Power Rankings: Northern Trust Open

By Will GrayFebruary 12, 2013, 5:25 pm

This week the PGA Tour holds its final California-based event of the West Coast Swing, heading to Riviera Country Club outside Los Angeles for the Northern Trust Open. This year's event boasts a strong field, with several top players making their 2013 season debuts at 'Hogan's Alley.'

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Bill Haas returns to defend his title, one that he won in dramatic fashion last year in a sudden-death playoff over Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley. Here are 10 players to watch this week beneath the California sun:

1. Phil Mickelson: Each of the last two players to top the Power Rankings have gone on to miss the cut, so caveat emptor. Mickelson's dominant win in Phoenix is now his only top-30 finish in four starts this year, but his Riviera track record can't be ignored - two wins and two runner-ups since 2007. Playing a fifth straight week, fatigue may be a concern...but he played the same stretch last year and finished T-2 here.

2. Charl Schwartzel: The hottest golfer on the planet not named Brandt Snedeker. Schwartzel's last six worldwide starts have all netted top-five finishes, including two wins. Coming off a second-place finish at the Joburg Open last week. Flying across 10 time zones to play this week, though.

3. Sergio Garcia: Played well on the European Tour's Desert Swing to begin his 2013 campaign, including a T-2 finish in Qatar. Rallied to tie for fourth here last year on the heels of a Sunday 64 on a day when only four other players broke 70.

4. Aaron Baddeley: A winner here in 2011, Badds has started well this year on some tough courses, tying for 12th at Pebble after a tie for sixth at Torrey Pines. Tied for 11th here last year and has made the cut in each of his 10 Riviera appearances.

5. Jimmy Walker: Walker was right below Baddeley in last week's Power Rankings, and they both played well so I'll leave them together. Tied for fourth each of the last two years at Riviera and now has a pair of top-five finishes in his last three starts after a strong performance at Pebble Beach.

6. Dustin Johnson: Improbably struggled last week at Pebble, but perhaps he'll benefit from a pairing that won't include a Gretzky? DJ has been inside the top 10 three of the last four years at this event, but has yet to play well in the wake of his season-opening win at Kapalua.

7. Adam Scott: One of many top-tier players making their season debuts this week. Although he's only played here six times since 2005, four of those appearances resulted in a top-20 finish, including a win in '05, runner-up in '06 and a T-17 showing last year. Finished his 2012 season in strong fashion, including a win in his native Australia.

8. Luke Donald: The top-ranked player in this week's field, Donald has struggled here recently but posted three straight top-six finishes from 2008-2010, including a runner-up showing in 2010. Making his first worldwide start of 2013, though, so rust may be a factor.

9. J.B. Holmes: Holmes has struggled to get out of the gates in 2013, but his record in this event is outstanding. His worst finish here in five starts since 2008 is a tie for 12th in 2011; each of the other four appearances resulted in a top-eight finish. His stroke average here across the last five years is a stellar 69.05.

10. Webb Simpson: The reigning U.S. Open champ has been characteristically solid - though unspectacular - this year. Jumped into the top-10 with a Saturday 65 at Pebble but faded out of contention Sunday, finishing T-26. Simpson tied for 15th here in 2010, his lone NTO appearance, when he shot 69-65 across the final two days.

11. Fred Couples: Last week's wild card was Vijay Singh, shrouded in antler-infused controversy, and this week we make extra room for the ultimate Riviera wild card. Couples made his first start in this event way back in 1982, and since then has tallied 14 top-10 finishes, including a pair of wins and three runner-ups. Finished T-7 here as recently as 2011.

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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.