned to the fact that’s what he was going to do, and he felt comfortable about the people he was going to get involved with. He was going to give it everything he had and play free.

“It was not a matter of holding on, because there was nothing to hold onto.”

The perks were immediate. Frazar made it to the British Open for the first time in his career. He played Firestone for the first time. He flew to Shanghai for the World Golf Championship.

And on Christmas Eve, he received his letter from Augusta National.

Other than winning a major, I think it’s the most coveted thing in golf,” Frazar said. “It’s probably not as big of a deal to the younger guys. They don’t realize how hard it is. But when you’ve tried for 14 or 15 years, it’s a real emotional moment.”

He kept that invitation in a small stack of letters he has received over the years, from former presidents George H.W. Bush, Ben Crenshaw, former Texas coach Darrell Royal, Arnold Palmer and Byron Nelson, who wrote to Frazar after he lost in New Orleans a decade ago, “You learn more from your failures than your successes. Always be honest with yourself and keep your head up.”

Four days after getting the letter, Frazar loaded up his three sons and other family members and headed for Maui. He couldn’t wait to get to Kapalua, and even now, it’s hard to believe how he got here.

“The first day we were here, the kids were out playing in the surf and my wife came up to me and said, `Good job, honey.”’

Watch live coverage of the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions on Golf Channel: Fri.-Sun., 6-10PM ET; Monday, 4-8PM ET.

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Lyle going through 'scary' period in cancer recovery

By Associated PressJune 21, 2018, 12:58 pm

MELBOURNE, Australia – Jarrod Lyle's wife says the Australian golfer is struggling through a ''really scary'' period in his third battle with cancer.

Lyle, 36, underwent a bone marrow transplant last December following a recurrence of acute myeloid leukemia.

''It's been 190 days since Jarrod's stem-cell transplant and we are going through a really rough patch at the moment,'' Briony Lyle wrote on jarrodlylegolf.com. ''I'm typing this blog on his behalf because he's not able to do it. Jarrod's not able to drive, struggles to prepare any food for himself, can't read stories to the girls and is not able to offer much help at all around the house.

''He is also starting to look like a very frail, sick person.''

Briony Lyle added: ''We are both very aware of the amount of drugs and medication that has gone into Jarrod's body over the years but things are starting to get really scary at the moment. It looks as if this recovery is going to be the longest and hardest one so far.''

Lyle has twice beaten acute myeloid leukemia, in 1998 and 2012, and was able to return to play professional golf.

He made an emotional comeback to the golf course during the 2013 Australian Masters in Melbourne before using a medical exemption to play on the PGA Tour in 2015. He played four seasons on Tour, where he earned $1.875 million in 121 tournaments.

Lyle has since returned to Australia permanently to be with Briony and daughters Lusi and Jemma.

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Vermeer wins PGA Professional; 20 make PGA Championship

By Associated PressJune 21, 2018, 12:42 pm

SEASIDE, Calif. – Ryan Vermeer won the PGA Professional Championship on Wednesday, overcoming front-nine problems to top the 20 qualifiers for the PGA Championship.

The 40-year-old Vermeer, the director of instruction at Happy Hollow Club in Omaha, Nebraska, closed with a 1-over 73 on the Bayonet Course for a two-stroke victory over Sean McCarty and Bob Sowards.

The PGA Championship is in August at Bellerive in St. Louis.

Three strokes ahead entering the day, Vermeer played the front in 4 over with a double bogey on the par-4 second and bogeys on the par-4 seventh and par-4 eighth. He rebounded with birdies on the par-5 10th and par-4 11th and also birdied the par-5 18th.

Full-field scores from the PGA Professional Championship

Vermeer finished at 5-under 283. The former University of Kansas player earned $55,000. He won the 2017 Mizuno Pro/Assistant Championship and finished ninth last year in the PGA Professional to qualify for PGA at Quail Hollow.

McCarty had a 68, and Sowards shot 69. Sowards won the 2004 title.

David Muttitt and Jason Schmuhl tied for fourth at 1 under, and 2012 and 2015 champion Matt Dobyns, Jaysen Hansen, and Johan Kok followed at even par.

Marty Jertson, Brian Smock and Ben Kern were 1 over, and Zach Johnson, Craig Hocknull, Matt Borchert and 2016 winner Rich Berberian Jr. were 2 over. Nine players tied at 3 over, with Shawn Warren, 2017 champion Omar Uresti, 2014 winner Michael Block, Craig Bowden and Danny Balin getting the last five spots at Bellerive in a playoff. Balin got the final spot, beating Brian Norman with a par on the seventh extra hole after Norman lost a ball in a tree.

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Berger more than ready to rebound at Travelers

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:54 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Daniel Berger hopes that this year he gets to be on the other end of a viral moment at the Travelers Championship.

Berger was a hard-luck runner-up last year at TPC River Highlands, a spectator as Jordan Spieth holed a bunker shot to defeat him in a playoff. It was the second straight year that the 25-year-old came up just short outside Hartford, as he carried a three-shot lead into the 2016 event before fading to a tie for fifth.

While he wasn’t lacking any motivation after last year’s close call, Berger got another dose last week at the U.S. Open when he joined Tony Finau as a surprise participant in the final group Sunday, only to shoot a 73 and drift to a T-6 finish.

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“It was one of the best experiences of my professional golf career so far. I feel like I’m going to be in such a better place next time I’m in that position, having felt those emotions and kind of gone through it,” Berger said. “There was a lot of reflection after that because I felt like I played good enough to get it done Sunday. I didn’t make as many putts as I wanted to, but I hit a lot of really good putts. And that’s really all you can do.”

Berger missed the cut earlier this month to end his quest for three straight titles in Memphis, but his otherwise consistent season has now included six top-20 finishes since January. After working his way into contention last week and still with a score to settle at TPC River Highlands, he’s eager to get back to work against another star-studded field.

“I think all these experiences you just learn from,” Berger said. “I think last week, having learned from that, I think that’s even going to make me a little better this week. So I’m excited to get going.”

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Rory tired of the near-misses, determined to close

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:46 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Rory McIlroy has returned to the Travelers Championship with an eye on bumping up his winning percentage.

McIlroy stormed from the back of the pack to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, but that remains his lone worldwide win since the 2016 Tour Championship. It speaks to McIlroy’s considerable ability and lofty expectations that, even with a number of other high finishes this season, he is left unsatisfied.

“I feel like I’ve had five realistic chances to win this year, and I’ve been able to close out one of them. That’s a bit disappointing, I guess,” McIlroy said. “But at least I’ve given myself five chances to win golf tournaments, which is much more than I did last year.”

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

The most memorable of McIlroy’s near-misses is likely the Masters, when he played alongside Patrick Reed in Sunday’s final group but struggled en route to a T-5 finish. But more frustrating in the Ulsterman’s eyes were his runner-up at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, when he led by two shots with eight holes to go, and a second-place showing behind Francesco Molinari at the BMW PGA Championship in May.

“There’s been some good golf in there,” he said. “I feel like I let Dubai and Wentworth get away a little bit.”

He’ll have a chance to rectify that trend this week at TPC River Highlands, where he finished T-17 last year in his tournament debut and liked the course and the tournament enough to keep it on his schedule. It comes on the heels of a missed cut at the U.S. Open, when he was 10 over through 11 holes and never got on track. McIlroy views that result as more of an aberration during a season in which he has had plenty of chances to contend on the weekend.

“I didn’t necessarily play that badly last week. I feel like if I play similarly this week, I might have a good chance to win,” McIlroy said. “I think when you play in conditions like that, it magnifies parts of your game that maybe don’t stack up quite as good as the rest of your game, and it magnified a couple of things for me that I worked on over the weekend.”