Creamer shares Lotte lead in rainy Hawaii

By Associated PressApril 13, 2017, 8:55 am

KAPOLEI, Hawaii - A funny thing happened in sunny Hawaii while waiting for someone to break away from a pack of leaders in the opening round of the LPGA Lotte Championship Wednesday.

Rain zeroed in on Ko Olina Golf Club, forcing a 45-minute delay.

Then Paula Creamer and South Korea's Mi Hyang Lee took over, bolting into first at 6-under 66. Both had seven birdies and a bogey, with Lee's coming on the final hole, in the dark.

''I couldn't see the line or anything,'' she said. ''It was too hard.''

Play was suspended with six golfers still on the course.

Lee, 24, made the cut just once in three previous starts at Ko Olina. She is ranked 51st in the world, with a win in 2014 after earning Rookie of the Year honors on the 2012 Symetra Tour.

Two of Creamer's 10 victories have come in Hawaii and she would surpass $12 million in career earnings with a win Saturday.

Her only bogey came on the 15th and she erased it with a tap-in birdie two holes later. She waited out the rain delay under the waterfall next to the 12th hole, sitting next to 2012 champion Ai Miyazato.

''I'm 30, I'm getting old out here,'' Creamer said. ''I was like, 'Oh, gosh. I got to warmup a bit.' I went out with a good two-putt (at No. 12) and then birdied the par-5 right afterwards.

''You know, I played solid. I putted really well. I switched back to conventional-style putting. I've been left-hand-low for the last three years. This is my first week back doing that and using my line, and seems to be doing pretty good so far.''

Lizette Salas, Su-Yeon Jang, Beth Allen and Eun-Hee Ji shot 67 in the morning, when the wind came and went. Canadian Alena Sharp joined them in the afternoon, playing her final two holes after rain drenched the course and left puddles on the greens and in bunkers.

Photos: Best of Paula Creamer through the years

Salas, who played for the U.S. in the last two Solheim Cups, has fond and frustrating memories of Ko Olina. She fired a career-low 62 in the final round of the 2013 Lotte, but lost a playoff with Suzann Pettersen. They still share the tournament record of 19-under 269.

Salas played the back nine in 29 that day. She was 4 under Wednesday and finished with seven birdies. A pair of bogeys on the front nine kept her out of the lead.

''This week we really just tried to be aggressive from the get-go,'' said Salas, who broke 70 just twice in her first seven tournaments this year. ''I know this course pretty well and I've had some good success here, so being comfortable and confident coming in just really gave me that start that we've been wanting.''

She was not alone. Nearly half the field broke par on a day when the tropical breeze came and went, leaving a huge dark cloud over the course that let loose just before 4 p.m.

Leaders will come at Thursday's second round from very different directions.

Salas' only win came the year after she lost the playoff with Pettersen. Jang is playing on a sponsor exemption for the second time. She finished fifth last year. Ji won the 2009 U.S. Women's Open and was third there last year, but has never been in the Top 15 at Ko Olina.

Allen, 35, has never played Ko Olina before. She was a rookie on the LPGA tour in 2005, then moved around before becoming the first American to lead the Ladies European Tour Order of Merit last year.

''It was a great year for me,'' she said on TV. ''I thought I'd go back to the States and see what happens. I've taken my experience with all those wins and being in contention more and brought it here.

''At the end of the day it's golf. It's the same in every country. I thought I'd try it again on the LPGA.''

Sharp, 35, is coming off her best season, finishing 41st on last year's money list. She has played all six Lottes, with her best finish in her first, when she tied for 25th.

Second-ranked So Yeon Ryu, who won the year's first major two weeks ago, parred her last nine holes and shot 68. She can overtake top-ranked Lydia Ko with a win here.

Hawaii's Michelle Wie, the 2014 Lotte champion, shot 71.

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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.