Woods Opens Learning Center Alongside Clinton
'This is by far the greatest thing that has ever happened to me,' said Woods, a winner of 57 tournaments worldwide and 10 major championships. 'This is bigger than golf. This is bigger than anything I've done on the golf course. Because we will be able to shape lives.'
But even a grand-opening ceremony came off with the kind of flair that has marked his career.
Woods was joined by former President Clinton and Maria Shriver, the wife of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, along with dozens of the estimated 5,000 children who will pass through the doors of the Tiger Woods Learning Center by the end of the year.
The 35,000-square-foot facility is located next to the H.G. 'Dad' Miller Golf Course, where Woods played when he was in high school. Kids who apply by writing letters come to the center after school for interactive programs in science, math and technology.
'I'm impressed Tiger Woods decided to do this when he was 30 instead of when he was 60,' Clinton said.
Clinton recalled being elected governor of Arkansas when he was 32, the youngest person elected to that position in 40 years. He referred to himself as a 'good governor and a political failure.'
'It's hard to have great gifts and bring them to bear in the public eye under enormous pressure when you're young,' Clinton said, then turning to Woods.
'And it's a tribute to you ... that somehow you've been able to amass a stunning, unprecedented record and keep holding yourself up to start giving back at this point in your life.'
The only sad note to a day of brilliant sunshine was the absence of his father, Earl Woods, who is battling cancer and could not leave his home a short drive away.
Woods nearly broke down when he mentioned the support of his father, just as he did last April when he won the Masters for the fourth time.
'I talked to him last night,' Woods said. 'He kept telling me how proud he was of what I was able to do, and proud of me for thinking of this. It's hard on all of us.'
The Tiger Woods Foundation was created shortly after Woods turned pro, and although his focus immediately turned to children, he did not have a clear vision of what to do. Woods primarily staged junior golf clinics around the country, later assembling selected kids to attend a clinic in Orlando, Fla. He referred to it as a 'circus act,' breezing in and out of town and leaving kids little more than memories.
That changed after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Woods, stranded in St. Louis where a World Golf Championship was canceled, drove to Florida and said he spent most of that time reflecting on his life and the foundation.
'I felt we weren't doing enough,' Woods said.
That's when he thought of the idea of a learning center, and it took 3 1/2 years from the first meeting with Orange County officials to reach the grand opening.
Woods donated the first $5 million to the project, along with earnings from his Target World Challenge at the end of the season. He was involved in starting a new PGA Tour event, the Deutsche Bank Championship outside Boston, which gives its net proceeds to the Tiger Woods Foundation.
And he relied heavily on 25 founding partners, which range from Target to Nike to Augusta National.
Woods has said he would like to be remembered more for his work with children than the number of majors he ultimately wins, and referred to golf as 'merely a vehicle.'
It was reminiscent of comments his father made to Sports Illustrated in 1996, after Woods turned pro and won twice in his first seven events to qualify for the Tour Championship. Earl Woods referred to him as the 'Chosen One' and said he will 'do more than any other man in history to change the course of humanity.'
Asked about some of his father's comments, Woods smiled and attributed them to 'proud parents talking.'
'But he's always told me behind closed doors that 'You'll find your way; you'll choose the direction of the foundation,'' Woods said. 'This is a step away from golf. This is certainly more important than hitting a high draw or a high fade. This is getting someone prepared for life. And this (center) is going to do that.'
Clinton and Woods played golf Thursday -- the former president beat him on one hole, but said he finished 25 shots behind over 18 holes.
Clinton took a brief tour of the center before the ceremony, and watched children in their light blue shirts building computer models with Legos and working on forensic science projects.
'It's important for us to understand that there has never been a time in our history when private citizens have had the ability to do public good,' Clinton said.
He encouraged everyone to do their part, and held up Woods as an example.
'If we do our part, we don't have to worry about the future of this country,' Clinton said. 'I think more likely than not, this will be the most peaceful, exciting, interesting era in our history. But we all have to do our part. And today, you've seen in a beautiful, moving, hopeful way that Tiger Woods has done his.'
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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.