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Getting into the World Golf Hall of Fame just got tougher ... and more prestigious

By Ron Sirak

WGHOF-Montgomerie.jpgORLANDO -- The World Golf Hall of Fame is one of the best-kept secrets in the game. A walk through the facility in St. Augustine, Fla., is an inspiring trip through time.

The problem is not enough people are making the walk.

In an effort to make more people aware of the institution and get more people involved, WGHOF chief operating officer Jack Peter announced Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational wide-ranging changes to the selection process.

The main revisions include:

* Instead of being an annual event, induction in the WGHOF will happen biennially beginning May 4, 2015.

* Instead of players being selected by a ballot involving hundreds of voters, including dozens of golf writers, a 16-person Selection Commission, with three writers, will choose the induction class. (Editor's Note: Sirak, the current Golf Writers Association of America president, will be one of the three writers on the committee for 2015.)

* To be elected, candidates must receive 75 percent of the vote from the Selection Commission, or 12 of 16 members. Both Fred Couples and Colin Montgomerie (above) were elected to the WGHOF's Class of 2013 with barely more than 50 percent of the vote using the old process.

Related: Varied responses to Fred Couples being named to WGHOF

* The International ballot, which always seemed out of place for a body with the word "World" in its title, has been eliminated. There will be four categories: Male and Female Competitors, Veterans and Lifetime Achievement.

To be considered in the Competitor category, a male needs 15 wins (up from 10) in International Federation of PGA Tours events or two victories in majors or Players Championship.

A woman needs 15 wins on tours that receive Rolex Rankings points or two victories in the five LPGA majors. The 27-point rule will remain in effect for the LPGA Hall of Fame. It is highly unlikely a woman would earn 27 points and not make the WGHOF.

Remaining the same from the previous selection process is the minimum age of 40 for induction or, for retired players, the need to be five years removed from active competition. That means Tiger Woods and Lorena Ochoa will be eligible for the 2017 class.

The revisions to the selection process come after the WGHOF announced last October it was suspending induction for 2014 to undergo a strategic review of the criteria and make sure it was properly defined to maintain the highest quality of candidate be added to the roster of the game's legends.

"The changes to the process and induction ceremony will serve the long-term interest of the institution well," Peter said. "The changes take the unique nature of the game and its candidates into account and, most important, will continue to allow the Hall of Fame to recognize worthy individuals."

If there is a real flaw in the WGHOF, it is that the public won't start taking it seriously until the players take it seriously. That is another reason for the changes.

Not enough active players and not enough members of the WGHOF show up at the induction ceremony each year. It was hoped that moving the induction from the fall to the Monday of Players Championship week, which was done in 2011 years ago, would fix that. It didn't.

WGHOF.jpgGetting current members of the WGHOF to return to the yearly induction has been a challenge, even after the ceremony was moved to May. (Photo: Getty Images)


The Selection Commission for the 2015 class will be chaired by four WGHOF members: Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Annika Sorenstam and Nancy Lopez. In addition to that four and the three writers, and a representative from the PGA Tour, European Tour, LPGA, Masters, PGA of America, USGA, R&A and, for the 2015 class, the Japan LPGA and Sunshine Tour.

"This is a great step for the Hall of Fame," Palmer said. "I was honored to be a part of the first Hall of Fame class 40 years ago in 1974, and it will be a privilege to serve on the Selection Commission with Nancy, Annika and Gary for the class of 2015."

The process to determine the incoming class will begin with a 20-person Selection Sub-Committee, which will review eligible candidates and pass 10 names along to all WGHOF members, who will whittle the list to five.

Any player receiving no votes from the sub-committee two consecutive years will be removed from the ballot.

The Selection Commission will pick no more than two candidates from each of the four categories and no more than five total for each class.

The hope of involving the WGHOF members in the voting is that if they feel more vested in the process, they might show up to the induction ceremony in greater numbers.

The intent of making induction something that happens every two years also is to generate greater turnout of both active and inactive players by making the event feel more special.

Photo: Getty Images
 


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News & Tours

Rory McIlroy eyeing a big year as he starts his U.S. swing at Match Play

By Stephen Hennessey

MARANA, Ariz. -- You can hear the difference in his voice. Instead of uncertainty, there's confidence. Rory McIlroy knows he could've -- maybe even should've -- won in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, where he finished second and ninth.

McIlroy also knows that he has four top 10s in four official tournaments played in since November.

That's why when McIlroy addressed the media for the first time in the United States this year, on the eve of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, the 24-year-old had a completely different tone than at the start of the season in 2013, when a sluggish start and questions about equipment changes dominated the conversation.

"Yeah, I mean, definitely I'm much more settled [than I was last year]," McIlroy said Tuesday. "Just, yeah, everything is sort of in a good place. The game is in great shape, I feel. I haven't hit the ball this well for a long time.

"Compared to this time last year, it's so much different."

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McIlroy was all smiles today at Dove Mountain. Photo: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

McIlroy said he made an adjustment in his putting grip after working with Dave Stockton prior to this week's Match Play, where he will play Boo Weekley in Wednesday's first round. (They tee off at 1:25 p.m. EST.) So he's feeling more confident in his putting stroke after starting the European Tour season a mediocre 47th in putts per round (29).

Related: Huggan: McIlroy showing signs that 2014 is a different year

Stockton had McIlroy move his right thumb on top of his grip to help his left hand continue his stroke through impact, McIlroy said.

Since last October, McIlroy said he's also more comfortable with his overall swing, and his stats seem to prove him out. Currently he ranks second on the Euro Tour in driving distance and sixth in greens in regulation.

"Yeah it's been a long process," he said. "I've worked hard and I feel like I'm seeing the results of that."

Surprisingly, there were no questions about his engagement to tennis star Caroline Wozniacki in the Tuesday press conference. But that's another part of McIlroy's life that is stable. It's unclear just how much that impacts the seventh ranked golfer in the world on the course. But when average Joes like us have stability in our personal lives, we tend to perform better, right? Why not McIlroy, then?

We're just a week away from the one-year anniversary of arguably McIlroy's competitive nadir -- his infamous toothache incident at the Honda Classic. It's hard to say how McIlroy will fare this week given the unpredictable format that is match play. But if he keeps his form going the way he has over the last four months, this could be the start of a standout year for McIlroy.

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News & Tours

Video: Miguel Angel Jimenez demonstrates his famous stretching routine

By Stephen Hennessey

PHOENIX -- You've seen it on the range at tour events. Miguel Angel Jimenez's warm-up routine is a spectacle to say the least.

Yesterday at Ping's headquarters in Phoenix, Jimenez gave a quick rundown of his stretching routine to a group of about 30 Ping employees.

Who knew that Jimenez has a method to the madness of this contorting motion? The 50-year-old Spaniard says he has been doing these stretches for as long as he can remember.

Related: Fitness: Activate your ankles

"The older we get, the more important your fitness is," Jimenez said after, before heading to Tucson for this week's WGC-Match Play. "You don't want to lose your flexibility with age."

Jimenez certainly hasn't. As he toured through the Ping headquarters after his stretching clinic, Jimenez showed off just how flexible he still is. In front of a cubicle of a group of Ping employees, the four-time Ryder Cupper threw his leg high onto their cubicle wall, with his foot almost reaching above his head.

"See, this is why you need to stretch," Jimenez explained.

Not many 50-year-old golfers can make ballet dancers blush with their warm-up routine. But this Spaniard still can.

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News & Tours

Buy Adam Scott's Abu Dhabi house, get a round with the Masters champ

By Keely Levins

Adam Scott, reigning Masters Champion and should-have-been Golf Digest Hottest Golfer Contest Champion, is selling his 'house' in Abu Dhabi, according to Abu Dhabi Week.

This is the second real estate move Scott has made in the last three months. Gold Coast Bulletin reported he took a $2.5 million hit when he sold his Australia apartment on Surfers Paradise Beach in December.
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He bought the Abu Dhabi house in 2008 before it was built, the plan being to use it as a home base while he was competing on the European Tour. He didn't end up spending any time in it, citing that as the reason why it's now on the market.

The house is 10,000 square feet, has a pool, and views of the Saadiyat Beach Golf Club and nearby ocean. It's listed at a cool $6.2 million. And if that's the kind of investment you're looking to make right now, you're going to get more than the house: Scott said he'll play a round of golf with the buyer.

You can put a price on most things -- but I'm pretty sure a round of golf with Scott just isn't one of them. Let the bidding war begin.

 

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News & Tours

Stats show Rory is playing about as well as at this time last year, and only a win in Dubai can change that

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

Rory McIlroy's opening round 63 at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic seems to reaffirm that the slump the World No. 6 was in for most of the 2013 calendar year might be behind him ... or does it? Is it really a sign that good times are ahead?

Instead of waiting to see how the rest of this week's tournament -- or the rest of this year -- finished to answer that question, we decided to do some snap analysis that compares Rory at this point in his 2013-14 season to where he stood at the same time in the 2012-13 season.

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To do this, we specifically analyzed just the events where Rory was able to collect Official World Golf Ranking points, and only the four-month time frame from the conclusion of the FedEx Cup season to the end of January.

Here then is how Rory's results looked between his final 2012 FedEx Cup event and Jan. 29, 2013:

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And here's how his results look between his final 2013 FedEx Cup event and Jan. 29, 2014:

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Now for a side-by-side look:

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What can we gather from this solid stretch from Rory? Well, perhaps we shouldn't jump to any conclusions that this season will be remarkably different from a year ago since he's actually playing at a level almost identical to this point in 2013.

Despite competing in two fewer events a year ago, Rory finished with as many wins and top-three finishes as he has now. His scoring average, too, was a touch lower. And before Thursday's 63, Rory's low round in both time periods was a 65, shot once each time. 


What's perhaps more interesting is how Rory does when he plays poorly now compared to a year ago. In 2012-13, Rory finished either really good -- top three or better -- or really bad, as in missed cut. In 2013-14, his performances have been less erratic -- no missed cuts and more top 10s. That's why his average point total per start is slightly higher this year. Granted, it's a small sample size.*

(*The one thing we haven't touched upon here, of course, is the complicating factor of McIlroy's equipment switch from Titleist to Nike clubs at the beginning of 2013. How large a role that played in his subsequent struggles last year is subject for debate. Presumably, though, that factor potentially contributing to his 2013 slump isn't a variable he'll be fighting in 2014.) 

Either way, a win in Dubai would change some things. Most notably, it would give him about 48 World Ranking points, meaning that, on paper, he'd be playing better than at this point last year.

Anything outside of that, however, and the question of whether he's really playing better right now than he was 12 months ago remains.


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News & Tours

Video: Rory McIlroy puts on a show for Tiger Woods in Dubai

By Alex Myers

Unless you stayed up really late last night, you probably missed watching Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods playing in the first round of the Dubai Desert Classic. And if that's the case, you missed quite a show -- from Rory, as least.

Related: Like Tiger, like Rory? Their careers compared

McIlroy fired an opening 63 to dust his playing partner, the world's top-ranked golfer, by five shots. According to this highlight package, Woods was hitting the ball "sideways," but posted a solid round thanks to some remarkable scrambling. McIlroy needed no such help from his short game:

Clearly, the shot of the day was a McIlroy 5-wood that carried about 250 yards and then gently rolled out to about 10 feet to set up an eagle. Not that we should be too surprised. McIlroy has a win, a runner-up, a T-5 and a T-6 in his last four worldwide events entering this week. So much for that slump.

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News & Tours

Video: Phil Mickelson tries to hit a shot right-handed, accidentally hits the ball twice instead

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

Perhaps Phil Mickelson foreshadowed his Sunday fate after his round the day before.

"That was not a smart decision," Mickelson said, referring to his ultra-aggressive second shot from the bunker on the final hole. "But I don't know, that's just what I do."

That shot finished in the rough, about 100 yards from the pin, but close enough to wedge on and hole the putt (which he did). Maybe that was running through his mind on the 13th hole on Sunday. His ball stuck next to a bush, Phil flipped his club over so he could try to chip out right-handed.

The result this time? Not so good.

Lefty accidentally hit his ball twice, in all taking five strokes to get onto the green of the par 4. He would make a triple bogey en route to a T-2 finish, one back of winner Pablo Larrazabal.

And how did Phil respond when asked about it after the round?

"You know me, I've done some crazy s*** in my career. I go up and then I go down."

Oh, Phil.


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News & Tours

Phil Mickelson is shaking off the rust in Abu Dhabi after a third round 63

By John Huggan

ABU DHABI, Unites Arab Emirates--Immediately after his second round 70, two under par, here at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship, Phil Mickelson was not talking like a possible winner of the title.

"Rusty," was one of the adjectives he used to describe his game. "Not sharp" was another phrase to pass his lips. And his admission that "I haven't played for eight weeks," seemed to confirm an air of resignation about the British Open champion.

Well, think again. One day later, the same Mickelson was standing in the same spot and all but purring with pleasure following a ten-birdie, one-bogey round of 63 that took him to ten under par for the tournament and -- much later -- within two shots of the 54-hole lead held by Scotsman Craig Lee.


"I hit a lot of good shots and putted really well to make that many birdies," said the 43-year old Californian. "I did make a few lazy swings -- I got a little tired over the last four or five holes -- but it felt good to play so well."

Within all that good stuff, there was still time for some typically erratic and adventurous play. And never was that more true than at the 18th hole. Appropriately enough in the company of Seve (Benson, not Ballesteros), Mickelson drove into sand on the 562-yard par-5, then chose to go for the distant green.

"That was not a smart decision," he admitted later. "But I don't know, that's just what I do."

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The shot ended up in rough, behind trees and 98-yards from the pin. In other words, in the sort of position Mickelson is both very familiar with and, usually, well equipped to cope with.

"It was a very difficult spot," he admitted. "But I was fortunate that the lie was 'tight' enough where I could take a wedge and kind of trap the shot and keep it low under the branches. I had plenty of green to work with too. And I got the ball on the green, to about 50-feet. Not that close, but close enough that I had a chance to make it."

He did just that, of course.


"It was a really good putt to finish," he said, that familiar smile firmly in place. "It felt terrific to see that ball go in.

"I've improved each day. And I've felt better about my game each day. But the best thing is to be in contention in my first week out. I look forward to feeling nervous on the first tee and having an opportunity to win a tournament this early in the year."

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In that final round, it looked for a while as if Mickelson would have two men in front of him, the aforementioned Lee, whose biggest win as a professional is the 2009 Northern Open in his native Scotland, and one Rory McIlroy, twice a major champion.

Well, it did until the Irishman was handed a two-shot penalty at the end of his round, following what turned out to be an erroneous drop from a spectator cross-walk on the 2nd hole.

This was a good day for Phil Mickelson.

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News & Tours

Garcia, cleared of any wrongdoing, has a legitimate gripe

By John Huggan

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates -- It has long been a matter of some contention and irritation for all high-profile professional golfers. But this was a particularly egregious example of a modern day plague that has become tiresome -- and on this occasion, unfair -- in the extreme.

Related: Golf's costliest rules violations

There, on whatever the 21st century equivalent is of videotape, was Sergio Garcia on the 18th green at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club. Down on his haunches having marked his ball, the Spaniard was shown tapping down a mark on what would soon be his direct line to the hole. To some conclusion jumpers, it appeared to be a clear breach of the rule covering the non-touching of spike marks. Cue the inevitable phone calls from "Outraged of Oklahoma City," "Indignant of Indianapolis," and "Suspicious of San Francisco," to name but three.

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Ah, but as so often is the case, the footage did not show the full story. Having gone some way to repairing a pitch mark in front of his ball, Garcia had merely paused to allow his playing partner, former PGA champion Martin Kaymer, to putt. Then, when the German missed, Garcia completed his task. All perfectly legal. All perfectly innocent.

The next morning, having been made aware of the "incident" that provoked some over-eager websites to use the word "cheat" next to "Garcia," the European Tour's chief referee, John Paramor, was obliged to take the six-time Ryder Cup player out to the 18th to run through exactly what happened. It didn't take long to dismiss all charges.

"Cheating is something I would never do," said an indignant Garcia immediately after completing a second round of 68 that saw him make the halfway cut in the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship with nothing to spare. "But it does feel bad to be related to that word, when there is no proof and when I've never cheated in my life. It hurt a little bit.

Related: The 11 best golfers without a major

"It's fine to call in when you can see that someone has cheated. But to say that about someone without knowing all the facts is wrong. Being related to that word is the most disgusting thing that can happen to any golfer. So it was a little disappointing. I'm happy it was cleared up with John and I was able to play today."

Garcia, of course, has a case here. While no one in golf would ever identify the now 34-year old man-child as one of golf's lilywhite characters -- his career has been dogged by regular doses of controversy, most recently at last year's BMW PGA Championship dinner when he made his unfortunate and offensive comment regarding Tiger Woods' eating habits -- on this occasion he is surely due an immediate and full apology from all those who either called in with their spurious accusations, or jumped to a conclusion that was soon to be proved erroneous.

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News & Tours

Garcia cleared of illegally tapping down spike mark (Updated)


Update, Friday a.m.: The European Tour has cleared Garcia of any wrongdoing after Garcia explained he was legally flattening a pitch mark. The tour brought the player in to review footage when he arrived at National Course for his second round. In a statement, the tour said "[Rules official] John Paramor is satisfied with Sergio's version of the matter and that is the end of the issue." 

Earlier: Watch out, we might have another European Tour spike mark-tapping controversy on our hands. And this time, it involves Sergio Garcia.

A video surfaced Thursday of Sergio Garica tapping down what may have been a spike mark in his line on the 14th hole of his first round at the HSBC Championship. Garcia shot four over 76 on Thursday, leaving him T-104 after one round.



The evidence itself is far from incriminating because, as GolfCentralDaily.com, the website that first spotted the video, points out, he could be tapping down a ball mark that he had previously repaired. 

Nevertheless, less than two months after punishing Simon Dyson for a similar infraction, it could potentially evolve into another unwanted high-profile rules incident for the European Tour.


And for Sergio Garcia, it could once again land him in the middle of a debate he would rather not be a part of. Aside from his various controversial remarks, most notably about Tiger Woods after the 2013 Players Championship -- a comment he has since apologized for -- Garcia has been accused of cheating before.

At the 2007 Players Championship, Garcia was accused of taking an illegal drop by Cliff Kresge's caddie.

"Cliff's caddie wanted to make a big deal, but it wasn't," said Garcia on that occasion. "I took relief from the drainage. They were calling me a cheater [but] I've never cheated in my whole life. I'd rather shoot 85 than shoot 65 cheating."

At the 2013 Wells Fargo Championship, a viewer suspected Garcia had moved his ball closer to the hole, although rules officials decided not to issue a penalty. The following week, at the Players Championship, Garcia was again suspected of tapping down a spike mark in his line after a video surfaced online, although officials never chose to act.


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