Scott ready to get season started

By Doug FergusonFebruary 15, 2012, 2:02 am

LOS ANGELES - Adam Scott was on the range at Riviera on Tuesday and had every reason to feel like a stranger. He is the only player from the top 10 in the world who has yet to play a tournament this year.

“I may have to introduce myself to a fair bit of people,” Scott said.

Waiting until the Northern Trust Open to begin his 2012 season was only partially by design. Scott had planned to be at Kapalua for the PGA Tour opener, but he had his tonsils taken out in December. He said the recovery time for an adult is about three weeks.

Scott said he had tonsillitis at least five times a year for the last couple of seasons, and when it happened at the Deutsche Bank Championships - he was tied for the lead through 36 holes - that was the last straw.

“It was the first time I had it during a tournament,” he said. “I figured if I had it during a major, it would be one less chance of getting one.”

The three-month break was the longest of his career, and it was the first time in 10 years Scott has spent so much time at home in Australia. It allowed him to get his mind off golf, and it made him eager to return.

“I’m really ready to play, and that’s important, too,” Scott said. “I’ve been starved of tournament golf at the moment.”

The majors were also behind his late start to the year.

Scott has not performed well in the biggest events throughout his career as he tried to find the right schedule leading up to the majors. He might have found something a year ago, when he was runner-up at the Masters and finished seventh in the PGA Championship. It was only the second time he had two top 10s in the majors in one year.

Scott will play the Match Play Championship, Doral and then take part in the Tavistock Cup. That means he will play three tournaments and a 36-hole made-for-TV exhibition before going to the first major.

But it worked last year.

“Look, I’ve tried so many different things trying to get myself in the best shape for the biggest events, and until last year, I didn’t play very good in the biggest events,” he said. “Last year I changed it up and took my time getting ready properly, and I had a good result. It worked last year. I have to try to do something similar.”

Scott also hopes the late start will keep him fresh at the end. Despite a solid season, he felt flat when the FedEx Cup playoffs began.

RANKING SEPARATION: Yani Tseng is the defending champion for the first of six times on the LPGA this year (State Farm is no longer on the schedule) at the Honda LPGA Thailand. And while wins are the best barometer, the women’s world ranking also shows what kind of season Tseng had in 2011.

At this time a year ago, Tseng was No. 1 in the world with an average of 10.34 points. It was so close at the top that four players - Jiyai Shin, Suzann Pettersen, Cristie Kerr and Na Yeon Choi - were within one point of replacing her.

Tseng returns to Thailand with an average of 15.81, while Pettersen remains No. 2 at 9.0 points. The difference between Tseng and Pettersen is equal to the gap between Pettersen and Karen Stupples at No. 61.

NO RESPECT: Riviera is getting a reputation of not showing much respect to its past champions.

Players were stunned last week to learn that the Northern Trust Open rejected Mike Weir’s request for a sponsor’s exemption. Not only is Weir a former Masters champion, he won back-to-back in Riviera within the last decade. Weir rallied from seven shots behind on the last day to win in 2003, then won in 2004 to become only the sixth repeat champion.

The exemptions instead went to Fred Couples, K.T. Kim, Jason Gore, UCLA sophomore Patrick Cantlay and Texas freshman Jordan Spieth. It was the exemption to Spieth that raised eyebrows. He has made the cut in the Byron Nelson Championship (a hometown course) the last two years, but has no connection to Los Angeles.

Weir, trying to make his way back from elbow surgery, said he was surprised by the decision, but chose to leave it at that.

It’s reminiscent of the time Robert Allenby was trying to register in 2002 as the defending champion. He hit a 3-wood in a cold, driving rain to 5 feet to win a six-man playoff, a shot worthy of a plaque that isn’t there.

He was asked for his credentials. Allenby showed them, and the person registering still couldn’t find his name. Exasperated, Allenby turned to a large photo on the wall showing him posing with the trophy and said, “That’s me.”

COMEBACK GROUP: The PGA Tour massages the groups for the opening two rounds of tournaments to provide story lines, and it wasn’t too hard to figure out one such group for the Northern Trust Open.

Phil Mickelson, Kyle Stanley and Brandt Snedeker, three players who had very little in common until they all rallied from at least six shots to win tournaments over the last three weeks.

Mickelson was six shots behind Charlie Wi at Pebble Beach; Stanley came from eight shots behind Spencer Levin in the Phoenix Open; and Snedeker rallied from seven shots behind to beat Stanley at Torrey Pines.

It’s most fitting that Stanley is in the same group as Mickelson.

He was practicing at Whisper Rock on Wednesday of the Phoenix Open, just three days after the calamitous finish, when Mickelson approached to offer some advice.

“It wasn’t an organized meeting or anything,” Stanley said. “I had never met him before. He just told me to keep my head up, and how to approach it the next time I have a big lead, how to stay aggressive. It was pretty classy.”

DIVOTS: British Open champion Darren Clarke has a new caddie. He has hired Phil “Wobbly” Morbey on a temporary basis to try to shake his run of bad results since winning at Royal St. George’s. … Jessica Korda became only the fifth player to win an LPGA Tour event at 18 or younger. … Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have each won 13 times on the PGA Tour in their native state of California. Woods won his 13 titles at Torrey Pines (seven), La Costa (three), Pebble Beach (two) and Harding Park (one). Mickelson won his at Torrey Pines (three), Riviera (two), PGA West (two), Pebble Beach (four) and La Costa (two). … In a change this year, while qualifying for the Match Play Championship has closed, the tournament will wait until next week’s world ranking to determine the seeds.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Four of the six winners on the European Tour were outside the top 100 in the world ranking.

FINAL WORD: “I want to knock on his door and say, `Can you be my friend and teach me to putt?”’ - Michelle Wie, on seeing Luke Donald at The Bear’s Club in Florida.

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McCoy earns medalist honors at 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 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 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 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.