Even without a major, Monty is HOF worthy

By Jason SobelDecember 18, 2012, 3:47 pm

When he’s at his best – when the mood strikes him right or he’s in a pleasant frame of mind – Colin Montgomerie can be equal parts charming, engaging, gracious and even a bit self-effacing when you read between the lines. When he isn’t, though, he can be a brute – a condescending, petulant, sullen blowhard who doesn’t care what you think of him anyway.

So, what is he really like? That’s a question the public often asks of athletes and celebrities which is usually left without a complete response. In the curious case of Monty, the answer is contingent upon which Monty you’ve encountered more often. What is more certain is that if you mention his name to a golf fan, you won’t receive an apathetic response. People either love him or love to hate him – and most fall under the latter category.

He may not have ever been the world’s best golfer, but with the exception of Tiger Woods, Montgomerie has easily been the most polarizing of the past quarter-century. And so it only stands to reason that Tuesday’s announcement that he will be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame next year has already been met with copious amounts of support and resistance, like a tug-of-war across the Atlantic.

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For those wishing to break HOF credentials down into inflexible numbers, there are some very specific pros and cons to be weighed in this matter.

Pros: Eight career Order of Merit titles; five-time member of winning Ryder Cup team; undefeated Ryder Cup singles record; 40 professional victories.

Cons: Zero major championships.

Therein lies the crux of the debate: Should a player who never reached the game’s pinnacle be considered worthy of HOF status? Certainly there are those who have won majors and shouldn’t be considered, but in this case the tone sounds more than a bit jingoistic.

It’s no secret that the Ryder Cup inspires and impassions European golfers more than their American counterparts. Woods himself often maintains that he hopes his game peaks four times each year, not five. Ask Monty, though, if he would trade any of his five victories – six if you count his 2010 captaincy – or the undefeated singles record for a major and you’re likely to find a man fiercely possessive of what he’s already earned.

After all, who’s to say what should or shouldn’t mean the most to an elite golfer? Jack Nicklaus counts his two U.S. Amateur victories amongst his major championships; Gary Player claims that winning the Senior Grand Slam is his most impressive accomplishment.

Perhaps Montgomerie’s lack of a major is magnified by the fact that he was so close, so many times. There was the 1992 U.S. Open, when Nicklaus congratulated him on winning, only to be caught from behind by Tom Kite. The same tournament two years later, when he shot 78 in a three-man Monday playoff. And again in 2006, the victim of a late club change with his approach into Winged Foot’s final green, part of a four-car pileup at the end.

In all, Monty’s 10 top-10 finishes in majors included five runner-up results. The truth is, if he hadn’t contended so often, he wouldn’t be as criticized for failing to win. It remains an empty hole in his resume, but shouldn’t overlook the positives throughout his career.

Starting in 1989 with an 11-stroke victory at the Portuguese Open, Monty claimed 31 titles on the European Tour in 19 seasons. He topped the Order of Merit – that circuit’s money list – every year from 1993-99, then again in 2005 at the age of 42. He was named Player of the Year in half of those seasons.

If those aren’t HOF credentials, then maybe we have a skewed version of what they should be. Montgomerie was amongst the best in the game for a very long period of time. Never the best of the best in the individual events considered most important, but way past good or very good. He was great.

But that’s the thing about the Hall of Fame. It’s not strictly about numbers and victories. It’s about how you feel about a certain person. If Colin Montgomerie had always shown the charming, engaging side of himself over the condescending, petulant side, it would probably be easier to disregard his lack of a major championship. As it is, that becomes a rallying cry for those wishing to keep it out. It’s the only reason, though. Every other sign points to a Hall of Fame career receiving the proper recognition.

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Winning on Kerr's mind this week and beyond

By Randall MellMarch 24, 2018, 2:11 am

Cristie Kerr moved into position Friday to do more than win the 21st LPGA title of her career.

She moved into position to claim an LPGA Hall of Fame point this week.

Yes, winning is foremost on her mind at the Kia Classic, where she took the lead with an 8-under-par 64 in the second round, she’s on a larger quest, too.

After turning 40 last fall, Kerr was asked what her goals are.

“The Hall of Fame is attainable, if I stick with it,” she said.

Kerr is five shots ahead of Lizette Salas (67), In-Kyung Kim (69), Hee Young Park (70) and Caroline Hedwall (70).

It’s a good time for Kerr to get on a hot streak, with the year’s first major championship, the ANA Inspiration, next week. She has long been one of the best putters in the women’s game, but her ball-striking is impressive this week. She hit 17 greens in regulation Thursday, and she hit 16 on Friday.

“I like winning,” Kerr said. “I like challenging myself. Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older, with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, `Man, why does my hamstring hurt?’ From working around this hilly golf course.”

Kerr acknowledged Friday that her body is more vulnerable to time’s realities, but her mind isn’t.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

“The golf ball doesn't know an age,” Kerr said. “I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.”

Kerr won two weeks after her 40th birthday last fall, boosting her LPGA Hall of Fame point total to 22. She is five points short of eligibility for induction. A player earns one point for an LPGA victory and two points for a major championship title. So there’s a lot of Hall of Fame ground to gain this week and next.

It’s a long-term goal that motivates Kerr to take care of her body.

“I don't think the golf changes,” Kerr said. “I think, physically, it gets harder as you get older. Like I said, I've got tape on my hamstring. I strained it, just a little bit yesterday, walking around this golf course. It's tough as you get older, just being fresh and rested. I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.”

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Big names chasing Kerr into the weekend at Kia Classic

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 1:55 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr shot an 8-under 64 on Friday in the Kia Classic to take a five-stroke lead into the weekend.

The 40-year-old Kerr had eight birdies in her second straight bogey-free round to reach 13-under 131 at rain-softened Aviara.

''I like winning. I like challenging myself,'' Kerr said. ''Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, 'Man, why does my hamstring hurt?' From working around this hilly golf course. The golf ball doesn't know an age. I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.''

She has 20 LPGA victories, winning at Aviara in 2015. She won twice last year and helped the U.S. beat Europe in her ninth Solheim Cup appearance.

''It's tough as you get older just being fresh and rested,'' Kerr said. ''I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.''

Lizette Salas, In-Kyung Kim, Hee Young Park and Caroline Hedwall were tied for second. Salas shot 67, Kim 69, and Park and Hedwall 70.

''I really like this golf course. I really like the environment,'' said Salas, the former University of Southern California player from Azusa. ''My family gets to come out. So much confidence at the beginning of the week, and definitely showed the first two days.

Jeong Eun Lee was 7 under after a 69, and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu had a 70 to get to 6 under.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Ariya Jutanugarn (72), Brooke Henderson (70) and 2016 winner Lydia Ko (71) were 5 under. Shanshan Feng (68) was another stroke back, and Singapore winner Michelle Wie (72) was 1 under.

Lexi Thompson was 2 over after a 74, making the cut on the number in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills.

Kerr opened with birdies on the par-5 10th and par-3 11th, added birdies on the par-4 16th, 18th and second, and ran off three in a row on the par-3 sixth, par-4 seventh and par-5 eighth.

''I don't think you can fall asleep on one shot,'' Kerr said. ''It's a really good golf course. I think I play better on courses that demand the focus, so I think that's why I've played well here in the past. ... I'm trying not to put limits on myself right now. I've got some good things going on with my swing.''

She has long been one best putters and green-readers in the world.

''I can see the subtleties that a lot of people can't,'' Kerr said. ''It's a gift from God being able to do that. I've always had that, so I'm lucky.''

Laura Davies withdrew after an opening 82. The 54-year-old Davies tied for second last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix, playing through painful left Achilles and calf problems.

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DJ hits 489-yard drive, but it doesn't count for history

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 12:22 am

AUSTIN, Texas – Dustin Johnson is no stranger to big drives, but even for DJ this one was impressive.

Trailing in his Day 3 match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Johnson launched a drive at the par-5 12th hole that traveled 489 yards, but that number comes with an asterisk.

“He got lucky it hit the road,” smiled Kevin Kisner, who was leading the world No. 1, 3 up, at the time. “I thought he would make an eagle for sure, he only had 80 yards [to the hole]. He didn’t hit a very good putt.”

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Johnson’s drive, which was 139 yards past Kisner’s tee shot, is the longest recorded on the PGA Tour in the ShotLink era, surpassing Davis Love III’s drive of 476 yards in 2004 at the Tournament of Champions.

The drive will not go into the record books, however, because the Tour doesn’t count statistics from the Match Play.

It should also be noted, Kisner halved the 12th hole with a birdie and won the match, 4 and 3, to advance to the round of 16.

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Durant leads Champions event in Mississippi

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 12:21 am

BILOXI, Miss. - Joe Durant had three straight birdies in a back-nine burst and a shot 6-under 66 on Friday to take the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' Rapiscan Systems Classic.

Durant birdied the par-4 11th and 12th and par-5 13th in the bogey-free round at breezy and rain-softened Fallen Oak. Because of the wet conditions, players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairway.

''It just sets up nice to my eye,'' Durant said. ''It's a beautiful golf course and it's very challenging. The tee shots seem to set up well for me, but the greens are maybe as quick as I've ever seen them here. You really have to put the ball in the right spots. I played very nice today. With the wind swirling like it was, I'm really happy.''

He won the Chubb Classic last month in Naples, Florida, for his third victory on the 50-and-over tour.

Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

''Done this long enough, Friday's just one day,'' Durant said. ''Especially in a three-day tournament, you've got to go out and shoot three good numbers. Fortunate to put one on the board, but I know I have to back it up with a couple of good days because you can get passed very quickly out here.''

Mark Calcavecchia was a stroke back. He won last month in Boca Raton, Florida

''It's probably my best round I've ever had here and it was a tough day to play,'' Calcavecchia said. ''The greens are just lightning fast. They're pretty slopey greens, so very difficult to putt.''

Steve Stricker was third at 68. He took the Tucson, Arizona, event three weeks ago for his first senior victory.

''Just getting it around and managing my game I think like I always do,'' Stricker said. ''You get in the wrong position here with the greens being so fast and you're going to be in trouble. I did that a couple times today.''

Billy Mayfair, Billy Andrade and David McKenzie shot 69. Jerry Kelly, the winner of the season-opening event in Hawaii, was at 70 with Wes Short Jr., Glen Day, Gene Sauers and Jesper Parnevik.

Bernhard Langer opened with a 71, and two-time defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez had a 72.

Vijay Singh, coming off his first senior victory two weeks ago in Newport Beach, California, had a 73.