Ryder Cup excitement boiling over as matches near

By Damon HackSeptember 24, 2012, 5:14 pm

ATLANTA – Keegan Bradley was standing near the scorer’s tent late Sunday afternoon at East Lake, sorting through the odds and ends of his maiden Ryder Cup.

All 30 of his allotment of badges had been spoken for – three for college roommates, one to a close pal from high school, the rest for assorted family members and friends.

Despite a run of six tournaments since the beginning of August, including all four of the FedEx Cup playoff events, Bradley looked fresh and fired up.

“I wish the matches started tomorrow,” he said.

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The sun began to set and Justin Rose arrived at the scorer’s area soon after, the chants of “USA! USA!” still ringing from his round with FedEx Cup champion and Ryder Cup rookie, Brandt Snedeker. Rose says he understood the partisan fervor from the gallery. For fan and player alike, the anticipation for the 39th Ryder Cup matches may be at the highest level in recent memory.

“It’s set up for a great week in Chicago,” Rose said. “I looked at the long-range weather forecast. It looks like it’s going to be perfect. Two great teams, all in the top 35, 40 in the world. It’s probably as strong as it’s ever been between two teams.”

Snedeker pondered the roster and agreed.

“I think these are going to be the deepest Ryder Cup teams we’ve ever seen on both sides,” he said. “With the 12 players on both teams, anybody can beat anybody.”

In a golf season that has already given so much – wild comebacks, four sizzling majors and a compelling month of playoffs – could the Ryder Cup possibly exceed them all?

It can, and by Sunday night very well might.

Both the U.S. and Europe will take to Chicago teams with few discernable weaknesses. Both can claim bombers and tacticians, short-game wizards and smooth putters.

Starting with the 2010 Masters, eight of the last 12 major championships have been taken by either U.S. or European Ryder Cup members.

While it won’t inure them to the pressure of the Ryder Cup, both squads know that the men in their team rooms recently claimed some of the greatest trophies in golf.

As a further testament to the form of both teams, all 12 U.S. players competed in the Tour Championship at East Lake while the European team had five.

“We’ll see how that plays out, if [the Americans] are tournament sharp or if we’re mentally fresh,” Rose said. 

Europe can draw confidence from so many places. Eleven of its 12 players are Ryder Cup veterans (and the lone rookie, Nicolas Colsaerts, is a big hitter with solid match play credentials). McIlroy owned the late summer on the PGA Tour. Sergio Garcia broke through at the Wyndham Championship.

Even slumping 2010 PGA champ Martin Kaymer has experienced a small resurgence. He finished T-21 at the KLM Open and T-5 at the BMW Italian Open in his last two events on the European Tour, carding matching 67s on the weekend in Turin.

Of course, the U.S. has its own players peaking, from hot-putting Snedeker to veteran Jim Furyk.

“The guys have been playing well on really rough courses,” said U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson, one of four U.S. rookies. “The playoffs have helped.”

Furyk said he has never seen a U.S. team with so many players who could match up with just about anyone. Furyk described himself as one of captain Davis Love III’s “wheel men,” able to pair with just about anyone.

“If anything, Davis may have a hard time choosing the pairings, not because there aren’t enough guys who fit together well but because there are so many guys who have games that fit well,” Furyk said.

Simpson said he would love to play with fellow bomber Bubba Watson after their success in the Presidents Cup in Australia but could also see playing with Dustin Johnson or Tiger Woods.

“It’s fun playing with guys that hit it 330 in the middle of the fairway,” Simpson said.

About the only player not jumping out of his skin in anticipation was Jason Dufner. That’s not his style, first of all, and the Ryder Cup rookie and two-time winner this season said he was disappointed in his scoring the last two weeks.

Asked about his travel plans to Chicago, Dufner said: “We’ll get up there by 2 o’clock to discuss the pairings and the week.”

He sounded about as excited as a high school senior talking about his class schedule.

He’ll learn.

Click to check out Golf Channel's and NBC Sports' Ryder Cup coverage.

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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.