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The Star Online: Sports


Els leads class of 6 into golf's Hall of Fame (Updated)

Posted: 09 May 2011 08:24 PM PDT

ST. AUGUSTINE, Florida (AP): Ernie Els followed the trail of South African idol Gary Player by winning golf tournaments all over the world, a journey that took him all the way to the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Els, a three-time major champion and the ultimate global player of his generation, was among six people to be inducted Monday night at the World Golf Village.

The 41-year-old South African, known as the "Big Easy" for his languid swing and soothing smile, won 62 times around the world, including the US Open twice and a British Open at Muirfield.

"It's been a long journey coming from South Africa," Els said at the two-hour ceremony.

Even as he still pursues more majors, Els is heavily involved in research and finding a cure for autism. His 8-year-old son, Ben, is autistic, and the boy was escorted into the room as a video of Els' career was being played, his eyes fixated on the screen. Els later spoke of the joy he feels having his son sit on the range with him as he hits balls.

"He'll sit there and watch the ball take off in the blue sky," Els said.

Els was elected on the PGA Tour ballot. Japanese icon Jumbo Ozaki, who won more than 100 tournaments, was voted into the Hall of Fame on the International ballot.

Doug Ford and the late Jock Hutchison, both two-time major champions, were selected through the Veterans category. Former President George H.W. Bush and the late Frank Chirkinian, the television golf producer for CBS Sports, were selected through the Lifetime Achievement category.

Their induction brought membership in the Hall of Fame to 136.

Els and Ford were the only inductees at the ceremony. Ozaki has a back injury that makes it difficult to travel, and he felt he needed to be home with his family as Japan recovers from the earthquake and tsunami. Bush also was not able to attend.

Chirkinian had a videotaped message that was made just days before he died.

The ceremony included a tribute to another Hall of Famer, Seve Ballesteros, who died Saturday of a cancerous brain tumor.

Players must be at least 40 to be considered for the Hall of Fame, and Els was voted in on his first try. This is the first time since Vijay Singh in 2006 when an active player was inducted. Els practiced Monday morning at the TPC Sawgrass as he prepares for The Players Championship this week.

"I think it'll be a very special feeling to step on the first tee knowing you've made the Hall of Fame," he before the ceremony. "I'm still trying to win golf tournaments, still trying to win major championships. I think it's a huge bonus for anybody's career."

Els grew up knowing he would have to travel the world to play golf. The example came from Player, who has logged more air miles than any other golfer.

Els won the Junior World Championship in San Diego as a teenager, beating Phil Mickelson. He won nine times on three tours when he broke through in 1994, winning the U.S. Open at Oakmont in a playoff that lasted 20 holes in stifling heat.

He won another U.S. Open at Congressional three years later, and captured the British Open in 2002.

"Coming from South Africa, I didn't even know there was a Hall of Fame," Els said. "I look back in the records now, the Hall of Fame has been going since 1940. So obviously, I missed something. My dream was to win majors and to try to do what Gary Player did, win the Grand Slam and win a bunch of golf tournaments, trying to get onto the U.S. tour and things like that."

Asked what made him unique, Els said he would leave that for others to decide.

"You don't get inducted in here without doing something to catch people's attention, whether it's winning 18 or 19 majors like Jack Nicklaus or building golf courses like Pete Dye," he said. "There are people here that have done special things in the game of golf. I feel I've won my fair share of tournaments around the world, a truly global golfer like my idol, Gary Player."

The Hall of Fame induction is an awkward one for Ford, who was part of the original Hall of Fame in Pinehurst, North Carolina.

He never received enough votes for election on the PGA Tour ballot, but was taken in the Veterans category.

"It's like waiting for an old girlfriend, I guess. You keep thinking, 'What did I do wrong?"' Ford said before the ceremony. "I thought I had some fairly good records, and you just hope that you get here. Of course, it's an honor. You just go to get here somehow."

He told of wanting to play baseball for the Yankees, and trying to decide whether to sign with one of its farm teams. Ford said his father asked him how long he could play baseball, and he said about 10 years.

"He said, 'Why don't you stay with the golf. You'll last forever,"' Ford said. He still plays at age 88.

Ozaki won only one time outside of Japan, yet he inspired a nation of golfers behind him. He captured the Japan Golf Tour money list 12 times and won the Japan Open five times.

Bush becomes the second US president in the World Golf Hall of Fame; Dwight D. Eisenhower was inducted in 2009. Bush was selected for helping to raise the profile of golf, serving as honorary chairman of The First Tee and the Presidents Cup.

Chirkinian died of cancer on March 4, just three weeks after learning he had been selected for induction. He was the foremost golf producer at CBS Sports, leading its coverage of the Masters for nearly four decades. Among his innovations were installing a camera on the blimp and using scores in relation to par to show who was leading tournaments.

The Scottish-born Hutchison won the 1920 PGA Championship and the 1921 British Open among this 14 wins in his career.

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Glover ends title drought

Posted: 09 May 2011 06:58 PM PDT

CHARLOTTE: Lucas Glover beat Jonathan Byrd at the first playoff hole on Sunday to capture his first US PGA Tour title since his triumph at the 2009 US Open.

Glover capped his three-under final-round 69 at Wells Fargo Championship with three straight pars for a 15-under total of 273.

He watched as Byrd drained a 15-foot birdie putt at the last hole of regulation to complete a 72 for 273 and force the playoff.

They returned to 18 for the playoff, where Byrd had to chip from the hazard and made bogey.

Glover could win with two putts from 25 feet and left the first one four feet short. He made that to claim his third career title, one that hadn't seemed likely coming into the week after he missed the cut in his last three events.

"I'm elated," Glover said. "Any time you win, you're pleased. It means you beat everybody. You did what you set out to do on Thursday morning when the bell rang.

"Against this field and on this golf course and in a tournament of this magnitude, I'm thrilled."

South African Rory Sabbatini fired a final-round 65 for sole possession of third place on 274.

American Bill Haas carded a 70 for 275 and was followed by Kevin Na who shot a 71 for 276.

Glover, who started the last round three shots off Byrd's overnight lead, moved atop the board with a 30-foot eagle putt at the par-five 10th.

A bogey at 12 was followed by a birdie at 13 - then came another bogey and another birdie before his closing pars on Quail Hollow's dangerous finishing holes.

At the final hole in regulation he was left off the tee and in the gallery. He was granted relief, but as he set up for the shot his ball rolled down the hill.

Glover got it over the green, chipped to seven feet and made it for par.

Byrd, knowing he needed a birdie to force the playoff, hit his approach to 15 feet and made it.

On a day that saw five players move atop the leaderboard, Byrd's momentum had evaporated with back-to-back bogeys at eight and nine, two of his four bogeys on the day.

"I'm a little disappointed just because you're here to win," Byrd said. "You love to compete, especially when you get in a playoff. You birdie the last, you feel like, 'Hey, this is just going to work out.'

"If I couldn't win, I couldn't pick anybody else I'd want to win other than Lucas, so I'm very happy for him."

Ireland's Padraig Harrington wasn't in contention, but he made news after his round was completed when he was informed that someone thought he had teed his ball ahead of the markers on the 13th tee box. — AFP

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