While PGA of America meets, Bishop ponders legacy

By Rex HoggardNovember 21, 2014, 11:19 pm

FRANKLIN, Ind. – A bitter cold and light blanket of snow have gripped the Legends Golf Club, leaving Ted Bishop with the one thing he probably doesn’t need at this juncture – time.

Time to ponder the cascading turn of events that led to his ouster as the president of the PGA of America. Time to consider his legacy that before Oct. 23 covered nearly six pages of single-spaced bullet points. Time to lament the moment it all slipped away with a single insensitive tweet.

“Faldo’s record stands by itself. Six majors all-time [Ryder Cup] points. Yours vs. His? Lil Girl,” Bishop vented via Twitter in response to Ian Poulter’s criticism of Nick Faldo in his new book “No Limits.”

Bishop settles into a chair while tugging on the zipper of his sweater to ward off the unseasonably cold November chill. It’s a Ryder Cup sweater, which seems strangely apropos considering it was at Gleneagles where things began to unravel for the PGA’s 38th president.

In the Scottish gloom of the U.S. team’s five-point loss Bishop was already starting to feel the tide turn against him, both externally and within the PGA. U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson, Bishop’s captain, was being blasted for another American loss and, by extension, so was Bishop.

“Tom gave his heart and soul to the Ryder Cup for two years, so when he got attacked by a member of the opposing team in my mind it was standing up for a friend and someone who was serving a similar role as me,” Bishop said.

That bunker mentality had festered for four weeks before spilling out into a social media storm that has left the PGA reeling.

Bishop has been largely referenced this week at the PGA’s annual meeting only in hushed tones or veiled references. “You don’t get good publicity,” Donald Trump announced on Friday to begin his keynote speech.

There is also an undertone at this week’s meeting in Indianapolis that Bishop’s fateful tweet was simply the final haymaker in a collection of self-inflicted blows that culminated in his removal from office.

“One of the things I have been criticized for privately in PGA circles is my propensity to being with the media,” Bishop said. “Since Day 1 with the anchoring situation, because of (CEO) Pete Bevacqua’s former relationship with the U.S. Golf Association I took the lead. Right out of the box now the president of the PGA is the most visible spokesperson and that sort of set the stage for the role that I played.”

For Bishop the credibility of the organization depended on transparency and the president’s ability to communicate the message, “whatever that may be.”

But that same outspoken and sometimes confrontational style was in contrast to the traditional role, leading at least one past president to advise Bishop to dial back his wayward ways long before October’s social media miscue.

In many ways it appears Bishop broke that brazen mold, however unintentionally. The association has largely tracked in the opposite direction in the post-Bishop era, evidenced by the fact that two of the three candidates for secretary this week, a post whose holder will ascend to the president’s role in four years, declined to be interviewed before Saturday’s election.

It will all be a part of what amounts to a checkered legacy for Bishop, who motions to a stack of letters and emails on the floor of his office when asked how he’ll be remembered.

“Many of those are from PGA members and I feel pretty good about that. The people that care about the association and care about golf reached out to me,” he says. “I still think there is going to be a legacy of accomplishment.”

But then Bishop pauses before adding, “There is no question I have the distinction of being the only president in 98 years to be impeached.”

It’s strangely fitting that Bishop wraps up his time as president succinctly, with an economy of words befitting the PGA’s first president to embrace Twitter as well as the first to be burned by it.

It will not be Bishop’s principled stand against last year’s ban on anchoring, or his move to provide increased funding ($4 million in 2014) for the 41 PGA sections without any mandated strings, or even a drastically improved relationship between the PGA and the PGA Tour that will define his 23 months in office. Only his historic ouster will linger.

Although Bishop is not attending this week’s annual meeting, which is only about 25 miles from his Legends club, his absence did not go unnoticed.

“We are 100 percent behind Ted,” Tony Pancake, the Indiana PGA Section secretary, told the crowd during Thursday’s opening ceremony.

For Bishop the support is certainly welcome, but that does little to quiet the internal dialogue that consumed him since Oct. 23 and the polar vortex that put an end to the golf season in Indiana.

Since his ouster Bishop has had plenty of time to revisit the moments that led to his dismissal and consider the cost of a job that consumed six years of his life counting his terms as secretary and vice president.

“My wife made a comment to me, ‘Was it really all worth it?’” he said. “You can answer that question two ways. When you look at the list of the accomplishments and the way the association was transformed. That’s worth it.

“In terms of how I feel about the PGA of America on a national level it’s similar to how I felt back in 1989 when I became involved with leadership with the association. There was always a ‘them against us’ mentality.”

Friday was a particularly surreal day for Bishop. He was scheduled to be honored at a “president’s evening,” complete with a speech by Tour commissioner Tim Finchem and a performance by “Three Dog Night.”

 “It’s really bittersweet. When you’re going through your time of your presidency you know this time is going to happen. I had about 150 friends and family who were going to go to this thing tonight. It’s tough,” Bishop allowed. “In a lot of ways it should have been the greatest night of my life. Obviously, that’s not going to happen.”

Instead, Bishop will spend the evening with his family at a local Italian steakhouse and be back in his office at the Legends club early Saturday.

Whatever Bishop’s national legacy, whether he’s remembered as a maverick or a master manipulator, he’s learned after four cold weeks to define himself in the simplest terms as a father, grandfather and PGA professional.

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McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.  

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Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 1:36 pm

A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.

Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.

Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.

And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”

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Rory looking for that carefree inner-child

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:28 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eleven years later, Rory McIlroy cringes at the photo: the yellow sweater with the deep V-neck, the chubby cheeks and the messy mop that curled under his cap.

“You live and you learn,” he said Wednesday, offering a wry smile.

The last time McIlroy played at a Carnoustie Open, in 2007, he earned the Silver Medal as the low amateur. He tied for 42nd, but the final result had mattered little. Grateful just to have a spot in the field, courtesy of his European Amateur title, he bounced along the fairways, soaking up every moment, and lingered behind the 18th green as one of his local heroes, Padraig Harrington, battled one of his favorite players, Sergio Garcia. Waiting for the trophy presentation, he passed the time playing with Padraig’s young son, Paddy. On Wednesday, McIlroy spotted Paddy, now 15, walking around Carnoustie with his three-time-major-winning father.

“He’s massive now – he towers over me,” he said. “It’s so funny thinking back on that day.”

But it’s also instructive. If there’s a lesson to be learned from ’07, it’s how carefree McIlroy approached and played that week. He was reminded again of that untroubled attitude while playing a practice round here with 23-year-old Jon Rahm, who stepped onto each tee, unsheathed his driver and bombed away with little regard for the wind or the bounce or the fescue. McIlroy smiled, because he remembers a time, not too long ago, that he’d attack a course with similar reckless abandon.

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I just think, as you get older, you get a little more cautious in life,” said McIlroy, 29. “I think it’s only natural. There’s something nice about being young and being oblivious to some stuff. The more I can get into that mindset, the better I’ll play golf.”

And so on the eve of this Open, as he approaches the four-year anniversary of his last major title, McIlroy finds himself searching for a way to channel that happy-go-lucky 18-year-old who was about to take the world by storm, to tap into the easygoing excellence that once defined his dominance.

It’s been a year since he first hinted at what he’s been missing. Last year’s Open at Royal Birkdale was the final event of his long run with caddie J.P. Fitzgerald. The chief reason for the split, he said, had nothing to do with some of the questionable on-course decisions, but rather a desire to take ownership of him game, to be freed up alongside one of his best friends, Harry Diamond.

That partnership has produced only one victory so far, and over the past few months, McIlroy has at times looked unsettled between the ropes. It’s difficult to compute, how someone with seemingly so much – a résumé with four majors, a robust bank account, a beautiful wife – can also appear disinterested and unmotivated.

“I think sometimes I need to get back to that attitude where I play carefree and just happy to be here,” he said. “A golf tournament is where I feel the most comfortable. It’s where I feel like I can 100 percent be myself and express myself. Sometimes the pressure that’s put on the top guys to perform at such a level every week, it starts to weigh on you a little bit. The more I can be like that kid, the better.”

It’s a decidedly different landscape from when the erstwhile Boy Wonder last won a major, in summer 2014. Jordan Spieth had won just a single Tour event, not three majors. Dustin Johnson wasn’t world No. 1 but merely a tantalizing tease, a long-hitting, fast-living physical freak who was just beginning a six-month break to address "personal challenges." Two-time U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka hadn’t even started playing in the States.  

McIlroy’s greatest asset, both then and now, was his driving – he put on clinics at Congressional and Kiawah, Hoylake and Valhalla. He was a mainstay at or near the top of the strokes gained: tee to green rankings, but over the past few years, because of better technology, fitness and coaching, the gap between him and the rest of the field has shrunk.

“I think at this stage players have caught up,” Harrington said. “There’s many players who drive the ball comparable and have certainly eaten into that advantage. Rory is well on pace to get into double digits with majors, but it has got harder. There’s no doubt there’s more players out there who are capable of having a big week and a big game for a major. It makes it tough.”

It’s not as though McIlroy hasn’t had opportunities to add to his major haul; they’ve just been less frequent and against stronger competition. In the 13 majors since he last won, he’s either finished in the top 10 or missed the cut in 11 of them. This year, he played in the final group at the Masters, and was on the verge of completing the career Grand Slam, before a soul-crushing 74 on the last day. His U.S. Open bid was over after nine holes, after an opening 80 and a missed cut during which he declined to speak to reporters after both frustrating rounds.

“I’m trying,” he said Wednesday. “I’m trying my best every time I tee it up, and it just hasn’t happened.”

A year after saying that majors are the only events that will define the rest of his career, he recently shrugged off the doom and gloom surrounding his Grand Slam drought: “It doesn’t keep me up at night, thinking, If I never won another major, I can’t live with myself.”

Eleven years ago, McIlroy never would have troubled himself with such trivial questions about his legacy. But perhaps a return to Carnoustie, to where his major career started, is just what he needs to unlock his greatness once again.


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Own history, grow the game with Open memorabilia auction

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 1:00 pm

Get a piece of history and help grow the game, that's what The Open is offering with its memorabilia auction.

The official Open Memorabilia site features unique Open assets from famous venues and Champion Golfers of the Year. All net proceeds received by The R&A from this project will be invested to support the game for future generations, including encouraging women’s, junior and family golf, on the promotion and progression of the sport in emerging golf nations and on coaching and development.

Items for auction include limited edition prints of Champion Golfers of the Year, signed championship pin flags and limited edition historical program covers. Memorable scorecard reproductions and caddie bibs are also available to bid for on the website, with all items featuring branded, serialized holograms for authenticity.

Click here to own your piece of history and to get more information on the auction.