What the Hall? Ochoa still waiting for HOF recognition

By Randall MellNovember 6, 2015, 10:27 pm

Lorena Ochoa’s Hall of Fame career remains confusingly in limbo as she prepares to host her annual LPGA event in Mexico City next week.

Five-and-a-half years after announcing her retirement, nobody seems certain what her Hall of Fame status is or whether she will actually be inducted.

Ochoa isn’t sure, either.

“I have no idea,” Ochoa said when GolfChannel.com asked her in a telephone interview what she knew about induction plans. “I’ve heard no news. I did my best as a player, and it’s not in my hands. I have no idea how the rules work or about any new changes or the possibility for me to be inducted.”

The LPGA Hall of Fame is separate from the World Golf Hall of Fame, and the LPGA’s may be the most difficult to get into in mainstream sports. In the 65-year history of the LPGA, only 24 players have been inducted into its Hall of Fame. Nobody has made it in eight years, since Se Ri Pak was inducted in 2007.

Remarkably, as of today, Ochoa still hasn’t satisfied the LPGA Hall of Fame’s rigorous criteria, even though she has far surpassed the demanding points-based requirements. Notably, Ochoa, 33, is happily retired and expecting her third child, a boy, in January.

While Ochoa accumulated 37 Hall of Fame points, exceeding the 27 required, she did not meet the tour membership requirement for induction. LPGA Hall of Fame criteria state that inductees “must” have been an “active” member for 10 years to be eligible for induction. Ochoa was an active member for only seven full seasons before announcing her retirement early into her eighth season in 2010.

Ochoa won 27 LPGA titles, two of them major championships. She won four Rolex Player of the Year awards and also won the Vare Trophy four times for low scoring average. A player earns one HOF point for an LPGA victory, two for a major championship, one for a Rolex POY award and one for a Vare Trophy.

If Ochoa had played full time through the 2012 season, she would have automatically been inducted in 2013.

Though Ochoa is three years short of the active membership requirement, she can still become eligible for induction via the LPGA Hall of Fame veterans category. A player must be retired or inactive five years to be eligible for nomination by the veterans committee. Ochoa met that requirement this year. If the veterans committee nominates Ochoa, her name will then be forwarded to the LPGA player membership for a vote. If 75 percent of the membership that responds to the ballot approves, Ochoa will win induction.

There’s a big problem with that, though.

The LPGA Hall of Fame veterans committee isn’t actively assembled and hasn’t been for a number of years. That’s why Ochoa’s in Hall of Fame limbo.

The 12-member veterans committee is supposed to include two members of the LPGA Hall of Fame, three members of the media, two members of the “golf industry” at large, one active player, one retired player and select members of the LPGA Board, LPGA executive committee and Tournament Owners Association.

No player has been inducted via the veterans category in 13 years.

No player has been inducted after a nomination of the veterans committee since LPGA founder Marlene Hagge was selected in 2002. Hagge, Donna Caponi and Judy Rankin are the only Hall of Famers inducted through the veterans category.

So what’s going on?

LPGA chief of tour operations Heather Daly-Donofrio said the LPGA’s focus helping the World Golf Hall of Fame develop new guidelines that include a new female ballot led to the dormancy of the LPGA’s veterans committee. The World Golf Hall of Fame unveiled its new criteria last year with Laura Davies being inducted off the female ballot. Davies has been sitting just two points shy of the LPGA Hall of Fame for more than a decade.

“Our focus has been working with the World Golf Hall of Fame in a feeling that’s now a great avenue for recognizing the accomplished careers of many more LPGA players who wouldn’t get into the LPGA Hall of Fame off points,” Daly-Donofrio said. “That’s why we haven’t had an active veterans committee the last couple years.”

LPGA commissioner Mike Whan serves on the World Golf Foundation, which oversees the World Golf Hall of Fame and its Selection Commission. Daly-Donofrio is a member of the Selection Commission’s subcommittee, which submits finalists for World Golf Hall of Fame consideration.

The World Golf Hall of Fame’s selection process for its next class of inductees will begin in the spring of next year with the class expected to be announced in October. Ochoa, who turns 34 next week, became eligible for World Golf Hall of Fame consideration this year. The WGHOF requires players to be 40 or to be at least five years removed from “active” tour membership.

While the World Golf Hall of Fame’s new female ballot has created speculation the LPGA might merge its Hall of Fame process with the World Golf Hall of Fame’s, Whan has publicly stated his tour membership wants to keep its Hall of Fame separate and intact.

Daly-Donofrio said she expects an LPGA Hall of Fame veterans committee to be reassembled sometime in the first quarter of next year.

“With Lorena’s accomplishments and the points she was able to earn in such a short period of time, she’s definitely on our radar,” Daly-Donofrio said. “I’m sure once the veterans committee is reassembled, and we start conversations, she will be looked at, as well as other players. Ultimately, that will be the decision of that committee.”

Ochoa’s brilliant career should be a lock for LPGA Hall of Fame induction once a veterans committee is reorganized. She also ought to be a lock to be among the next World Golf Hall of Fame inductees.

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Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 2:30 pm

Tiger Woods shot his second consecutive 70 on Friday at Carnoustie and enters weekend play at even par for the championship, still in contention for major No. 15.

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Scott and Sunesson a one-week partnership

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 2:13 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Adam Scott has been in between caddies for the last month and went with a bold stand-in for this week’s Open Championship, coaxing veteran looper Fanny Sunesson out of retirement to work for him at Carnoustie.

Sunesson caddied for Nick Faldo in his prime, as the duo won four major titles together. She also worked for Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia before a back injury forced her to retire.

But for this week’s championship, Scott convinced the Swede to return to the caddie corps. The results have been impressive, with the Australian following an opening 71 with a second-round 70 for a tie for 16th place.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“It's been going great. Fanny is, obviously, a fantastic caddie, and to be able to have that experience out there with me is certainly comforting,” Scott said. “We've gotten along really well. She's picked up on my game quickly, and I think we think about things in a very similar way.”

Scott was also asked about a potential long-term partnership between the duo, but he didn’t sound hopeful.

“It's just for this week,” he said. “It would be up to her, but I don't think she's making plans of a comeback. I was being a bit opportunistic in contacting her and coaxing her out of retirement, I guess. But I think she's having a good week. We'll just take it one week at the moment.”

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After tense Augusta Sunday, Rory ready to be aggressive

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 1:51 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy temporarily lost his superpowers during the Masters.  

In one of the most surprising rounds of the year, he played tentatively and carefully during the final day. Squaring off against the major-less Patrick Reed, on the brink of history, with the backing of nearly the entire crowd, it was McIlroy who shrank in the moment, who looked like the one searching for validation. He shot a joyless 74 and wound up six shots behind Reed.

No, the final round was nowhere near as dispiriting as the finale in 2011, but McIlroy still sulked the following week. He binge-watched TV shows. Devoured a few books. Guzzled a couple of bottles of wine. His pity party lasted a few days, until his wife, Erica, finally dragged him out of the house for a walk.

Some deeper introspection was required, and McIlroy revealed a healthier self-analysis Friday at Carnoustie. He diagnosed what went wrong at Augusta, and then again two months later at the U.S. Open, where he blew himself out of the tournament with an opening 80.

“I was worrying too much about the result, not focusing on the process,” he said. “Sunday at Augusta was a big learning curve for me because, even if I hadn’t won that tournament, but I went down swinging and aggressive and committing to every shot, I would have walked away a lot happier.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

And so McIlroy has a new mantra this week at The Open.

Let it go.

Don’t hold back. Don’t worry about the repercussions. Don’t play scared.

“I’m committed to making sure, even if I don’t play my best golf and don’t shoot the scores I want, I’m going to go down swinging, and I’m going to go down giving my best,” he said. “The result is the byproduct of all the little things you do to lead up to that. Sometimes I’ve forgotten that, and I just need to get back in that mindset.”

It’s worked through two rounds, even after the cool, damp conditions led McIlroy to abandon his ultra-aggressive strategy. He offset a few mistakes with four birdies, shooting a second consecutive 69 to sit just a couple of shots off the lead.

During a sun-splashed first round, McIlroy gleefully banged driver on almost every hole, flying or skirting the bunkers that dot these baked-out, undulating fairways. He wasn’t particularly accurate, but he also didn’t need to be, as the thin, wispy rough enabled every player to at least advance their approach shots near the green.

Friday’s weather presented a different challenge. A steady morning rain took some of the fire out of parched fairways, but the cooler temperatures also reduced much of the bombers’ hang time. Suddenly, all of the bunkers were in play, and McIlroy needed to adjust his driver-heavy approach (he hit only six) on the fly.

“It just wasn’t worth it,” he said.

McIlroy hit a few “skanky” shots, in his words, but even his bigger misses – on the sixth and 17th holes – were on the proper side, allowing him to scramble for par and keep the round going.

It’s the fifth time in his career that he’s opened a major with back-to-back rounds in the 60s. He’s gone on to win three of the previous four – the lone exception that disastrous final round (80) at Augusta in 2011.

“I don’t want to say easy,” he said, “but it’s felt comfortable.”

The weekend gets uncomfortable for everyone, apparently even four-time major winners who, when in form, ooze confidence and swagger.

Once again McIlroy has that look at a major.

The only thing left to do?

Let it go.

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Z. Johnson may have to pay for the jet home

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 1:23 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Zach Johnson will have some bragging rights when he gets back to the ultimate golf frat house on Friday after a second-round 67 moved him into the lead at The Open.

Johnson is rooming with Jordan Spieth, Jason Dufner, Kevin Kisner, Jimmy Walker, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler this week at Carnoustie. It’s a tradition that began two years ago at Royal Troon.

Kisner joked on Thursday after he took the first-round lead that the perks for the house/tournament front-runner were limited: “I probably get to eat first,” he said.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

There is, however, one running wager.

“Two years ago we, I don't know if you call it bet, but agreement that, if you win, you get the jet and you buy it, so we go home,” said Johnson, who added that because of varying travel arrangements, the wager might not be needed this year. “I didn't pay last year. Somebody else did.”

Spieth won last year’s championship at Royal Birkdale.

Despite the expense, Johnson said he didn’t know how much it costs to charter a private flight back to the United States, but it’s a good problem to have.

“I’d be happy to fork it over,” he smiled.