Notes Webb Ready Celeb Beats Pro at Pebble
The last shot of the 2006 season was worth $1 million to Julieta Granada, who captured the ADT Championship in Florida. Most eyes at the SBS Open in Hawaii on Thursday will be on Lorena Ochoa, coming off a six-victory season that allowed her to supplant Annika Sorenstam as LPGA player of the year.
But one player already brings a load of momentum to Turtle Bay.
Karrie Webb became almost an afterthought at the end of last season because of the Ochoa-Sorenstam dynamics. But the 32-year-old Australian had a year to remember -- five victories and her seventh career major when she won the Kraft Nabisco Championship in a playoff with Ochoa. Webb lost another major in a playoff, and she went over $2 million in earnings.
She arrived on Oahu with two victories already this year, winning the Australian Women's Open by six shots and the Australian Ladies Masters by two shots, despite finishing with back-to-back bogeys.
'I take a lot of positives, a lot of confidence into the next two weeks in Hawaii,' she said.
Sorenstam, meanwhile, is taking the first two weeks off, and the only question is whether she remains atop the women's world ranking when she makes her debut in Mexico on March 9.
She had a comfortable margin over Ochoa at the end of last season, but now leads by only 2.6 points, with Webb 2.8 points behind.
Based on his performance at Pebble Beach, one suspects Tom Watson could hang with the PGA TOUR and do just fine. Watson's name was near the top of the leaderboard on the weekend, and he wound up tied for 19th.
The 57-year-old Watson extended his streak on the PGA TOUR to 36 years making at least one cut. That dates to 1971, the year he turned pro. It also was the 20th time he has finished in the top 25 at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
Still, Watson likely will play only one more PGA TOUR event at the Masters in April. He is exempt for life, but listening to him talk about the oversized Augusta National course, he might not be there much longer.
Watson also is exempt to the British Open until he is 65, but he won't be back this summer at Carnoustie.
He won the first of his eight majors -- and five claret jugs -- at Carnoustie in 1975, but he has a conflict that will keep him away. His daughter, Meg, is to be married on Saturday of the Open. Watson will be walking her down the aisle.
'I will be thinking a little bit about it,' Watson said. 'I won't tell her that, though.'
In this era of technology, Jim Furyk would have thought it would be no problem to replace a broken driver. It's been since November, and he's still waiting.
Furyk split the face of his driver during the HSBC Champions event in Shanghai at the end of last year and hasn't found a suitable replacement. Despite his dissatisfaction, he won the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa, was 18th at the Mercedes-Benz Championship and tied for fourth at the Sony Open.
'I just had a hard time matching it up with the rest of my set,' he said.
Furyk tried a new driver at Pebble Beach, and played well until catching the worst of the weather at Pebble, the toughest course in windy weather. He finished tied for sixth.
How long the driver stays in the bag is another matter.
It's the second time in the last two years that Furyk has cracked the face of a driver, but he says that's nothing new on tour. Most of the big hitters do it all the time, although Furyk hardly falls into that category.
'Little pea shooters like me wear that like a badge of honor,' he said.
BEATING THE PRO:
Comedian Tom Dreesen chipped in twice and holed a 45-foot putt on his last three holes at Pebble Beach in the first round, and was pleased to add up his score and realize he shot 78. He wound up beating his pro, Robert Gamez, by one shot, although Dreesen played a forward set of tees.
It reminded him of the time he played with Steve Pate in the Bob Hope Classic one year. Pate played poorly in the first round in 1989, shooting an 81, and Dreesen had a 77. He ran into Pate's wife the next day, who told him of a bizarre night.
'She sensed this shadow moving through their room at 3 o'clock in the morning,' Dreesen said. 'She looks up and there's Pate, just pacing back and forth in the hotel room. She says, 'Steve, what's wrong?'
'He says, 'A comedian. I got beat by a comedian.''
Not to worry. The next day, Pate shot 62.
Ernie Els will receive the Gold Tee Award from the Metropolitan Golf Writers Association at the annual dinner June 18 in Rye, N.Y., near Westchester Country Club, where Els won in consecutive years. ... Cristie Kerr recently raised $140,000 for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., during a one-night function that included 200 guests playing Texas Hold 'Em poker. ... David Feherty got his exercise last week at Pebble Beach by riding a bicycle on 17-Mile Drive in the morning. Sweat pouring off his face, the Irish funny man said, 'I found out it's actually 28 miles.' ... Phil Mickelson now has won four PGA TOUR events at least three times -- the Pebble Beach National Pro-am (1998, 2005, 2007), the BellSouth Classic (2000, 2005-06), the Buick Invitational (1993, 2000-01) and the Chrysler Classic of Tucson (1991, 1995-96). ... China will have international standard Rules of Golf officials within 12 months under an agreement signed Tuesday by the R&A and the China Golf Association.
STAT OF THE WEEK:
The wind blew 20 mph from the south in the third round, and the average score on No. 9 at Pebble Beach was 4.97. There was only a breeze from the north in the final round, and the average score was 3.98.
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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.