Notes: Rookies leading way for U.S. Prez Cup team

By Doug FergusonAugust 2, 2017, 12:06 am

AKRON, Ohio - With just over a month remaining to qualifying for the Presidents Cup, this is shaping up as a new American team.

Charley Hoffman's playoff loss in the Canadian Open moved him to No. 10 in the standings, which is based on FedEx Cup points. That gives the U.S. team five players from the top 10 who have never competed in a Presidents Cup or a Ryder Cup. The others are Justin Thomas (No. 3), Daniel Berger (No. 4), Kevin Kisner (No. 7) and Kevin Chappell (No. 9). U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is No. 5 and has never played the Presidents Cup, though he played the Ryder Cup last fall.

U.S. captain Steve Stricker could see this coming.

He was an assistant to Davis Love III at Hazeltine last year. Thomas and Berger were invited to play the Minnesota course ahead of the final picks, though neither of them was chosen. The last pick went to Ryan Moore, another Cup rookie.

''You could see the change there, even though some of them didn't play,'' Stricker said. ''You can see the movement is definitely going to younger, powerful players.''

Right behind them is a blend of experience (Patrick Reed, Jason Dufner, Brandt Snedeker) and new (Brian Harman, Gary Woodland). The top 10 players qualify after the Dell Technologies Championship on Sept. 4.

That could have a bearing on how Stricker uses his captain's picks.

''It concerns me a little bit that we have a lot of rookies,'' he said. ''But it also excites me what I'm seeing from them. They're very courageous, they're feisty, they're making clutch putts when they have to. It just shows a lot of guts. These guys are playing well and showing a little attitude when they're doing it, which is nice to see, especially in match play.''

Phil Mickelson has dropped to No. 17. His best finish this year was reaching the quarterfinals of the Dell Technologies Match Play. Mickelson has never missed a Presidents Cup or a Ryder Cup since 1994, and he had to rely on a captain's pick for only the second time in his career in 2015. He went 3-0-1 for the week.

Stricker said he told Mickelson to give him good reasons to pick him if Lefty doesn't make it on his own.

''And he told me flat out he's going to make his way inside the top 10,'' Stricker said. ''He feels like he's playing that well, he just needs to score a little bit better and see some putts to go in. But he's not worried about sneaking his way into the top 10.''

NO SURE THING: PGA Tour players are often mistaken when they talk about one of the perks from reaching the Tour Championship - getting into the four major championships the following year.

That's not always the case.

Roberto Castro, who made it to the Tour Championship on the strength of his third-place finish at the BMW Championship, did not qualify for the PGA Championship. This is the second straight year that has happened - Steven Bowditch failed to qualify for the PGA Championship last year.

Castro has missed the cut in 14 of his last 18 events. He has fallen to No. 99 in the PGA Points list, which effectively is a money list from the 2016 Canadian Open through the 2017 Canadian Open. The top 70 earn spots in the PGA Championship.

It's rare that a player doesn't make it because accruing the money to get to the Tour Championship (plus earnings at East Lake) is enough to be in reasonable shape on the PGA Points list the following year.

Bowditch also hit a spell of bad form after reaching the 2015 Tour Championship, missing 11 out of 17 cuts.

The Masters, U.S. Open and The Open each give exemptions to players in the field at the Tour Championship. The PGA Championship does not.

TEXAS SHRINE: Former PGA champion Steve Elkington will be inducted this fall into the Texas Golf Hall of Fame, and he couldn't be prouder.

''I've lived longer in Texas than in my home country of Australia, so this honor is special to me,'' Elkington said. ''So many famous players have come from the state of Texas and I'm proud to be included as one of those now.''

Elkington will be inducted Oct. 9 along with two-time U.S. Women's Amateur champion Kelli Kuehne, PGA professional James ''Buddy'' Cook of San Antonio and Montford T. Johnson Jr., who helped shape amateur golf policy while serving in the USGA.

Elkington won the 1995 PGA Championship at Riviera in a playoff over Colin Montgomerie. He also won The Players Championship in 1991 and 1997, and he won the Vardon Trophy for the lowest adjusted scoring average in 1995.

He was the first prominent Australian to play college golf in America, helping to lead the Houston Cougars to national titles in 1982, 1984 and 1985. Elkington still lives in the Houston area and considers Jack Burke Jr. his mentor.

DIVOTS: Ernie Els is among those who have received a special exemption to the PGA Championship next week. ... Laura Davies and Paula Creamer each made it through Monday qualifying for the Ricoh Women's British Open. ... Steve Stricker is preparing for the PGA Championship by playing a PGA Tour Champions event in Minnesota this week. ... Montreal-born clubmaker Bob Vokey was inducted into the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame last week. He has become one of the world's top wedge designers for Titleist Vokey Design. ... The Latin America Amateur Championship will be held Jan. 20-23 at Wales Country Club in Santiago. ... Se Ri Pak will host an American Junior Golf Association event on Aug. 21-24 at Butte Creek Country Club in Georgia.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Bernhard Langer has won five of his 10 senior majors after turning 58.

FINAL WORD: ''I'm going to check to make sure the range is in play when the Presidents Cup comes there.'' - U.S. captain Steve Stricker, referring to Jordan Spieth playing a crucial shot from the range at Royal Birkdale when he won The Open.

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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.