Watson wins WGC-HSBC in playoff thriller

By Doug FergusonNovember 9, 2014, 9:32 am

SHANGHAI - Even in the midst of a meltdown, Bubba Watson never lost hope Sunday in the HSBC Champions.

He stood on the 16th tee with a two-shot lead. He trudged off the 17th green facing a one-shot deficit behind five players suddenly tied for the lead. And right when it looked as though Watson had blown it, he delivered a finish that not even the creator of ''Bubba golf'' could have imagined.

From some 60 yards away in a bunker left of the green on the par-5 18th hole, Watson blasted out of the sand and watched his ball roll 25 feet before it dropped for eagle. Watson was so stunned that his eyes widened and he screamed. He didn't know what else to do.

Moments later, he rolled in a 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th in a playoff to beat Tim Clark and capture his first World Golf Championship.

''You never know what he's going to do,'' said Rickie Fowler, who watched it all unfold at Sheshan International.

Watson closed with a 2-under 70, a score that doesn't even begin to describe his wild ride - an eagle, birdie, par, bogey and double bogey filled his scorecard over the last five holes.

The two-time Masters champion looked like a lost cause when he stood in the bunker on the 18th in regulation, waiting his turn to play. That's when he turned to his caddie and told him, ''It's been a miserable couple holes here, but this will change everything if it goes in.''

Talk about a Shanghai surprise.


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''You always joke about holing it,'' Watson said. ''And then it actually went in. I didn't know how to react and so I just kind of screamed, and I lost my voice a little bit. It was one of those shots, a one-in-a-lifetime kind of shot. And so it was pretty neat.''

The 10th edition of the HSBC Champions was the most memorable one yet.

Clark made a 5-foot birdie on the final hole for a 69 to join Watson at 11-under 277. Fowler's hopes of joining them ended when he tried to hit a 5-wood from 228 yards over the water to a back pin position. The ball didn't make it over the front bank and rolled back into the water. He scrambled for a par and a 70.

All three players in the final group had a chance at birdie to join the playoff.

Graeme McDowell, who led after each of the three rounds, missed a 12-foot putt and shot 73. Hiroshi Iwata of Japan, the mystery guest on a world-class leaderboard, narrowly missed from 8 feet. U.S. Open champion Martin Kaymer hit a wedge that bounded off the green and into the water, leading to double bogey and a 73.

In the playoff, Clark had a 25-foot birdie putt that stopped a few inches short.

''I knew I needed to birdie that playoff, especially with him being able to reach,'' Clark said. ''I'm pleased overall. Obviously, disappointed to be that close.''

Watson wound up in the same bunker in the playoff, and while he blasted out 20 feet short, the birdie putt was on the same line as the bunker shot he holed in regulation. He knew the speed and the break. The only difference was when he holed the winning putt, he didn't have a voice to scream. He bent his knees and repeatedly pumped both arms.

Watson became the 14th player to win a major and a World Golf Championship. Watson moved to No. 3 in the world, making him the highest-ranked American, and it was his seventh career win. Sweeter yet, he picked up a trophy far away from home.

''Being able to win outside the U.S., I just want to be able to travel and get through the jet lag, get through all the things and still perform at a high level,'' Watson said. ''So for me to win out here, this is very big. This is very special for me.''

That the other five players even had a chance was a bonus.

Watson was 89 yards away from the 16th green when he hit a lob wedge heavy and missed the green, such a bad spot that he did well to keep his chip on the green about 20 feet away. He two-putted for bogey. Then, he found a bunker left of the green on the par-3 17th and couldn't negotiate the soft sand. Using a 56-degree wedge, he left the first shot in the sand. His next one went off the green and onto the fringe, and he two-putted for double bogey.

When the final group behind him walked onto the 16th green, they were so stunned to see a five-way tie for the lead, they asked to make sure it was accurate.

''That's why I went for the green on 16,'' Kaymer said. ''I thought if I can make 3 there, I can square with Bubba. And I saw that he made double bogey on 17, so all of a sudden, there were five guys in the lead.''

Watson at that moment appeared to be the least likely of the bunch to hold the trophy. It only made sense later when he was asked why fans find him so intriguing.

''They never know what they're going to get,'' he said.

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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.