Cochran out front at First Tee Open, Thorpe nearby

By Associated PressJuly 9, 2011, 2:01 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Russ Cochran made six consecutive birdies and shot a 7 under 65 to take the first-round lead at the First Tee Open on Friday.

Cochran had seven birdies overall and played a bogey free round in his return to the Champions Tour after suffering a wrist injury that led to a two-month layoff. Cochran was only 1 under through 11 holes before going on his run of birdies at the Pebble Beach Golf Links.

“I really didn’t know what to expect,” said Cochran, who is ninth on the money list this year. “I just haven’t been pushing it. I’ll know tomorrow how it feels but right now it feels fine. Obviously when you’re making putts and hitting good shots, it sure helps it feel a lot better.”

David Eger was one shot back at 66, followed by Brad Bryant, Morris Hatalsky and Jim Thorpe at 67. Ten others were tied at 68.

Defending tournament champion Ted Schulz struggled all afternoon and was at 1 over 73.

The three-day event is being played on two 18-hole courses on the Monterey Peninsula. Most of the low scores came at the 6,365-yard Del Monte while Cochran opened on the 6,871-yard Pebble Beach.

A two-time winner on the 50-and-under tour in 2010, Cochran had three top-five finishes in seven events before injuring his right wrist hitting a divot during the second round of the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf tournament in late April.

It’s the same wrist that Cochran previously had surgery on, and although he finished the tournament and played 18 holes at an appearance the following day, it ultimately knocked him out competition for a while. Cochran eventually met with a specialist in New York but played golf only sparingly over the next month and not on the tour.

The layoff obviously helped.

Cochran, who shot a 65 in the final round of this tournament in 2010, started on the back nine and hit his opening tee shot into a bunker but made a nice recovery and sank a 10-foot birdie putt. He stayed at 1 under at the turn, then narrowly missed a birdie putt on the par 5 No. 2 before storming to the top of the leaderboard with his stellar run.

The six consecutive birdies matches the best streak on tour this season.

“After playing nine or 10 holes without a birdie, all of a sudden they just started falling in from everywhere,” Cochran said. “If you get a couple under or par or see a couple putts go, then the golf course and the greens especially look a little different to you. I won’t say I’m shocked that I played that good. My job is going to be trying to continue to follow it up, not (just) this week.

Eger, who teamed with Mark McNulty to win the Legends event, moved into contention with five birdies over his final eight holes.

“I struggled the first 10 holes and didn’t hit many greens,” said Eger, a runner-up to Tom Watson at the Senior PGA Championship in May after losing a one-hole playoff to the Hall of Famer. “Then starting on 11 I started playing much better. The good scores are obviously going to be over here at Del Monte.”

Bryant overcame a bogey on No. 7 and closed his round with an eagle on the par 5 ninth.

Jeff Sluman, a two-time winner of this tournament, shot a 68 and was joined by Mike Reid, Steve Lowery, Jay Haas, Robin Freeman, Mark Calcavecchia, Bill Glasson, Jim Gallagaher Jr., D.A. Weibring and Jay Don Blake.

John Cook, winner of the Montreal Championship last week, was six strokes behind Cochran at 71. Cook is the only one of the top four players on the Charles Schwab Cup points list playing here.

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McCoy earns medalist honors at Q-School

By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Tour Q-School.

McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

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Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.



Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."

Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout

Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.