Mandela Has Strong Pull on Tiger
'He was in the corner, reading the paper,' Woods said. 'I said, 'President Mandela, it's a pleasure to meet you.' He started talking about American football. He was just starting to learn about it.'
Woods was coming off a 1998 season in which he won only one time on the PGA Tour while revamping his swing. The week after Thanksgiving, he played the Casio World Open in Japan, then made his first trip to South Africa to play in the Million Dollar Challenge.
Nelson Mandela, the prisoner-turned-president of South Africa, invited Woods to his home.
'I had read all the information about him,' Woods told The Associated Press. 'If you're a minority, you've read up on what he did. To go through what he did for 27 years and come out and be as humble as he was, and then run the country ... how tough a person do you have to be to do that?'
Mandela, respected and admired around the world, is a hero in South Africa for his work toward racial reconciliation in an apartheid-scarred nation, despite being imprisoned for 27 years.
Released in 1990, he won his nation's first all-race election in 1994 after the fall of apartheid. Mandela, 85, retired in 1999, but he remains as popular as ever.
He also is the main reason that Woods, who originally scoffed at the idea of the American golfers traveling halfway around the world after a long season, will be leading the U.S. team in the Presidents Cup.
'If I decided not to go, I'm sure I would have gotten a phone call,' Woods said with a grin. 'How can you not want to do anything for that man?'
Ernie Els, the unofficial host of the Presidents Cup, toured the Links Course at Fancourt Hotel and Country Club Estate last month and noticed the anticipation.
'This one is going to be big, it's going to be huge,' Els said. 'They all wanted to know if Tiger was coming. As you know, he can make or break an event.'
Woods' participation was crucial for the long-term success of the Presidents Cup, which began in 1994 and was patterned after the Ryder Cup, a chance for foreign-born players outside of Europe to play in a team format.
Woods was idolized at the Million Dollar Challenge in 1998, when he lost to Nick Price in a five-hole playoff. Rugby, cricket and golf were considered sports for rich white men. The majority of South Africans play soccer, and to have a man of color be the No. 1 player in golf was inspiring.
Els knew it was important for Woods to play, but he did not feel compelled to intervene.
'I never spoke to Tiger, asking him to please come,' Els said. 'It wasn't like, 'Here's my invitation.' I don't feel it was my place to do that. It's the tour's event. We just wanted this thing in South Africa.'
Els also knew he could rely -- if it came down to that -- on Mandela.
The Big Easy knows Mandela, and said they speak at least once a year by telephone.
'He speaks to you like he's known you forever,' Els said. 'Everybody loves him. And Nelson Mandela, I know personally, is a great fan of Tiger.'
Mandela called Els to congratulate him after he won the British Open last year at Muirfield, and at the end of the conversation, he asked Els to 'tell Tiger I said hello.'
Woods said he is looking forward to the matches, and prefers the Presidents Cup to the Ryder Cup because it is not as hostile in the media and the gallery.
He expects to see Mandela at some point during the week, which no doubt will be a highlight.
'I've met politicians, presidents, prime ministers, people all over the world,' Woods said. 'But I've never met anybody like that.'
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
McCoy earns medalist honors at Web.com Q-School
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 Web.com 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 Web.com 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 Web.com 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
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.
Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4
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
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."
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.