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Stingers: Colin Montgomerie is a Hall of Famer?

By Alex Myers

I'll admit, I was never much of a Colin Montgomerie fan. But that changed -- at least, briefly -- when I drew the plum assignment of following the Scot around Winged Foot in one of Sunday's final groups at the 2006 U.S. Open.

A week shy of his 43rd birthday and with his career in its twilight, Monty managed to hold things together as well as anyone that day on the treacherous A.W. Tillinghast track, and I, a young reporter rooting for a great story, believed I had lucked my way into covering this unlikely major championship win from inside the ropes. Then, Montgomerie pulled, well, a Montgomerie.

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Photo by Getty Images

Pumped up from draining a 50-footer for birdie on No. 17 to take a share of the lead with Phil Mickelson, Montgomerie found the 18th fairway (something Phil famously wouldn't accomplish minutes later), but chose a 7-iron for the uphill, 172-yard shot. He didn't come close. A pitch and three putts later, Monty, like Mickelson, wound up one shot behind winner Geoff Ogilvy. Unlike Phil, Monty didn't collect his runner-up trophy at the awards ceremony, instead storming off and reportedly having an altercation with a New York state trooper.

Related: The most grueling U.S. Opens ever

Just like that, Montgomerie's final opportunity to capture a major championship was gone. One would think his chances at being inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame had vanished as well. I was wrong.

On Tuesday morning, Montgomerie was named the latest player to earn entry into the Hall (receiving just 51% of the vote on the international ballot), despite the fact he will never win one of its four biggest tournaments. Even more stunning? Montgomerie has never won a single PGA Tour event. I guess I missed the announcement that the Hall of Fame is now just the "Hall of Very Good"?

The case for Montgomerie? A sterling Ryder Cup record and 31 wins on the European PGA Tour, which he dominated during the 1990s to the tune of four Player of the Year awards and finishing first on the Order of Merit (money list) seven times, adding an eighth in 2005. Those are impressive accomplishments, but keep in mind that tour's depth wasn't nearly what it is now -- when it is still a distant No. 2 to the PGA Tour.

Meanwhile, Montgomerie played his fair share of tournaments in the States and often came close to winning, including losing playoffs at both the U.S. Open and PGA Championship. But he never got the job done. Not in a major. Not in a Honda Classic.

Related: Ryder Cup heroes & goats

Earlier this year, Fred Couples, with his 15 PGA Tour wins and one major, was also selected to the Hall. Like Monty, Freddie was no slam dunk to get the nod, especially so soon. But the pair's speedy selection, while others with similar credentials like Ken Venturi have had to wait so long, is just the latest case of Hall of Fame standards -- not just in golf, but in all sports -- being lowered.

If guys with no major titles are going to start being inducted, what's going to happen to all the one-time winners, who have become so abundant during this recent era of parity? Good thing there's plenty of space on that St. Augustine property.

Maybe it's a little harsh, but I had a front-row seat for Monty's chance at true golfing immortality. Like that ill-fated approach shot, he came up short.

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News & Tours

Stingers: Dear gallery, stop yelling stupid things!

Hey, you! Yeah, you, the obnoxious guy who yells out absurd things right after a golfer tees off. You know who you are. Now stop it!

It's bad enough that golf fans have had to endure "Get in the hole!" and "You da man!" for decades. But now we have to deal with a new era of creative -- make that ridiculous -- sayings, many of which were on display at Olympic Club during the U.S. Open. "Mashed potatoes!"? "Filet mignon!"? "5-hour Energy!"? OK, so that last one -- yelled following a Jim Furyk tee shot, of course -- was actually pretty funny... but back to my original point: Enough's enough! If I wanted to hear drunk guys yelling random things, I'd watch "Jersey Shore."

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I really hoped no one yelled "Get in the hole!" here. It was a par 5. (Getty Images)

I'm not trying to sound all Bobby Jones-preachy here. I don't think fans should be restrained to soft "golf claps" and dressing like they're about to attend a business conference, but they should keep in mind that players can actually hear them. And worse, everyone else watching -- both in person and on TV -- can as well.

I mean, if you're going to take advantage of total silence, why not at least scream something that's for a good cause? Maybe something like "Peace and goodwill!" Or, "Lower gas prices!" Or better yet, "Stop making Adam Sandler movies!"

At least there weren't any fans dumb enough to interrupt the trophy ceremony. Oh wait, that's right. One bozo's desperate attention-seeking ploy did just that, and prompted Webb Simpson to deliver the line of the week when he said, "Enjoy the jail cell, pal." Now that's something I hope everyone heard loud and clear.

Related: The shots that defined the U.S. Open

Fans are supposed to stay behind the ropes and in general, keep to themselves. They should not feel entitled to make themselves part of the show. Can you imagine watching a highlight of Jack Nicklaus' 1-iron off the flagstick on No. 17 at Pebble Beach in the 1972 U.S. Open and hearing some idiot yelling "Mango chutney!" in the background? When it comes to major championships, as I once heard a Grand Canyon tour guide enthusiastically proclaim, "We're making memories here, people!" Let's try not to taint them.

-- Alex Myers

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News & Tours

Stingers: Hey Sergio, snap out of it!

Eleven years ago, Sergio Garcia confirmed his status as a rising star, capturing his first win at Colonial less than two years after nearly taking down Tiger Woods at the 1999 PGA Championship. Remember "El Nino"? That affable, fiery Spanish bundle of energy? I do -- and I miss him.

I remember trying to model my own game after Garcia's soon after that epic duel at Medinah. And why not? Garcia was a fearless kid who hit his own stinging irons and who always seemed to be having fun on the course. Now he looks like a guy who makes playing golf for a lot of money on exquisite courses around the world not much fun at all.

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Sergio never seems happy these days. (Photo by Getty Images)

He's No. 22 in golf's world ranking, but Garcia is still trying to live up to his promise -- and it doesn't look promising that he will. As the man with a Ben Hogan-like swing returns to Hogan's home event more than a decade later, the only charge he's leading is that of the naysayers who don't think he has what it takes to win one of golf's biggest events.

"I've been trying for 13 years, and I don't feel capable of winning (a major)," Garcia was quoted by Spanish-language media following a third-round 75 at the Masters that dropped him out of contention. "I don't know what happened to me. Maybe it's something psychological."

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News & Tours

Stingers: It's getting tough to listen to Tiger Woods

On a Mother's Day when just about everyone associated with the Players -- from tour pros to volunteers -- wore pink to celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness Day, the closest Tiger Woods came to honoring the cause was the colorful energy drink he occasionally pulled from his golf bag. Apparently, Woods is in his own world when it comes to discussing his golf game as well.

Following a final-round 73 that included a dismal front-nine 40, he offered this stunning assessment:

"Just one of those things where Joe (LaCava) and I were talking about that on the front nine, I didn't really hit any bad shots, and all of a sudden, I had a bogey, a birdie and a double," Woods said.

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Photo by Getty Images

LaCava is Woods' caddie. He also just might be the world's most patient listener. Then again, he is getting paid a lot more than most psychiatrists.

No bad shots? Did we hear that right? How about the sand wedge over the green on No. 1? How about the 9-iron from the middle of the fairway into the water on No. 4? How about the drive on the par-4 fifth? Or your tee shot on the par-3 eighth, both of which could barely be tracked on the computer screen by the PGA Tour's ShotTracker?

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News & Tours

Stingers: Why golf needs a shot clock

I want to write about slow play but I can't get started.
 
Wait.
 
There.
 
OK, I'm good.
 
Wait.
 
Pull the trigger!
 
Here's an idea: How about Commissioner Tim Finchem pulls the trigger? How about the game of golf pulls the trigger? How about we realize that as the world gets faster in every conceivable way, our game -- tour and amateur alike -- plods along at an excruciating pace. We're inching to a stop. We're pathetic. Golf has become not what you do when you hit the ball. Golf is what you do after you toss the grass in the air, look at your yardage book, make sure there's no one within four holes who might make a putt, and rehearse your swing. For the first of four times. 

Kevin_Na_470.jpgKevin Na's painful pre-shot routine is a notable example of golf's slow-play problem, but it's not the only one. Photo by Getty Images


This is not a plea to speed our game up so that we don't lose players. This is a HOWL to speed play up so we don't lose our game.


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News & Tours

Stingers: Comparing Rory to Tiger? Stop it!

blog_stingers_mcilroy_0507.jpgRickie Fowler collecting his breakthrough PGA Tour win in spectacular fashion is now the dominant story in golf. But the orange-colored blinders have many overlooking how once again, Rory McIlroy failed to close on a big stage.

To be clear: McIlroy is the best player in the game today and he's poised to be the sport's dominant figure for the next two decades. The notion that he's the next Tiger Woods, though, seems about as silly as a Golf Boys music video.

What made Woods better than anyone who has ever picked up a club for a 15-year period was his uncanny ability to come through when he had a chance to win. No, he didn't will every pressure putt into the hole -- like McIlroy's missed 5-footer for par on the 17th hole on Sunday -- but it sure seemed like it, especially during those 14 major titles. Until Y.E. Yang ended Tiger's otherworldly streak, Woods with a 54-hole lead was as safe a bet as there was in sports. And before that, his three straight U.S. Juniors followed by three straight U.S. Amateurs makes McIlroy's resume as a child prodigy look, well, childish.

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News & Tours

Stingers: Hall of Fame making a bogey with Ken Venturi omission

blog_ken_venturi_0503.jpgOn Monday night, the World Golf Hall of Fame will induct new members Phil Mickelson, Peter Alliss, Sandy Lyle, Hollis Stacy and Dan Jenkins. Bravo. They each deserve the honor. There is, however, one individual just as deserving who will not join this talented group, and it's a mistake.

I am referring to Ken Venturi. Don't haggle with me over the numbers, the fact that he won "only" 14 tournaments and just a single major championship, the 1964 U.S. Open (left). For starters, Tom Kite captured only one major, and the same goes for Tommy Bolt and Lanny Wadkins, and they're in the Hall of Fame. A number of others -- Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, and Chi Chi Rodriguez come to mind -- got in because of their contributions to the game, which is fair. Yet, if that's going to be the barometer, there is no doubt Venturi also belongs. His work as a CBS analyst for over 30 years will be difficult to match.

For me, Venturi ensured his status with that one remarkable day in June of '64 at Congressional. There's never been a story like it in professional golf. Suffering from heat prostration, Venturi somehow summoned the will to play 36 holes, prevailing by four strokes over Tommy Jacobs. It demonstrated what one man who refused to surrender could accomplish in the most challenging conditions on the most challenging layout. No wonder Sports Illustrated selected Venturi as its Sportsman of the Year.

Related: The most grueling U.S. Opens

Golf, as we all know, is not just about birdies and bogeys. It is about the resiliency of the human spirit. No one has ever displayed as much spirit as Venturi did that day in D.C., and it's quite possible no one ever will.

-- Michael Arkush
Arkush worked with Venturi on his 2004 autobiography, "Getting Up and Down."

(Photo by Getty Images)

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News & Tours

Stingers: Bubba Watson needs to toughen up and tone it down

Editor's Note: Stingers is an occasional rant on the world of golf.

Bubba Watson's make-it-up-as-I-go style on the course made him a fan favorite long before he won his first major. If he's not careful, though, that same style with the press could cause the public to turn on him quicker than his famous hooked wedge from Augusta National's pine straw.

Upon returning to action at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans -- where he was the defending champ -- following a two-and-a-half-week break, the recent Masters winner complained about being "exhausted" and that it was "tough trying to play golf today."

He continued: "I can't hit a full swing yet. I knew I needed to be here being the defending champ for the local fans. So I'm here, but mentally I'm not here."

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A full swing might be easier without that hefty watch... (Photo by Getty Images)

Wait, what? "I can't hit a full swing yet"? "Mentally I'm not here"? When did golf become hard labor? Bubba, we love you, but you've got to buck up here. Let's not forget you play golf for a living and get to decide when and where you play. You also happen to make more money in a good week than most people make in their lifetime. So please, tone down the bellyaching about doing a full-blown media tour that you agreed to, which included a grueling interview/putting contest with David Letterman.

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News & Tours

Stingers: Sick of weak fields? Give the LPGA a try

To be diplomatic, let's just say the fields for the last two tour stops in Hilton Head and San Antonio have been...well, less than spectacular. Or we can choose to dispense with the diplomacy: The fields have stunk. The PGA Tour has gone from the Bubba show on Broadway to dinner theater in New Haven. All the momentum generated by a uniquely talented and colorful Masters champion is gone. It's akin to the NFL staging exhibition games after the Super Bowl.

There is, however, a remedy for this huge dip in drama. It's called the LPGA Tour, and it's worth a very serious look, both this week, and for the rest of 2012.

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Yani Tseng deserves more attention for her accomplishments. (Photo: Getty Images)

For starters, it features the best player in the world, Yani Tseng. She isn't receiving anywhere near the attention that she deserves, and it's because she's from Taiwan. If this were an American woman putting up these kinds of numbers, there'd be no end to the adulation. Tseng, only 23, has a real chance to break all the records.

Stingers: Westwood is the master of the "Masters"

And what about all those Americans? Will Michelle Wie finally live up to her potential? Will Paula Creamer get her game back on track? Then, of course, there is the story of the phenom, 17-year-old Lexi Thompson: Will Lexi continue to develop, giving the tour the boost it's needed since the retirements of Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa?

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News & Tours

Stingers: Westwood is master of winning the (other) Masters

Jack Nicklaus once said Tiger Woods would wind up with more Masters titles than he (six) and Arnold Palmer (four) combined. Who'd have thought it would be Lee Westwood who would get to 11 first?

That's right. With his successful title defense of the Indonesian Masters over the weekend, Westy picked up his 11th Masters title worldwide. Hip, hip, hooray! From the Quinn Direct British Masters and the Portugal Masters, to the Volvo Masters Andalucia and the Canon European Masters, I think it's safe to say that Westwood is the Master when it comes to winning Masters. And who could ever forget his three-peat at the Sumitomo VISA Taiheiyo Masters?! I'm pretty sure Paramount is in production right now for a movie depicting that historic feat.

Ohhh, wait.

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Westwood poses in his latest (camouflage?) jacket. (Photo: Getty Images)

You mean Jack was specifically referring to the Masters that's played every year in Augusta and not some lesser imitator? My bad. In that case, to steal a line from the "Seinfeld" character J. Peterman (played by golf enthusiast John O'Hurley) "Congratulations on a job... done."

Look, Westwood is obviously a world-class player, but when you dig a little deeper into his 38 career wins as a pro (his first happened to come at the 1996 Volvo Scandinavian Masters), his resume leaves a lot to be desired, especially as someone who recently spent 22 weeks as the top-ranked player in the world. Even his two PGA Tour titles (yes, that's TWO, as in, one more than the totals of luminaries like Chris Couch and Eric Axley) aren't particularly impressive. He captured the Freeport-McDermott Classic (Now the Zurich Classic of New Orleans) in 1998 and the St. Jude Classic in 2010 thanks to Robert Garrigus' 72nd-hole meltdown. Sure, he's spent most of his career playing in Europe, but he also has yet to capture that tour's flagship event, the BMW PGA. If only it were called the BMW Masters instead...

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July 28, 2014

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