The 2014 Shell Houston Open attracted plenty of players who would go on to tee it up in golf’s four major championships — ...
HGA Academic Scholarship Recipients for 2014 (from left) Jacqueline Phung of Richmond Foster, Hailey Hollas of Richmond Travis, Atiyya Menifee of Houston Carver, Tony Ly of Pasadena Dobie, Martha Parra of Spring and Isaiah Carter of Aldine.
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Wayne Levi (1979)
The Woodlands CC
- June 11, 2003
Driving the ball straight is important at the U.S. Open, but not as
important as hitting Greens in Regulation. Since the TOUR began keeping stats in 1980, no player has led the Open in Driving Accuracy and won. On the other hand, eight players who have led the tournament in GIRs have won, including Tiger Woods last year.
Before 27-year-old Rory Sabbatini won the FBR Capital Open, the last
three PGA TOUR events had been won by players in their 40s (Vijay Singh at the EDS Byron Nelson Championship and Kenny Perry at the Bank of America Colonial and the Memorial Tournament). The last time three consecutive tournaments were won by players in that age bracket was 1978. That year, Gary Player (at age 42), won the Masters, the Tournament of Champions and the Houston Open in succession.
Tom Watson played in his first PGA TOUR event 35 years ago as an
18-year old amateur at the Western Open. The course? Olympia Fields, site of this week's U.S. Open. Watson made the cut and finished in a T51.
This will be the 13th U.S. Open conducted in Illinois, all in the greater Chicago area.
The last time the U.S. Open was in the Chicago area, Medinah Country Club was the host in 1990. Twenty-six players who competed in that tournament are playing in this week's U.S. Open, including champion Hale Irwin.
Rory Sabbatini will face long odds this week. No player has won the event prior to the U.S. Open and then gone on to win the Open. The only player to come close recently was Corey Pavin, who lost a playoff at the 1995 Kemper Open and then won the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills the following week. Sabbatini has only played in one previous U.S. Open. That appearance came in 2000, where he missed the cut at Pebble Beach.
You might want to put your money on someone whose last name starts with H at this week's Northeast Pennsylvania Classic. The first three winners of this event? Jeff Hart, Jason Hill and Gary Hallberg.
The Nationwide Tour will be well represented at this week's U.S. Open. A total of 56 alums are entered at Olympia Fields in Chicago. Eleven current members of the Nationwide Tour are competing at Olympia Fields, including leading money winner Joe Ogilvie.
Andre Stolz finally broke through and won a Nationwide Tour event last week at the LaSalle Bank Open. A good reason for his success this season is his play on par 3s and par 4s. He's birdieing par 3s at a 21.4-percent clip, and carding 3s on par 4s 22.6 percent of the time. Stolz ranks second in both categories.
Victor Schwamkrug played his second Nationwide Tour event of the year last week at the LaSalle Bank Open. He finished tied for fifth while blowing his drives past everybody. For the week, on his measured drives, Schwamkrug averaged 348.5 yards off the tee, best on Tour in 2003.
It was a good driving week for many players at The Glen Club last week. Leading into the LaSalle Bank Open, Ryan Palmer's 323.5-yard average off the tee at the First Tee Arkansas Classic was the best on Tour in 2003. Besides Schwamkrug's bombs, Bubba Watson (338.6), Palmer (329.5) and Mark Hensby (324.1) all had drives that averaged more than 323.5 yards.
John Jacobs, who won the Senior PGA Championship at Aronimink Golf Club last week, is 58. He is the oldest player to win a Champions Tour major since Pete Cooper won the 1976 Senior PGA Championship at 61. Jack Fleck (1979, Senior PGA Championship), Roberto De Vicenzo (1980, U.S. Senior Open) and Billy Casper (1988, Ford Senior Players Championship) all won majors when they were 57.
Larry Nelson has not won yet in 2003, but it hasn't been because he doesn't finish well. Eleven of his 12 final-round scores have been under-par, with eight of them in the 60s. Last week at the Senior PGA Championship, Nelson shot an even-par 70 on the last day. He tied for 10th.
Hale Irwin, who turned 58 last week and is 77 days younger than Jacobs, continues to amaze. The reigning Charles Schwab Cup champion and Champions Tour Player of the Year has posted 28 under-par scores this year in 36 rounds.
The last time Irwin finished out of the top 25 at any tournament was in September of 2001 at the Allianz Championship. That week he tied for 41st. At last week's Senior PGA Championship, Irwin started Sunday's final round in 39th place. But a tournament-best 65 in his fourth round propelled him to a 15th-place finish. Since turning 50, Irwin has played 195 Champions Tour events and has finished in the top 25 188 times.
More on Irwin: He'll peform a rare feat this week. He's playing in a major for the second consecutive week. He finished tied for 15th at last week's Senior PGA Championship, and this week he tees it up at Olympia Fields in his 34th U.S. Open appearance.
Craig Stadler made his debut last week on the Champions Tour with a tie for 15th at the Senior PGA Championship.
Father's Day is Sunday. Unfortunately for Gil Morgan, the Champions Tour is observing a break in its schedule. For the last two years, Morgan had a nice Father's Day run going. In 2001, Morgan won The Instinet Classic on Father's Day, and last year it was again Father's Day when Morgan took home the Music City Championship. Morgan is a father to three daughters.