Woods eager to make another return to golf

By Doug FergusonOctober 5, 2011, 8:26 pm

SAN MARTIN, Calif. – When last seen at a golf tournament, Tiger Woods was leaving early from the PGA Championship after missing the cut. He didn’t qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs, giving him a long break that he wasn’t expecting.

If there was an upside that day in Atlanta, Woods figured he would have “nothing to do but work on my game.”

And that’s what he did.

He showed up Wednesday at CordeValle for the Frys.com Open knowing that whatever happens over the next two or four days, it won’t be from a lack of practice.

Woods said he has routinely played 36 holes – sometimes 45 holes – a day at his new home in South Florida, and he noticed his scores getting lower and lower until he set the course record last week at Medalist Country Club with a 62. Robert Allenby recalls seeing Woods at The Bear’s Club one day in the morning and into the late afternoon.

“The major overhauls are done,” Woods said. “I’ve done all that work. Now, it’s just fine tuning.”

There was one occasion during his pro-am round when he asked swing coach Sean Foley to videotape his swing. On another shot, he couldn’t figure out why the flight of his tee shot started out as a cut and then hooked back to the left.

Otherwise, Woods feels as though he’s back to the simple part of golf. Step up and hit it.

“I don’t need to worry about whether I have the club here or here or here or here or here,” he said. “I’ve done all that legwork, and now it’s time to play. And that’s where I needed to get to, which I hadn’t been able to because I wasn’t healthy enough to get there. And that part was frustrating, because I know what I can do in the game, and I just needed the time to practice.

“And that’s why I’m so excited about being here and playing.”

It’s a transition he might not ever have expected, going from a major championship to a Fall Series event, with a seven-week break in between. The Fall Series was designed to give most players a chance to secure their PGA Tour cards for next year, and the field is loaded with such players.

There are only six players from the top 50 on the money list, and 26 from the top 100. Rory Sabbatini at No. 27 is the highest-ranked player from the PGA Tour money list.

And then there is Woods, who is No. 118 after having entered only eight PGA Tour events and going the distance in five of them.

He no longer is among the top 50 in the world ranking for the first time since he was a 20-year-old rookie in 1996, having slipped to No. 51 this week. Yet he is such a powerful draw that ticket sales are five times ahead of last year. The Frys.com Open is close to selling out, unusual for a Fall Series event, and even some tournaments in the regular part of the season.

Woods’ year looked much more promising in April when he tied for fourth at the Masters, after briefly being in a tie for the lead when he made the turn at Augusta National on Sunday. But he aggravated injuries in his left leg, then returned too early at The Players Championship. He withdrew after nine holes and didn’t return again for three months at the Bridgestone Invitational.

Woods thought he was close to putting his new swing together at the Masters.

“And then after that, I was kind of shot for a while,” he said. “And that was frustrating because then I had to go back and kind of piece my way back to where I was at Augusta.”

He said he was limited to how much he could practice early in the season, and he had less than a week to get ready for the Bridgestone Invitational once he was given clearance to play as much as he wanted.

“This is different,” Woods said. “I’ve had a chance to prepare, and then obviously after this event, I’ve got a few more weeks (four) before I play in the Aussie Open. So that’s more how I’d like to prepare and practice and play in events. So I’m getting back to my normal routine.”

The question is whether he can get back to normal results.

His expectations haven’t change – “Getting a W,” he said – although he hasn’t won on the PGA Tour since the 2009 BMW Invitational, and hasn’t won anywhere since the Australian Masters on Nov. 15, 2009.

And even though he has been playing well at home – Woods said he “left a few shots out there” when he had his 62 – it’s different when a scorecard is in his pocket and thousands of fans are lining the fairways.

He will play the opening two rounds with UCLA sophomore Patrick Cantlay, the low amateur at the U.S. Open who shot a 60 at the Travelers Championship a week later and was leading going into the weekend.

Cantlay at least met Woods on Tuesday when they played together in an outing at The Institute, the course where Fry’s Electronics wants to eventually take its tournament.

“He was real cordial and real nice, and we joked around a little bit out there and had a good time,” Cantlay said.

Who won?

“I didn’t keep my score,” Cantlay said. “I was just an amateur. I picked up when I was out of the hole.”

He won’t be able to do that at CordeValle on Thursday. Neither will Woods.

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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.