Garcia, Thompson co-lead Honda after Day 1

By Doug FergusonFebruary 26, 2016, 12:08 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Sergio Garcia made an eagle, avoided an alligator and wound up in a share of the lead Thursday in the Honda Classic.

Garcia holed out with an 8-iron from 142 yards into the wind on the second hole for an eagle, and he narrowly missed an eagle putt on the 18th hole at PGA National. The Spaniard shot 5-under 65 and shared the lead with Michael Thompson, the 2013 Honda Classic winner, who also birdied the last hole.

They were one shot ahead of Rickie Fowler and William McGirt.

The biggest excitement for Garcia was on the par-4 sixth hole, where he made his lone bogey.

His tee shot found the water left of the fairway, shallow enough for him to roll up his pants and try to play it out to the fairway. That part was easy. He looked over his shoulder because of an alligator on the island, making sure it wasn't going anywhere soon.

''I was more worried about the alligator that was on the other side of the island than getting out of the water,'' Garcia said. ''The ball, I could see probably half of it, so I knew that I could get it out. Almost made 4, which would have been a great 4. I'm not going to lie, I was happy with a 5.''


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And he was happy with other 60 strokes he took on a typical windy day at PGA National.

Garcia missed the cut last week at Riviera, two days in which he said he did nothing well. Hardly anything went wrong for him in the Honda Classic, and even when it did, he managed to avoid trouble. Garcia had to play a 40-yard hook from the rough left of the 10th fairway to just short of the green for a simple par.

Fowler had the only bogey-free round, which included a chip-in for par on the 10th hole. McGirt was more on the wild side by making seven birdies.

''Anything in the red is good around this place,'' McGirt said. ''At 4 under, I would say it was bordering on great. This place is never easy, even when it's calm. You can't fall asleep on any shot out here.''

For the early starters, it was a rude welcome to the Florida swing - chilly and gusts that approached 30 mph.

Phil Mickelson extended his good play from a runner-up finish at Pebble Beach and shot 69, among 10 players who managed to break par in the morning. The wind eased slightly and the warmth returned briefly in the afternoon, and the crowd had a lot more to cheer.

That included the loudest cheer of the day on the par-3 17th, where Alex Cejka made a hole-in-one.

Rory McIlroy, however, wasn't in a happy place when he finished. Standing outside the scoring area, he smacked his putter on the concrete before going inside to sign for a 72. It wasn't an awful score, but the finish led to his angst.

He hit the face of a bunker on the 14th hole and went into another fairway bunker, put his third in more sand left of the green and made double bogey. After a birdie on the 15th, McIlroy came up short into the bunker on the 16th for a bogey, and he finished his round with a three-putt bogey from 10 feet.

Fowler was playing for the first time since he lost a two-shot lead with two holes to play and Hideki Matsuyama beat him in a playoff at Phoenix Open. Fowler said he spent a week with friends and played plenty last week to get ready for a big stretch. He opened with two birdies in three holes and was in position most of the day.

''I think we got a good break playing in the afternoon today,'' he said. ''I think the wind laid down a little bit for us. I know the guys had a tough time this morning and the course was not easy. Still didn't play easy out there for us. I felt like I swung it really well tee-to-green. Would have been nice to putt a little better, but still a nice, solid round to start off the week.''

Garcia is playing for only the third time this year. He tied for seventh in Qatar and was never close to making the cut at Riviera.

''I didn't come in with a lot of confidence,'' Garcia said. ''For sure, you are wondering a little bit, because usually my long game, it's up there, and even when I'm not playing great, I still can manage to get around it. But last week, I felt out of sorts. I didn't know what was going on.''

He took four days off, played 10 holes Wednesday in the pro-am before the rain arrived and it all felt good again.

''It's only the first round,'' Garcia said. ''We still have three tough rounds to go on a very difficult golf course. But any good round, it's always welcome.''

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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.