Defending champ Johnson one back at Sony Open

By Doug FergusonJanuary 16, 2010, 9:09 am

2007 Sony Open

HONOLULU – Ryan Palmer tried to pretend that his good opening round in the Sony Open never happened. He played just as well Friday, closing with two birdies for a 4-under 66 that gave him a one-shot lead over some familiar company.

Having stumbled into an article about how defending champion Zach Johnson never looks ahead, Palmer stayed calm in an ocean breeze and surged into the lead at Waialae with a drive so big on the par-5 18th that he had only an 8-iron into the green for an easy birdie.

He was at 9-under 131, and among the group one shot behind was Chad Campbell, his neighbor from the Dallas suburbs.

They decided to escape the cold and head for the California desert to get ready for their season opener, playing two rounds together on courses used for the Bob Hope Classic next week.

The stakes are higher at the Sony Open, although neither let on who claimed the cash last week.

“Let’s call it a push. It was give-or-take $5,000 on the last hole,” Campbell said with a wink and a smile.

Campbell, who had a 64, is happy to be in Honolulu for reasons beyond the fact Waialae is one of his favorite courses. A year ago, he was on the plane to the middle of the Pacific Ocean when he realized he forgot to formally enter, and he had to turn around and go home.

Asked if he found that funny, Campbell deadpanned, “Not really.”

A coincidence, at least?

“More of an inconvenience,” Campbell said.

They are part of a crammed leaderboard going into the weekend, typical of the first full-field event of the PGA Tour season, when pins typically are a little more generous to help get 144 players through the tiny property.

Johnson looked every bit the part of defending champion with eight birdies. He looked anything but that with one bad break on the 17th hole that led to a triple bogey. Feeling heavy sand under his feet from a deep bunker, he didn’t realize there was hardly any sand at all until his ball sailed over the green into a plugged lie in another bunker.

It was so bad that Johnson had to play back toward the tee to get it out of the bunker, chipped poorly and fell down the leaderboard. Then, one he thought was a perfect tee shot tumbled into the rough and he wound up with par. Then came a three-putt bogey.

“I’ve never thrown it in, but I’ve been really anxious to get off the golf course,” Johnson said. “At that point, I was really close.”

He turned it around with a 6-iron into 12 feet on the second, one of his best shot of an otherwise great round, and that settled him. Johnson finished with two birdies and was right back in the hunt.

Also at 8-under 132 was Robert Allenby, who came to Hawaii after two straight victories in South Africa and Australia to close out the year. He severely twisted his ankle stepping off a curb Monday and has been hobbling around. He also is playing more conservatively than usual, and it might be helping.

“I’m managing my way around the golf course,” Allenby said. “When you feel good, you play a little more aggressively. Now I’m backing off a little bit, hitting into little areas, hoping to make up-and-down or hit it close. I’ve still got the confidence I could win the tournament.”

Seventeen players were separated by four shots going into the weekend.

Steve Stricker, who has gone 24 holes without a bogey, had a 67 and was joined in the group at 7-under 133 by John Merrick (68) and Jeff Quinney (67). Another shot back was Davis Love III, who birdied his last hole for a 69, and Masters champion Angel Cabera (68), who had coach Charlie Epps on the bag when his caddie was sick.

Paul Goydos, the 2007 winner at Waialae, had a tournament-low 63 and was in the group at 135.

With so much drama at the top of the leaderboard, the bottom carried some excitement, too. Aaron Goldberg, a Monday qualifier in his first PGA Tour event, was in the middle of the pack until he made double bogeys and on the 16th and 17th holes, chopped up the easy 18th and stood over a 5-foot putt to make the cut. He made it.

Vijay Singh had 72 and made the cut on the number.

Among those not so fortunate was John Daly (71) and 19-year-old Tadd Fujikawa, who was around the cut line until hitting into the canal and then hitting a tree for double bogey on the par-5 ninth, the easiest hole on the course.

Rickie Fowler, the 21-year-old rookie who came to Honolulu with much hype, shot 75-72 and missed the cut.

The trick for Palmer is to keep following Johnson’s advice and start from scratch on Saturday.

“It’s kept me calm,” Palmer said. “I’m not going to sit here and say I’m not going to think about being in the lead. Who doesn’t think about it when they tee off on Saturday in the final group. I’ll just go play golf and see what happens.”

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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.