Watson maintains slim lead over Couples in Hawaii

By Associated PressJanuary 24, 2010, 8:52 am
Champions TourKAUPULEHU-KONA, Hawaii – Tom Watson birdied six holes on the back nine for a 6-under 66 and a two-stroke lead halfway through the Champions Tour’s season-opening Mitsubishi Electric Championship on Saturday.

The 60-year-old Watson, coming off a win with Jack Nicklaus in the Champions Skins at Kaanapali, overcame a rocky start and finished with nine birdies and three bogeys for a 15-under 129 total.

That was two better than Fred Couples, who shot a bogey-free 66, and is making his first official Champions Tour start on a sponsor exemption to the winners-only event.

Players had a second day of mostly calm and hazy conditions at Hualalai Golf Course, with the volcanic fog from Kilauea covering the Kona Coast.

Tom Lehman had a 67 to join Michael Allen (66) at 12 under. They were a stroke ahead of Mark O’Meara (65) and Phil Blackmar (67).

After momentarily giving away the lead when he missed three very short par putts on the front nine, Watson surged back to the top with five straight birdies to start the back nine to reach 14 under and open up a three-stroke lead.

The eight-time major winner got the birdiefest going by two-putting for birdie on the par-5 No. 10. He followed with birdie putts from 8, 15 and 12 feet, and added a tap-in for birdie on 14 after a near-perfect 8-iron shot.

The last time he had five birdies in a row was the first round of the 2008 Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am, where he went on to win.

After parring 15, Watson hit an 8-iron to 12 feet for his final birdie.

Watson is seeking his first win since teaming with Andy North to take the 2008 Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf. Watson was winless last year, but finished second at the British Open.

Watson, who was bogey free on Friday, struggled with his putter early. He started with a three-putt from 18 on No. 1 where he missed a 3-footer for par. He then missed a gimme on par-3 eighth and a 4-foot putt for par on the next hole, which dropped him a stroke off the lead.

Just as it appeared Watson would self-destruct on the greens, he regained control of his putting and the lead.

Couples, who turned 50 in October, used his length to his advantage. The 1992 Masters champion was steady all day, but his best shot came on a spectacular par save from the bunker on No. 11.

After his second shot skipped across the green and rolled into the bunker, Couples chunked his sand shot, which bounced off the grass and rolled back to within a couple feet of Couples’ shoes.

He then holed his second bunker shot to save par and a share of the lead at 10 under, drawing a wide grin from Couples.

He closed the round with birdies on Nos. 16 and 17.

Lehman took the outright lead at 10 under by birdieing the par-3 fifth, a hole he triple bogeyed on Friday. Watson took the lead right back with tap-in birdies on the next two holes. He nearly holed it from the bunker on the par-5 seventh, with his ball hitting the pin.

Lehman started the day with a birdie, hitting a wedge from about 80 yards to 3 inches of the cup. But he couldn’t make a move after his birdie on No. 5 with 10 straight pars.

The 74-year-old Gary Player shot his age and for the 29th time in his storied career, but was in last place at 6 over. Player got the birdie he needed to reach his age by holing a bunker shot for birdie on 16.

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McCoy earns medalist honors at Web.com 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 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

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.