After Further Review: Firestone lacking sizzle

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 7, 2017, 12:44 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the lack of buzz at Firestone ...

Back in its traditional spot on the schedule, one thing is clear: the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational lacks sizzle.

Yes, Firestone Country Club is a storied venue with major history and a favorite among many players. But it’s also a dud on television, with one tree-lined fairway after the next and little fear of players ever making a big number.

The no-cut WGC tournaments offer players a chance to relax a bit, and many took advantage of that this week with a major on deck. Post-round comments each day were split between the golf being played in Akron and the test that looms just on the horizon in Charlotte.

In short, the tournament felt flat even while Hideki Matsuyama was busy turning in one of the best rounds of the year. The PGA Tour is in no rush to leave Firestone behind, but it might be a good idea if they want to inject some intrigue into a staid event that is once again lodged between two majors where emotions are often at their highest. – Will Gray

On Rory McIlroy being the PGA favorite ...

Rory McIlroy never had a chance on Sunday at Firestone, not with Hideki Matsuyama putting on a show to win his fifth PGA Tour title, but the Northern Irishman’s performance at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational was a clear statement.

McIlroy finished tied for fifth place for his second top-5 finish in his last two starts and will arrive at Quail Hollow for this week’s PGA Championship the clear favorite.

“I would say Rory’s probably the guy to beat at this point next week,” said Jordan Spieth, who will be vying to complete the career Grand Slam at Quail Hollow. “I played with him the first two days, and the way that he is driving the golf ball, if he continues to do it there he just has a massive advantage over the field at that point.”

In seven starts at the Wells Fargo Championship, which is played at Quail Hollow, he’s won twice and finished outside the top 10 just once. Every event has a favorite, but few are as clear-cut as McIlroy. – Rex Hoggard

On McIlroy splitting with his caddie ...

I loved what I heard out of Rory McIlroy at Firestone. In his first start since splitting with caddie J.P. Fitzgerald, McIlroy said that he was trying to take “ownership” of his game and “responsibility” for what he was doing on the course.

How refreshing.

PGA Tour stars are often criticized for being spoiled, selfish brats who are quick to blame everyone but themselves, but here was McIlroy, one of the most famous golfers on the planet, recognizing that HE was the one that needed to change, that HE needed to go back to the basics, crunch the numbers, visualize the shot and accept responsibility for whatever happened next.

Hopefully his peers were paying attention. – Ryan Lavner

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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.