Repeat Winners the Story in 2003
At this point last year, two players already had won for the first time on the PGA Tour, a number that grew to a record 18 by the end of the season. That led most players to speculate that the tour was deeper and more talented than ever.
The truth is, the PGA Tour has been loaded with talent the past several years.
'The way things happen in sports, you see the pendulum swing,' said Len Mattiace, whose first career victory came at the Nissan Open. 'I think that was a time the pendulum was swinging for first-time winners.'
It might have had more to do with top players not performing, which Mattiace said enabled other players to have more chances at winning.
'I don't think we will see as many this year because the percentages are against it,' Mattiace said.
Call it a case of jumping to conclusions.
The latest craze on tour is foreign-born players winning the first four events of the year, and six in a row dating to last year. Davis Love III ended that streak at Pebble Beach, and odds are it will be evened out by the time the year is over.
Ernie Els was 31-under par at Kapalua -- smashing the tour record in relation to par -- and cries rang out that scoring records would fall just about every week. So far, that has been the only tournament record that was broken.
One last example of the sky falling: Pebble Beach.
Some people suggested a few years ago that the tournament move from its early February date because of all the weather problems. It was canceled in 1996, went through a seven-month delay in 1998 and was 54 holes in 1999.
No one is complaining now.
It was the third straight year rain was never a factor on the Monterey Peninsula.
Kevin Sutherland is trying to keep an important streak alive this week in the Buick Invitational. He needs a good tournament to avoid being the first defending champion not to qualify for the Match Play Championship.
The deadline for qualifying for the World Golf Championship is next Monday, and Sutherland is hanging on at No. 62.
Tiger Woods, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson are virtually assured of being the top three seeds for the Accenture Match Play Championship, which will be played in two weeks at La Costa.
The real shuffling comes at the bottom. Toru Taniguchi (No. 51) has withdrawn because of injury, so No. 65 will be the final seed. Jay Haas is holding down that spot, followed by Robert Karlsson and Paul Azinger.
Also on the bubble are Mark Calcavecchia (No. 69) and Stewart Cink (No. 74), who has never missed a Match Play Championship.
The 6-foot birdie putt Tom Lehman missed on the 18th green cost him a chance to win the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, but it wasn't a total loss.
Lehman, who hasn't won in two years, moved up to No. 39 in the world ranking. He needs to stay in the top 50 through The Players Championship to avoid missing the Masters for the first time since 1992.
Home on the Range
Vijay Singh started hitting balls on the practice range about noon Monday after he arrived at Torrey Pines. Before long, his divots carved a trench that stretched about 6 feet long.
Two hours later, there were six trenches and Singh was still pounding away.
Steve Stricker came by to watch.
'If I hit two in a row like that, I'd quit,' he said.
When a range attendant brought two more buckets of balls, Singh said he would hit those and then call it a day. With 11 balls remaining, he hit one that tailed to the right, two good shots, then two that went too far left for his taste.
'Bring me one more bucket,' he said to caddie Paul Tesori.
After struggling through the year to find tournament sponsors, the PGA Tour is off to a good start in 2003. Already signed up through 2006, AT&T (Pebble Beach National Pro-Am) and Deere & Co. (John Deere Classic) have extended their title sponsorship through 2010. ... The jumbling of the May schedule on the PGA Tour gave the Colonial something it hasn't had in nine years -- the U.S. Amateur champion in the field. John Harris in 1994 was the last U.S. Amateur champion to play. The following years, the winners were obligated to play in their NCAA regionals. ... Suzy Whaley has accepted a sponsor's exemption to play in the Giant Eagle LPGA Classic in June. She missed the cut the three previous times she played. ... Junior golf programs in Indio, Calif., Wilkinsburg, Pa., and San Juan, Puerto Rico, have been selected to each send 15 kids to the Tiger Woods Foundation Junior Golf Clinic at Disney World in the fall.
Stat of the week
David Duval is leading the PGA Tour with an average of 1.581 putts per greens hit in regulation. He has missed the cut in both his tournaments.
'He won't be any different. He can play on one leg and still beat us.' Shigeki Maruyama, on Tiger Woods recovering from knee surgery.
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.