Keep Going Forward

By Associated PressOctober 14, 2008, 4:00 pm
Their Ryder Cup rivalry was so fierce that Seve Ballesteros once referred to the U.S. team as 11 nice guys and Paul Azinger.
But when Azinger was stricken with cancer in 1993, Ballesteros was among the first to call.
He called the house a couple of times and my parents relayed the message, Azinger recalled Tuesday morning. That shows you what kind of guy he is. We had an intense rivalry, but you reach beyond that. Rivalries can be healthy, and maybe they cross the line on occasion. But when real life things happen, people reach out to each other.
Ill try to call Seve once things calm down.
Azinger can only hope that Ballesteros can find a way out, as he did so often in a career defined by amazing recoveries. The five-time major champion was diagnosed with a brain tumor over the weekend, and he was in a Madrid hospital awaiting results of a biopsy to determine the scope and severity.
No matter what it is, hell take a positive outlook and be thorough and do everything right, Azinger said. But its scary.
Azinger was diagnosed with lymphoma at the end of the 1993 season, after winning his only major at the PGA Championship and battling Nick Faldo to a draw in a memorable singles match in the Ryder Cup.
He overcame cancer in the peak of his career, but his only role in the next Ryder Cup at Oak Hill was as a television analyst. Even then, he wound up in the same match with Ballesteros ' holding a microphone as the Spaniard performed one magical escape after another against Tom Lehman in the leadoff singles.
On the opening hole, Ballesteros hooked his tee shot some 30 yards left of the fairway. The gallery circled around Ballesteros as he played his approach, prompting Azinger to say, They might want to be careful. You know, he didnt hit over here on purpose.
Later in the match, Ballesteros was stymied by a massive tree on No. 5, and Azinger reported that his options were to pitch sideways or to play a sharp hook through a gap in the trees to the right. Defying logic, Ballesteros took it over the tree, with enough power to reach the green. He halved the hole with a par.
That all took place in one hour.
Consider the better part of three decades, and the stories of spectacular shots by Ballesteros are endless.
There was the bump-and-run that threaded the bunkers on the final hole at Royal Birkdale when Ballesteros was 19 and tied for second. He won three years later with a shot from the car park. One of the greatest shots Jack Nicklaus ever saw was Ballesteros hitting 3-wood from beneath the lip of a bunker and reaching the green from 245 yards away in the 1983 Ryder Cup.
Years later, he put on a clinic in the short game at The Players Championship.
He was hitting these 3-irons from a greenside bunker closer than Nicklaus could hit his sand wedge, Azinger said. Jack got up there with a 3-iron and was skulling it into the bank. I dont even think its arguable that Seve had the best hands of anyone who ever played.
Hell get no argument from Brad Faxon, who wont forget his first Seve moment.
Faxon was 26 and playing only his second British Open in 1988, elated that his closing 71 at Royal Lytham & St. Annes put him a tie for 11th and made him exempt for next year.
He pulled up a chair in the clubhouse to watch through a tiny window as the final group came up the 18th fairway. Ballesteros was one shot ahead of Nick Price, but the Spaniard was in trouble, some 50 feet from the flag in an awkward lie in the rough.
He was long and left and needed to get up-and-down, Faxon said Tuesday. And he almost holed it. It stopped 2 inches away, and that pretty much knocked out Prices chances. I was young, and watching him do that up close, the way he reacted and the way the crowd reacted to him I dont think its the best shot I ever saw him hit, but it was the most impressionable.
The best shot Azinger saw came during an exhibition at the Old Course in St. Andrews for a Shells Wonderful World of Golf match.
He was in a fairway bunker on No. 4, Azinger said. It was only a 9-iron, but he cooked it out of the bunker, straight up in the air and onto the green. I walked over to the bunker, and realized it was absolutely impossible for me to do that.
Bobby Jones once famously said of Nicklaus, He plays a game with which I am not familiar.
Ballesteros played shots that no one knew existed.
He was special, said two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange, who lost all five times he faced Ballesteros in the Ryder Cup. He truly saw shots that nobody else would see. Hed see a hole in a tree, a run-up on a links.
What was the best shot he saw?
Put it this way, Strange said with a laugh. He chipped in on me more than once. You almost applauded at times, because in a situation like that, you knew it was coming.
Mark Garrod, the golf correspondent for PA Sports the last three decades, remembers Ballesteros hitting one shot so far right during the 93 European Masters that he was 3 feet away from a wall with a swimming pool on the other side. The situation looked hopeless until Ballesteros saw enough of a gap in the trees that he hit pitching wedge to the fringe, then chipped in for birdie.
Garrod later asked Ballesteros about the shot, and the response is worth remembering now.
I just like to keep going forward.
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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.