A surreal golf season that is only half over

By Doug FergusonJuly 7, 2010, 1:11 am

Tiger Woods is assured at least one trophy this year.

Even though he tied for 46th at the AT&T National – his first time out of the top 40 in five years among tournaments that he completed – Woods stayed at No. 1 in the world. This being the second week of July, that means he has clinched the Mark H. McCormack Award for the 13th straight season, giving to the player atop the world ranking for the most weeks in a calendar year.

So he has that going for him.

Halfway through a PGA Tour season like no other, Woods at No. 1 is about the only thing that makes this year seem ordinary. It already has been anything but that.

Woods was only joking Sunday afternoon – early afternoon, it should be noted – when he was leaving the locker room at Aronimink and said over his shoulder, “Go watch some real golfers.”

Considering the standard has he has set the past dozen years, Woods sure hasn’t looked like himself.

Considering the circumstances of the last six months, what is he supposed to look like?

Tiger WoodsHe tied for fourth in the Masters and U.S. Open, which even Woods finds acceptable, at least when the cameras are off. In four regular PGA Tour events, he hasn’t cracked the top 10.

Woods missed the cut in Quail Hollow with the highest 36-hole total of his career. He withdrew from The Players Championship in the final round with a sore neck, marking the first time he had gone consecutive weeks without earning any money. Sunday was the first time in 11 years that he completed a regular PGA Tour event without breaking par.

That’s not to say 2010 hasn’t been memorable, for Woods or anyone else.

Imagine telling the PGA Tour brass at the start of the year that the highest television ratings would come from the TPC Sawgrass. Could any of them have guessed that it would be February instead of May? Woods was the star attraction, but he wasn’t wearing a red shirt and pumping his fist. He was dressed in a dark suit and looked into a camera that wasn’t working as he read a 13 1/2 -minute statement about his spectacular fall through a sex scandal.

The low point for the tour came a month earlier.

While Woods was accused of cheating because he had a wife; Phil Mickelson was accused of cheating because he had a wedge.

Mickelson was among a small group of players who used 20-year-old Ping wedges with deeper grooves that were allowed under a legal loophole. The issue threatened to divide the tour until Ping chairman John Solheim allowed golf executives to ban his clubs from competition. Solheim should get a trophy for that.

One constant with Mickelson – no one ever knows what’s coming next.

He has won only one tournament this year – the Masters – but the timing could not have been better. It was the first time his wife, Amy, was at a tournament since being diagnosed with breast cancer a year ago. Mickelson has missed only one cut, and the timing could not have been worse. That was at Colonial, where he wasn’t around to take part in the “Pink Out” to show support for his wife.

Mickelson is at Loch Lomond this week for the Scottish Open, his fifth straight tournament in which he has a chance to replace Woods at No. 1 in the world.

Lefty has never been No. 1 – not in the world ranking, the money list, scoring average for the prestigious Vardon Trophy, not even on the majority of ballots for PGA Tour player of the year. Could this finally be his time?

Maybe. But remember, the year is only half over.

There already have been three multiple winners on the PGA Tour this year – Ernie Els, Jim Furyk and Justin Rose. Depending on how long it takes Woods to get his game back in shape, Els might be in the best position to take advantage. He has earned more world ranking points than anyone this year, the product of two big wins and third place at the U.S. Open. He also leads the PGA Tour in the only two statistics that matter – scoring average (69.54) and money (nearly $4 million).

A European has never won player of the year (Nick Faldo was not a member in 1990 when he won two majors) and maybe that’s about to change. A year ago, Europeans only won three PGA Tour events. This year, they won three in a row in June alone – Rose at the Memorial, Lee Westwood at the St. Jude Classic, Graeme McDowell at the U.S. Open.

Yes, it shows the increasing strength of European golf, particularly in England, which now has five players among the top 16 in the world. Funny, though, how no one ever says anything about the strength of American golf when Zach Johnson wins at Colonial or Steve Stricker wins at Riviera.

Rickie Fowler is still trying to win in what is shaping up as an interesting rookie of the year race.

So much depends on how one defines a rookie, especially considering that Vijay Singh won the award in 1993 when he was 30 and Todd Hamilton won in 2004 at 39.

Rory McIlroy is the right age – 21 – even if it seems as though he has been around forever. He is a rookie on the PGA Tour, and his 62 in the final round to win Quail Hollow will not be forgotten anytime soon. Fowler is 21, yet he turned pro only 10 months ago. He had a chance to win in Phoenix and had the 54-hole lead at the Memorial.

But until he wins, the award he might get is best imitation of a traffic cone when he dresses in orange on Sunday.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.