Tiger's influence: Day a future world No. 1?

By Doug FergusonNovember 9, 2011, 7:15 pm

SYDNEY – Jason Day returns home as the highest-ranked Australian in golf, and it’s a wonder anyone recognizes him.

They know all about his prodigious talent, winning on the Nationwide Tour at age 19. They probably remember his bold comments about Tiger Woods at the end of 2007, when Day first earned his PGA Tour card.

“I’m sure I can take him down,” he said.

Most of them were watching on TV when he was runner-up at the Masters and the U.S. Open.

They just haven’t seen him.

It has been nearly five years since Day last played a tournament in Australia. That was part of his Nationwide Tour campaign that brought him to the PGA Tour, and since then he has worked on travel papers, dealt with sinus and other injuries, married an American girl and tried to settle into homes in Texas and more recently in Ohio.

He will be hard to miss Thursday in the Australian Open. Not only is Day at No. 7 in the world ranking, he will be spending the opening two rounds at The Lakes with Woods and Robert Allenby.

“It is good to be back,” Day said. “It’s amazing how things have changed over the years I’ve been away. The change is for the good. Everything is new. It’s an amazing feeling.”

Despite not winning this year, there is a confidence about the way he plays that leads many to think it won’t be long before Day is challenging for No. 1 in the world. At a time when golf seemingly is owned by youth, his name often gets mentioned in the same sentence as U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy, former PGA champion Martin Kaymer and Masters champion Charl Schwartzel.

Day, who celebrates his 24th birthday on Saturday, figures to be part of the action when he tees off Thursday afternoon at The Lakes, a course that allows for players to go after a few short par 4s, and especially the reachable par 5s over the water.

“Does he have the talent to be world No. 1? Absolutely, absolutely he does,” Woods said. “He hits the ball plenty long, a wonderful putter. He has the right attitude for it. It’s just that to get to world No. 1, it takes time. You’ve got to win golf tournaments and you’ve got to be consistent, week in and week out. Just give him time and I’m sure he’ll get there.”

Day thought it might happen much sooner.

Coming off his Nationwide Tour success in 2007, he gave an interview to the Australian media in which he spoke of Woods as his measuring stick. If he won two tournaments his first year on Tour, then that’s what Day wanted to do.

But it hasn’t come as easily. He didn’t win until his 59th start as a PGA Tour member, at the Byron Nelson Championship last year, as he coped with high hopes and injuries.

“I stopped practicing and thought it was going to come easy,” Day said. “Obviously, it didn’t. It’s very stiff competition on the PGA Tour. I had to get back to working on everything, not just my golf swing. I finally realized that when you get to a level like this, it’s not about making huge changes to your swing. It’s about having the little things right and being mentally prepared for each week.”

He finally gets to play on a big stage with Woods at a time when their careers are going in opposite directions.

This marks the two-year anniversary of the last time Woods won any tournament in the world, the Australian Masters at Kingston Heath down in Melbourne. He has fallen to No. 58 in the world, the lowest since he was a 20-year-old rookie in 1996 trying to get his card.

Day had a pair of top 10s in the FedEx Cup playoffs, pushing him into the top 10.

Like so many young players, Woods was an influence on his game.

“I read a book about Tiger and that’s why I woke up every morning at 5:30 and went out and practiced,” Day said. “I got up to 32 1/2 hours a week of practice because of that guy. He has influenced my life a lot. I’ve always wanted to play against him. It’s going to be fun when we have that chance to play against each other. It is going to be very friendly, but obviously we want to beat each other.”

There will be other players to beat at The Lakes.

This is the best field this proud championship has had in years. The Australian Open is the fourth-oldest national championship behind Britain and the United States, and behind Canada based on the calendar. It’s past champions include Gene Sarazen, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Tom Watson and Greg Norman.

Woods is among 13 players at the Australian Open - along with captains Norman and Fred Couples - who will be in the Presidents Cup next week at Royal Melbourne.

Woods hasn’t been the same since the Australian Masters two years ago. He was exposed for serial adultery, missed five months trying to get his life in order, got divorced, changed swing instructors and has spent the better part of this year coping with leg injuries that caused him to miss most of the summer.

“I haven’t played a lot of tournaments this year,” Woods said.

He embarks on a stretch of three events in four weeks, concluding with his Chevron World Challenge the first week in December, before taking an offseason break for about six weeks.

This could take time, though his peers that once expected nothing but the best have not given up on him.

“You can lose the form, but you never lose that talent,” Adam Scott said. “Once he gets back into those positions with his game, he’ll find it not too hard to have that edge again. You can’t write the guy off. Every time we have, he has proved us wrong in the past.”

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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.