Golf stereotypes brought to light last week

By Jason SobelMay 27, 2013, 2:01 pm

When I told my buddy Scott that I was going to mention him in my column, this was his response: “You mean the non-golf fan who thinks golf has an elitism and racism problem?”

At least he knows his role in our conversation – or debate, argument or whatever you want to call it – that we’ve been having for the better part of 15 years now. Scott believes in the antiquated notion that golf is a game for the upper-crust one-percenters, that its collective face is still too lily-white compared with our ever-evolving society. I counter with the fact that the world’s best player is multi-cultural and elite golfers hail from all corners of the globe, making it as diverse a sport as any. He thinks there are too many exclusionary policies and too few opportunities for those born without a silver spoon. I contend that many of the last bastions of segregation and sexual discrimination have been eliminated in the private realm, while more programs geared toward growing the game are sprouting every week.

Neither one of us has ever budged. But even though I haven’t pulled him over to this side of the fence, I’ve always been proud that my case has included more factual evidence than his, which is born largely on nothing but the loosest of opinions.

And then this past week happened, and all of a sudden Scott was armed with more ammo than he’s had in years.

It all started, of course, with Sergio Garcia’s comment about Tiger Woods at a European Tour gala on Tuesday night. When jokingly asked if he would have his acknowledged enemy over for dinner during next month’s U.S. Open, Garcia responded, “We will have him round every night. We will serve fried chicken.”

The level of vitriol emanating from Wentworth and spreading worldwide was immediate and varied, depending upon the interpretation of malice. Some believe it was merely a playful jab, invoking the “everybody loves fried chicken” defense. But here’s the problem with that take: It should have been irrevocably undermined the minute Woods himself took to social media to call the comment “wrong, hurtful and clearly inappropriate.”

When the target of such innuendo takes offense to it, who among the rest of us is qualified to contend that he shouldn’t feel this way?

The biggest takeaway from the situation wasn’t that it labeled Garcia – fairly or unfairly – as a racist, but that it shined a spotlight on an issue which has roots within golf’s foundation. Casual observers who know little about the game or those who play it professionally can point to Garcia as the smoking gun. No longer can my buddy Scott forge loose opinions on racial insensitivities within golf; he can now proffer a tangible example.

Actually, make that examples – plural. That’s because one day later, in trying to defend Garcia’s comment as benign, European Tour CEO George O’Grady said in part, “Most of Sergio’s friends are colored athletes in the United States …”

So much for Garcia getting sanctioned. That would have provided some precedent – and if there was precedent for his sanctioning, then O’Grady would have been forced to levy a similar punishment against himself. But, of course, the lack of transparency in golf’s major tours prevents this sort of precedent.

Such inactivity is in stark contrast to that of, say, the NBA. Two years ago, Kobe Bryant was heard on live television berating a referee with an anti-gay slur. Commissioner David Stern acted quickly, handing down a $100,000 fine for what he termed an “offensive and inexcusable” comment.

It’s almost shocking that the level of outrage over O’Grady’s comment hasn’t been stronger. Now this is purely hypothetical, but I’d venture to guess that if he was CEO of a high-profile company and used the term “colored” on live television, his gleaming corner office would be inhabited by the next guy in line before end of business that day.

Don’t think that’s a fair comparison? Fine. Then try this one instead: If Stern, who presides over a major sports franchise much like O’Grady, provided the adjective “colored” to describe a race of people, do you think he’d keep that job? Or would he be forced to resign immediately? If you don’t believe it would be the latter, you clearly haven’t been paying attention these last few decades.

Like they say, bad things come in threes and so it shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise when none other than Colin Montgomerie completed the unenlightened cycle by attempting to come to O’Grady’s defense in defense of Garcia.

“We’re all frightened to say anything; we’re frightened to open our mouths in case we say something that isn’t kosher in 2013,” Montgomerie said. “Somebody should tell us what to say because no one is quite sure what is right and wrong. George says ‘colored,’ somebody says ‘black’. But who is to say who is right and wrong?”

Each of these comments recalls the infamous movie line that Brian Fantana once whispered to Champ Kind: “Why don’t you sit this next one out, stop talking for a while.”

(Speaking of “Anchorman” – or at least anchormen – last week’s USGA and R&A joint ruling to ban anchored putting doesn’t do much to stave off the anti-golf crowd, either, most of whom already believe our rules are too rigid. Throw in The Associated Press report which claimed viewer call-ins for potential PGA Tour rules violations has increased since Woods’ infraction at the Masters, and we’re providing plenty of welcome fodder for the opponent.)

Between the ropes, the first five months of this golf season have been as mesmerizing as any in recent memory. Woods is playing the brand of dominant golf we came to expect a decade ago. Adam Scott was a popular green jacket winner in a must-see conclusion at Augusta National. Youngsters like Jordan Spieth and Matteo Manassero have proven that 19 and 20 are the new 25.

For those of us indoctrinated into the game, for whom the weekly pursuits toward titles are at the forefront of our temporal lobes, these are the major stories. We’re outnumbered, though. There are many more observers on the outside looking in and when they do, they don’t see smiling faces reflecting in shimmering trophies. Instead, they see an industry collectively stagnating while the rest of the world continues to evolve.

Over the last 15 years, I’ve defended golf against these long held stereotypes from outsiders about elitism and racism. So many others in our great game have, too. The events of the past week shouldn’t be enough to dissuade us from believing that things are moving ahead at a swift enough pace, but they do provide fuel for the other side of the argument. That idea in itself should leave us collectively wondering if there is a problem. And if so, how can we fix it?

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Langer named Payne Stewart Award recipient

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 20, 2018, 12:00 pm

Bernhard Langer has been named the 2018 recipient of the Payne Stewart Award, presented annually by the PGA Tour to the golfer who best exemplifies the values and character of the three-time major champion who died in a 1999 airplane crash.

Langer, who turns 61 later this month, won the Masters twice before becoming one of the most dominant players in PGA Tour Champions history. He has won 37 times on the over-50 circuit, second most all-time, including 10 major championships. In 2002, he became the first German player ever inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

But it's his "supreme level of character and sportsmanship" that led to the award, which he'll receive at a special ceremony during next month's Tour Championship.

"We are all so proud of Payne Stewart and the husband and father he was, and the player he was and the character he had," Langer said in a release. "To now be receiving the Payne Stewart Award, I feel extremely honored. I know there are many, many other guys that deserve it as much if not more than me, and I'm thrilled to receive it."

The Payne Stewart Award was created in 2000, one year after Stewart died as the reigning U.S. Open champion. Past recipients include Ben Crenshaw (2001), Gary Player (2006), Ernie Els (2015) and Stewart Cink (2017).

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Im wins Web.com regular-season finale; 25 get Tour cards

By Associated PressAugust 20, 2018, 11:15 am

NORTH PLAINS, Ore. – Sungjae Im won the regular-season ending Portland Open on Sunday to earn one of 25 PGA Tour cards and become the first player to top the Web.com Tour money list wire-to-wire.

Im closed with a 4-under 67 on Pumpkin Ridge's Witch Hollow course for a four-stroke victory over John Chin. The 20-year-old South Korean player earned $144,000 to finish the season with $534,326.

Im finished at 18-under 266. He also won the season-opening event in the Bahamas and had three second-place finishes.


Web.com Tour final regular season money list

Full-field scores from the WinCo Foods Portland Open


Chin shot a 66. He was the only player to move into the top 25 on the money list, earning $86,400 to go from 41st to 10th with $207,909.

Two-time heart transplant recipient Erik Compton was third at 13 under after a 66. Jim Knous (67) and Derek Ernst (71) were 12 under, a stroke ahead of Kevin Dougherty (70) and Curtis Luck (69).

Dougherty finished 26th on the money list, $207,909 behind Hank Lebioda for the final PGA Tour card.

Ben Taylor dropped out of the top 25, going from 25th to 29th after missing the cut.

Twenty-five more PGA Tour cards will be awarded in the four-event Web.com Tour Finals.

Here's a look at the regular-season top 25 (*=PGA Tour rookie in 2018-19):

The 25

Hometown

Stats

  1. 1. Sungjae Im*

Jeju, South Korea

Two wins

  1. 2. Sam Burns

Shreveport, La.

One win, five top-10s

  1. 3. Scott Langley

Barrington, Ill.

One win, five top-10s

  1. 4. Martin Trainer*

Palo Alto, Calif.

Two wins

  1. 5. K.H. Lee*

Ilsan, South Korea

Three runners-up

  1. 6. Cameron Champ*

Sacramento, Calif.

One win, five top-10s

  1. 7. Sebastian Muñoz

Bogota, Colombia

Six top-10 finishes

  1. 8. Anders Albertson*

Alpharetta, Ga.

One win, two top-10s

  1. 9. Chase Wright*

Muncie, Ind.

One win, four top-10s

  1. 10. John Chin*

Temecula, Calif.

Three top-10s

  1. 11. Kyle Jones*

Snowflake, Ariz.

Four top-10s

  1. 12. Jose de Jesus Rodriguez*

Irapuato, Mexico

One win, three top-10s

  1. 13. Adam Long*

St. Louis, Mo.

Five top-10s

  1. 14. Adam Svensson*

Surrey, B.C., Canada

One win, four top-10s

  1. 15. Josh Teater

Lexington, Ky.

Three top-10s

  1. 16. Wyndham Clark*

Denver, Colo.

Four top-10s

  1. 17. Julián Etulain

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Three top-10s

  1. 18. Alex Prugh

Las Vegas, Nev.

Four top-10s

  1. 19. Joey Garber*

Petoskey, Mich.

One win, three top-10s

  1. 20. Chris Thompson*

Lawrence, Kan.

Five top-10s

  1. 21. Carlos Ortiz

Jalisco, Mexico

Four top-10s

  1. 22. Brady Schnell*

Mesa, Ariz.

One win, two top-10s

  1. 23. Kramer Hickok*

Dallas, Tex.

Four top-10s

  1. 24. Roberto Castro

Atlanta, Ga.

Five top-10s

  1. 25. Hank Lebioda*

Orlando, Fla.

Four top-10s

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Hovland finally puts 'it' all together for U.S. Am title

By Ryan LavnerAugust 20, 2018, 1:35 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Viktor Hovland had more than an hour to decompress and regroup for the afternoon session of the 36-hole final at the 118th U.S. Amateur. During that downtime, he scrolled on his phone for 20 minutes, uninterrupted, before he finally headed toward the buffet line in The Lodge.

Every college kid is glued to his iPhone, of course, but Hovland wasn’t replying to texts or sifting through his Twitter mentions or checking out Snapchat.

He was reading a philosophical debate about affirmative action.

“He’s constantly on his phone, reading articles, gaining knowledge, and there have been times this year that it’s 20 minutes before his tee time and he hasn’t warmed up yet, so we’re thinking, ‘Is Viktor going to warm up today or is he going to roll out there cold?’” said Oklahoma State assistant coach Donnie Darr. “He would go to the range, literally hit 10 to 12 balls and off to the first tee he’d go. He knows what he’s working on – he’s not down there searching.”

Or as OSU head coach Alan Bratton put it: “If you’ve got it, you’ve got it.”

Hovland, 20, might be more interested in worldly matters than sports, but his own success story might pop up on his news feed Sunday night.

With one last commanding performance at Pebble Beach, he capped a near-perfect week by defeating Devon Bling, 6 and 5, to win the U.S. Amateur.

The new Prince of Pebble’s dominance this week was astounding.

The fifth-ranked amateur in the world, Hovland never trailed during his final 86 holes and was 1 down only once in six matches. His 104 total holes tied the fewest played by a U.S. Amateur champion since 1979.

You’d never have known it was just the Norwegian’s second career victory – at any level.  

“It wasn’t anything flashy,” he said afterward, “but this week it all came together, which is really cool.”

His championship match against the 302nd-ranked Bling wasn’t flawless, but he also didn’t need to be.

Hovland so thoroughly trounced his opponents this week that he played 15 fewer holes than Bling, a sophomore at UCLA. In front of a few dozen family and friends, Bling played the best round of his life in the semifinals, but he was 5 over par during the morning 18 Sunday and managed only one non-par 5 birdie all day.  

Hovland led outright for all but two holes, taking the lead for good after the signature shot of the championship. On the fourth hole, he blasted his tee shot over the cliff, into an ice plant. After sliding down the embankment to reach his ball, he saw it sitting perfectly.

“It was a hit-and-hope moment,” he said, “and it ended up pretty sweet.”

Hovland chopped out to 3 feet, the unlikely birdie jump-starting his day. He took a 4-up lead into the intermission and never came close to surrendering that advantage during the afternoon.


 

U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos


His eventual 6-and-5 decision was the second-largest margin of victory since 2010.

“He’s been on a steady rise,” said Bratton, who caddied for Hovland this week, “and I can’t wait to see where he goes from here.”

Bratton was also on the bag for the 2010 U.S. Amateur champion at Chambers Bay. But unlike Peter Uihlein, the top amateur who wanted to play for the top program, Hovland was an underrated addition in Stillwater.

In the summer of 2013, Bratton took a trip to Scotland to watch one of his prized recruits, Kristoffer Ventura, at the European Boys Championship. While there Bratton watched the rest of the Norwegian national team practice, and the newest and youngest member of that squad stood out.

“I promise you I know what good is when I see it,” Bratton said, “and Viktor was good.”

Still, Hovland never won outside of Norway – a common theme, until recently – and was lightly recruited through his senior year of high school, only receiving interest from Texas Tech, TCU, Tennessee and Bratton’s Oklahoma State program. Though many of his friends chose the pro route, Hovland was dead set on college. “I just didn’t think I was good enough for the pros,” he said.

During recruiting, Hovland would talk on the phone with Bratton for hours, about almost everything – TV shows, politics, philosophy. He devours podcasts. He’s an ardent movie critic. He extensively researches and then welcomes a debate on the day’s hottest topics.

Even without any tournament titles on Hovland’s résumé, Bratton was so smitten that he didn’t bother to bring in another recruit for the class of 2016. He was all-in, with no backup option, and Hovland visited the campus for the first time a week before signing day his senior year.

The gamble paid off.

Hovland closed out his freshman season with five consecutive top-10s and earned first-team All-Big 12 honors, but as a sophomore he truly became an elite player.

During his freshman year his swing was too shallow and he struggled to get the ball airborne. At OSU’s event at Southern Highlands in Las Vegas, Hovland bubbled with frustration when he couldn’t stop his shots on the firm greens.

“For the life of me I could hit a 3-wood off the deck,” he said. “It was disgusting to look at.”

He finally had enough last fall, when he flew to South Florida to see his swing coach, Denny Lucas, for three days over the Thanksgiving break. They worked to get Hovland more into his left side at impact and compress the ball. 

The difference was significant and immediate. He won his first college tournament in the spring, only once placed outside the top 25 in an event and became a first-team All-American. He also saved his best for the biggest stages, leading off the Cowboys in match play and going a perfect 3-0 as they cruised to the NCAA title.

“Prior to that he got a lot out of that because his mis-hits were so good, but his good shots are way better now,” Darr said. “His ball flight is higher, so he’s more versatile as a player. He can hit it farther and hit it both ways. I think you’re going to see he’s going to win a lot of tournaments moving forward.” 

This summer, Hovland reached the Round of 16 at the British Amateur and tied for second at the European Amateur before his resounding performance here at Pebble Beach. He’s the first player since Florida’s Bubba Dickerson (2001) to be part of a NCAA title team and win the U.S. Amateur in the same year.

“I always thought I had a pretty good vocabulary,” Hovland said, “but I’m at a loss for words. It’s really special. I just hope it’s the start of something great.” 

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After Further Review: Women's No. 1 ranking a precarious perch

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 20, 2018, 1:20 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On musical chairs at the top of the women's rankings ...

Women’s golf is a game of musical chairs these days. The Rolex Women’s World Rankings are a testament to the depth of the tour, with seven changes at No. 1 in the last 14 months. Ariya Jutanugarn looked as if she might be on her way to  dominating this season, but her latest run at No. 1 lasted three weeks. Sung Hyun Park’s victory Sunday at the Indy Women in Tech Championship helped her take back the top ranking. Park lasted a week at No. 1 the first time she got there late last fall. Jutanugarn lasted two weeks at No. 1 the first time she got there last summer. Sung Hyun Park, Jutanugarn, Inbee Park, So Yeon Ryu, Shanshan Feng and Lydia Ko have all taken turns at the top since June of 2017, and there’s no reason to believe anyone should get too comfortable on the game’s throne the rest of the year. - Randall Mell


On a promising day for U.S. Ryder Cup chances ...

This year’s Ryder Cup is still weeks away, but Sunday was a good day for the U.S. team.

Brandt Snedeker birdied two of his last four holes to win the Wyndham Championship and set the stage for a potential captain’s pick and his third start at the biennial matches.

If U.S. captain Jim Furyk can rest easier with his four picks coming into focus, he can also take solace in Webb Simpson’s play at the Wyndham. Simpson, who held on to the final automatic qualifying spot at the PGA Championship, closed with a 62 at Sedgefield Country Club to finish tied for second place.

And Furyk shot a final-round 63 to tie for fourth at the Wyndham, so a good day all the way around for the U.S. captain. - Rex Hoggard