Golf notebook: Gary Player laying claim to most Senior titles

By Tom LaMarre, The Sports Xchange   |   June 5, 2017 at 12:24 PM
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When Bernhard Langer captured the Senior PGA Championship recently for his ninth major title on the PGA Tour Champions, he surpassed Jack Nicklaus' eight as the most on the senior circuit.

Not so fast, said Gary Player, the greatest South African golfer ever.

Player is credited with winning six Senior majors: the 1986 PGA Seniors Championship, the 1987 Senior Tournament Players Championship, the 1987 U.S. Senior Open, 1988 PGA Seniors Championship, the 1988 U.S. Senior Open and the 1990 PGA Seniors Championship.

But he also won the Senior British Open three times before it was declared a major in 2003.

"What I would say is that every tournament has to start somewhere, and then it evolves," the 81-year-old Player told Golf Digest. "The Masters in 1934 was not what it would become, but every player who has won it is recognized as a major winner.

"I remember Arnold Palmer ... telling me it was B.S. that the Senior (British) Open Championship wasn't a major. He so regretted not winning the championship when he was playing senior golf because playing on an old links where golf began was very special for him.

"I wonder, what would the status of the championship be if Arnold had won it three times?"

One thing Player and Langer have in common is that they have always been in tremendous physical condition and continued to play at a high level after others began to fade with age on the PGA Tour Champions.

Most of the top players these days spend at least part of most days working out in the gym, but Player and Langer did that before almost anyone else.

"My nine majors and career grand slam on the senior tour outrank my nine majors and career grand slam on the regular tour," Player said.

"It took the world a long time to realize how tough the competition was on the senior tour, and so winning all the majors in a shorter window of time is a great accomplishment."

And in his mind, he also has won nine Senior majors.

Eligibility categories for South Korean event announced

The PGA Tour announced the eligibility categories for the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges, the circuit's first-ever event to be played in South Korea at the Club @ Nine Bridges on Jeju Island on Oct. 19-22.

The tournament will have a 78-player field, with five set aside for members of the Korean Golf Tour and two from the Asian Tour, who will compete alongside many of the top players from the PGA Tour.

"Having a PGA Tour regular-season tournament in Korea is extremely meaningful," said Chairman Hwee-Bu Yang of the Korean PGA. "It's also exciting that many Korean prospects will get an opportunity to compete at the world-class level.

"I am confident that the CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges will play a major role in developing Korean men's golf."

The winners of the KPGA Championship on June 22-25 and the newly sanctioned Genesis Championship on Sept. 21-24 on the Korean Tour also will receive invitations to the tournament.

In addition, the top three players from the Genesis Points, the Korean Golf Tour's Order of Merit, as of Oct. 9 will earn exemptions for the tournament.

The Asian Tour's Order of Merit leader and the Korean player with the highest Order of Merit standing on the Asian Tour as of Oct. 9 also will receive exemptions into the event.

The top three Korean players in the Official World Golf Ranking on Oct. 9 will earn invitations. If any of these three players already are qualified based on their position in the FedExCup standings or placement within the KPGA or Asian Tour, the exemption(s) will go to the next-highest-ranked player(s).

Title sponsor CJ also will have eight exemptions to offer, with five of those reserved for PGA Tour members. The other three exemptions have no restrictions.

It is anticipated that there could be upward of 20 players either born in Korea or of Korean descent playing in the inaugural PGA Tour event in the country.

Top Korean candidates are Si Woo Kim, who made the 2017 Players Championship his second PGA Tour victory, Sung Kang, James Hahn, Kevin Na, Byeong Hun An and Seung Yul Noh.

Ai Miyazato retiring

Ai Miyazato of Japan, who has won 25 times around the world in her illustrious career, announced that she will retire at the end of this season.

The 31-year-old Miyazato, who was born in Okinawa, said she has battled with her motivation the last four years.

"I actually began feeling this four to five years ago, and at that point I basically had to keep going while groping for some way to deal with it," said Miyazato, who said she reached her decision last summer but did not reveal it until now.

"So I fought on for four years, but I couldn't really admit to myself that the motivation wasn't coming back, and I wasn't able to practice enough or throw myself into training. ... The ideal I wanted just wasn't there anymore."

Miyazato won five titles of her 15 titles on the Japan Tour as a rookie in 2004 before joining the LPGA Tour in 2006 and winning nine times on the U.S. circuit, the last in the 2012 NW Arkansas Championship.

Her first LPGA title came in the 2009 Evian Masters in France, which has since become a major, and she rose to No. 1 in the Rolex Women's World Golf Rankings in 2010 while winning four of the first nine tournament of the season on the U.S. tour.

"If there is a nicer person on the planet than Ai Miyazato, I haven't met him or her yet," LPGA Tour Commissioner Mike Whan said. "She treats everybody with class, she's has never said no to a fan, she's been incredible to me and my staff."

Miyazato never won a major title, coming closes with ties for third in the Women's PGA Championship in 2006 and 2010, and again in the 2009 Women's British Open (2009).

Sweden's Robert Karlsson chosen as European assistant captain

Thomas Bjorn of Denmark, captain of the European team for the Ryder Cup matches next year, selected Robert Karlsson of Sweden as the first of his assistant captains.

The 47-year-old Karlsson has won 11 times on the European Tour, becoming the first Swede to claim the Euro Tour Order of Merit title in 2008, and also teamed with Henrik Stenson to win the 2008 World Cup of Golf for Sweden.

"(Karlsson) has been one of my closest friends on tour for many years and, not only that, he is immensely respected by all the players, both by his peers and the younger guys now emerging," Bjorn said.

"His playing credentials are impressive, having been a former European No. 1, and he also knows the unique atmosphere of the Ryder Cup, having represented Europe both home and away."

Karlsson has never won on the PGA Tour, but lost in playoffs to Lee Westwood in the 2010 St. Jude Classic and to Harrison Frazer in the same tournament a year later.

A two-time Ryder Cup selection, Karlsson posted a 1-2-4 record in 2006 and 2008.

"To get the call from Thomas was very special and I'm really looking forward to being part of the Ryder Cup again," Karlsson said. "It is a great honor to be a vice captain and I'm very much looking forward to the next 16 months."

The Ryder Cup will be played Sept. 28-30, 2018, at Le Golf National outside Paris.

Oklahoma wins men's NCAA title

Oklahoma claimed its second NCAA Men's NCAA Golf Championship with a 3-1-1 victory over defending national champion Oregon in the match-play final at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill.

The Ducks captured their first national title by beating Texas in the final last year on their home course at Eugene Country Club in Eugene, Ore.

"I had a good feeling (this) week," Oklahoma coach Ryan Hybl said. "If (we) had an opportunity this week, they were going to do something crazy good. This has been our best individual year. We had five individual (tournament winners), which not a lot of teams can say. The firepower was there.

"This is so special. I'm just so happy for our guys (and) our former players that have helped build this program. This is awesome. I'm so happy."

Oklahoma claimed its first NCAA title since winning in 1989 at Oak Tree Country Club in Edmonds, Okla.

Blaine Hale gave the Sooners their first point in the match-play final by defeating Norman Xiong, 4 and 3, with a birdie putt on the 15th hole, and Max McGreevy followed with a 3-and-2 victory over Edwin Yi.

Brad Dalke gave Oklahoma its winning point with a 2-and-1 victory over Sulman Raza.

"It means so much," said Dalke, whose father played on the 1975 Sooner football team that won the national championship. "This team we have, we are all just brothers. To be able to come out here and win this thing with my guys and make the last putt to clinch it, it is so cool.

"I can't wait to get a ring like my Dad's. It is still sinking in."

Wyndham Clark provided Oregon with its only point by beating Rylee Reinertson, 1 up, with an eagle on the final hole, while Grant Hirschman of Oklahoma halved his match with Ryan Gronlund.

In the semifinals, Oklahoma downed Illinois, 3-1-1, while Oregon got past Vanderbilt, 3-2.

The Sooners beat Baylor, 3-2, in the quarterfinals, while Oregon edged Oklahoma State by the same score, Illinois defeated USC, 3-1-1, and Vanderbilt disposed of UNLV, 3-2.

Earlier in the week, Braden Thornberry of Mississippi claimed the NCAA individual title by four strokes over Mason Overstreet of Arkansas.

Arizona State pair earn exemptions to LPGA event

Senior Monica Vaughn and sophomore Linnea Strom of Arizona State received exemptions to the LPGA Tour's Marathon Classic in July as a result of their performances at the 2017 NCAA Women's Golf Championships at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill.

Vaughn overcame a two-shot deficit in the final round to win the individual national championship, becoming the sixth Sun Devil to claim the title.

"This will be my very first LPGA event, my first professional event I've ever played in, so that's huge for me," said Vaughn, from Reedsport, Ore., who claimed three titles in her college career.

"I'm lucky to be there with my teammate. It's going to be a blast. We'll just give it our best show and see how it goes."

Strom, from Sweden, claimed the winning point for Arizona State against Northwestern in the match-play final, giving the Sun Devils their eighth NCAA Championship.

She won the 2014 Spanish International Amateur Championship.

"(The exemption) came as a surprise, and I'm really happy to have the opportunity to play in an LPGA event," Strom said. "I'm very excited to do that with Monica, and it's going to be a lot of fun to see how it is out there with the professionals."

The 2017 Marathon Classic will take place on July 20-23 at Highland Meadows Golf Club in Sylvania, Ohio.

De Vicenzo dies at 94

Roberto De Vicenzo of Argentina, a great golfer who unfortunately was remembered most for one of the biggest gaffes in the game's history, died at his home in Buenos Aires at the age of 94.

The Argentina Golf Association said De Vicenzo, who was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1989, broke his hip last month in a fall at his home and that his health had been deteriorating ever since.

"He was a strong, strong, good player," Jack Nicklaus said. "I think he was an instinctive player. He played with his feel. He just played by feel. And he was strong. He was very long (off the tee) for those days. But I just remember we played, not a lot, but we probably played with him, I suppose, a dozen times.

"And we played a few tournaments. We played a few practice rounds. And I just always enjoyed his company. He was a nice man, and you always miss nice guys."

De Vicenzo, who claimed 230 titles around the world, is credited with only one major title, the 1967 Open Championship at Royal Liverpool Golf Club, where he beat Nicklaus by two strokes.

However, he is most known for signing an incorrect scorecard and finishing one stroke behind Bob Goalby on his 45th birthday in the 1968 Masters, instead of going to an 18-hole playoff with Goalby the next day. He had to take a 66 instead of the 65 he actually shot.

"I play golf all over the world for 30 years, and now all I can think of is what a stupid I am to be wrong in this wonderful tournament," De Vicenzo said afterward, even though others were quick to blame Tommy Aaron, his playing partner, who kept the Argentine's scorecard and wrote down the incorrect score on one hole.

Years later he said: "I had to admit my mistake, which is proper for a sportsman and a gentleman. I could not blame Tommy Aaron. ... All that I lose at the Masters is the Green Jacket. The prestige, no. My name is in the Masters forever."

De Vicenzo also played on what is now known as the PGA Tour Champions and won the 1980 U.S. Senior Open by four strokes over amateur Bill Campbell.

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