Woods focused and ready to try and win

By Doug FergusonAugust 2, 2011, 8:16 pm

AKRON, Ohio – Tiger Woods was on the practice range just as the sun began to rise Tuesday over Firestone, his first time on a PGA Tour golf course in nearly three months.

Even as the season heads toward a conclusion, Woods can’t wait to get started.

“I’m excited to compete, to play,” Woods said. “And hopefully, to win the tournament.”

That part about Woods hasn’t changed.

It’s everything else in the world of golf he once ruled that is so much different. Woods showed up at the Bridgestone Invitational at No. 28, his lowest world ranking since the start of his first full season on the PGA Tour. He has a new caddie – at least temporarily – in Bryon Bell, a childhood friend who now heads up a design business that is not getting much work these days with a downturn in the industry.

He no longer is the dominant force in golf, having gone 20 months since his last win at the Australian Masters.

For Woods, however, the biggest change is how he feels about his health.

“The great thing is I don’t feel a thing,” Woods said. “It feels solid. It feels stable. No pain. That’s one of the reasons why I took as long as I did to come back, is that I want to get to this point where I can go ahead and start playing golf again like this. It’s been a very long time, and it feels good to go out there today and hit balls like this, go practice and feel nothing and walk around and pretty much do anything I want on the golf course.”

Asked how long it has been since he felt so good physically, Woods replied, “Years.”

It almost seems that long ago since he was last in action. Woods, who was No. 1 in the world at the Bridgestone Invitational a year ago, has not played since he walked off the course after nine holes May 12 at The Players Championship with recurring injuries to his left knee and Achilles’ tendon.

He said he injured them during the third round of the Masters while hitting a shot off an awkward stance in the pine straw on the 17th hole. Woods said if he had sat out the rest of May, he would have been fine the rest of the year, a lesson he learned this time around.

Woods wasn’t about to return until he was 100 percent healthy, and he is convinced of that now.

He said he started hitting balls a couple of weeks ago, without giving an exact date, and that he got the itch to start playing soon after. Woods said he thought about playing the Greenbrier Classic last week, but decided to wait a little more.

What gets him excited?

“Trying to beat these boys,” Woods said. “That’s fun. Getting out there and trying to win golf tournaments, being there with a chance to win, whether you win or fail. Just being there is just a rush, and it’s just so much fun. Trying to pull off the shots that you’ve done in practice when it matters the most, see what you’ve got. That’s fun.”

In the three months since he was gone, Rory McIlroy shattered his U.S. Open scoring record to par, and good friend Darren Clarke finally won a major at the British Open at age 42. Steve Stricker has won twice to become the highest-ranked American.

Clarke, friends with Woods since his final major as an amateur in 1996, will be paired with him the first two rounds.

“Tiger has been the best player in the world for a very long time,” Clarke said. “He has been the guy over my career that has set the benchmark for all the rest of us, and personally he’s a good friend of mine. It is fantastic, I think, not just for you guys but for all of world golf just to see Tiger Woods back playing again. I’m sure he will be trying to get himself back up to where he has been before, and personally I don’t doubt he’ll do that.

“But for us to have a chance to compete against him again can only be good for the game in general.”

Woods still managed to make news while not playing when he fired his caddie, Steve Williams, after a 12-year partnership during which he won 13 majors. For all the talk about disloyalty – Williams caddied for Adam Scott at the U.S. Open, then again at the AT&T National without seeking permission – Woods said only that it was “time for a change.”

“I felt that Stevie and I have had just an amazing run,” he said. “Steve is a hell of a caddie, there’s no denying that. He’s helped my career, and I think I’ve helped his, as well. We’ve had a great partnership for 12 years, maybe a little bit more than that, won a bunch of tournaments. I just felt it was time to change things up a little bit. I felt very comfortable with the move.”

He did not bite when asked about Williams’ comments to a New Zealand television station that he had wasted the last two years of his life.

“That’s what he says and what he feels,” Woods said.

Woods said Bell is only a fill-in – “Have you seen his legs?” he said – and there is no timetable for getting a permanent replacement. The only sense of urgency for Woods is his results.

Because he has missed so much golf – and didn’t play all that great early in the year – he has plunged to No. 135 in the FedEx Cup standings. He needs to crack the top 125 after this World Golf Championship and the PGA Championship to qualify for the playoffs. He could take care of that with a top-10 finish at Firestone, where only once in his career – last year – has he finished lower than fifth.

As for the rust? That’s still to be determined.

He played nine holes Tuesday, often hitting more than one shot when he wasn’t pleased with where it was going. But it was only practice. Woods won’t get a good sense of where his game is until the first round Thursday.

“I’m just focused on trying to win a golf tournament,” he said. “That’s it.”

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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.