Wilson Finally Makes Mark on PGA TOUR

By Associated PressMarch 5, 2007, 5:00 pm
2006 Honda ClassicPALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- Mark Wilson was a math major at North Carolina and confesses that one of his favorite things is crossing off items on his to-do lists.
He can now erase the top entry on that sheet of goals.
Wilson made a birdie to beat Jose Coceres on the third playoff hole and win the Honda Classic at PGA National on Monday, the 32-year-old player's first PGA TOUR victory in 111 career tries. He won a four-man playoff that began Sunday, was interrupted by darkness, then ended when he hit from 10 feet on the par-3 17th hole.
'I didn't sleep very good last night at all just because I really wanted to finish it off here and win,' he said.
He got into the playoff with some big putts Sunday: par from 45 feet on the 16th hole, par from 8 feet on the final regulation hole, then a 30-footer -- in near-dark conditions, remember -- on the playoff first hole.
Some of his competitors acknowledged buckling under pressure.
Wilson seemed cool the whole way.
'Maybe in these moments, I'm nervous,' said Coceres, who also lost a playoff to Fred Funk last week at the tour's stop in Mexico. 'Mr. Wilson, he played very good.'
With the win, Wilson got a $990,000 winner's check, an exemption through the 2009 season and a reprieve from making an 11th consecutive trip to the tour's qualifying school. He also vaulted 179 spots to No. 86 in the world rankings. And, if he can stay in the top 10 on the money list, he has a chance at playing the Masters for the first time.
His caddy, Chris Jones, got two things: a nice cut of Wilson's earnings, and a huge sense of relief.
Wilson, Coceres, Boo Weekley -- who missed a 3-foot par putt Sunday on the 18th hole that would have given him his first career win -- and Camilo Villegas all finished the 72 regulation holes at 5-under 275. But Wilson's score included a two-stroke penalty from his round of 66 on Friday, after Jones made a major goof.
On the fifth tee Friday, Jones overheard Villegas and his caddy talking about club selection at that par-3 hole. Jones blurted out, 'It's an 18-degree,' referring to the hybrid club that Wilson carries in his bag.
Offering advice to competitors like that is against the rules, and Wilson knew it. So he summoned a rules official at the next hole and docked himself two shots.
'I felt like I almost cost us this tournament Friday,' said Jones, who cried after Friday's round and was fighting tears after Wilson got the win Monday. 'But he hung in there and knew I didn't mean to do it. It was just a mental error. ... A lot of guys wouldn't have even called it on themselves.'
'If that's true, Wilson isn't one of them. The rule was one of the first things he discussed with Jones when he hired him to carry the bag.
Part of me thought he was just upset with me for even making a big deal about it,' Wilson said. 'But then I finally just put my arm around him and said, 'Hey, let's go; let's go play golf.' Camilo was a gentleman. He did the same thing. ... From there on, I just played some of the best golf of my life.'
On the second playoff hole -- the first one played Monday -- Wilson used that 18-degree hybrid to set up a putt that nearly ended the tournament. A 224-yard approach put him in birdie range at the par-4 10th, but he settled for par.
Weekley and Villegas weren't so lucky.
Weekley's drive landed in the left rough, buried so deeply he had no chance of reaching the green. He chopped the ball out, advancing it about 100 yards. His third shot hit 8 feet from the pin but spun backward, and his par try slipped past.
He walked to the front of the green, hands on hips, head bent, knowing his chance was gone.
'It's a learning experience. I'm disappointed in myself after yesterday, but that's golf, man,' Weekley said. 'That just happens. ... Just a part of it.'
Villegas missed the 10th green to the left, but hit a great flop shot to within 4 feet. His par attempt, though, ducked beneath the hole, ending his day.
'I was feeling good over it. ... I wasn't shaking as much as I thought,' Villegas said.
Coceres made his par putt, and he and Wilson headed to the par-3 17th, where each hit tee balls to about 10 feet. Wilson putted first, made his, and Coceres couldn't answer.
So about 45 minutes afterward, he settled into his chair in the interview room, then summed up five days of play in five words.
'It's been a weird week,' he said.
Wilson will play in the Pods Championship at Innisbrook this week. ... Weekley, Coceres and Villegas each got $410,667. For Weekley, that's $121,553 more than he won in his first 30 tour events. ... It was the 200th time a Nationwide Tour alum won on the PGA TOUR. ... Weekley's world ranking jumped 75 spots to No. 121.
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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.