After starring in Tampa, McCoy T-7 in college event

By Ryan LavnerMarch 14, 2016, 11:31 pm

Adrenaline still coursing through his body, Lee McCoy didn't sleep much once he arrived home in Athens, Ga., at 4 a.m. Monday.

A few hours later, he woke up to himself on TV. He thought he was still dreaming. 

The Georgia senior, fresh off the best finish by an amateur in a regular PGA Tour event in 18 years, played in the Bulldogs’ one-day, 36-hole home tournament on Monday. 

Though he said in a text that he was "running on fumes through 9, sleepwalking the last 27," McCoy still tied for seventh at the Southern Intercollegiate after rounds of 70-71. Second-ranked Georgia won the team title by three shots over Arkansas.

All in all, it was a memorable 24 hours, following McCoy's fourth-place finish at the PGA Tour's Valspar Championship.

“Right now he is just mentally exhausted,” Georgia coach Chris Haack said by phone Monday. “He told me in the parking lot, ‘Hey, I’ll give you everything I’ve got today, but I don’t have a lot in the tank.’ I told him to just have fun and enjoy it. You could tell he was just running on adrenaline and probably will throughout the day. But tonight, he’s going to crash and sleep like a baby.”

Fortunately for McCoy, carts were allowed during the event Monday, a welcome reprieve after a long week at Innisbrook.

Haack said he and the rest of the team watched nearly every shot of McCoy’s final round in Tampa, cheering and high-fiving as he played alongside world No. 1 Jordan Spieth. In contention in his fourth career Tour start, in his hometown tournament, about a par 5 from his childhood home, McCoy shot 69, beat Spieth by four shots and finished solo fourth. Because of his amateur status, McCoy forfeited $292,800, then made the 7 1/2-hour drive back to Athens so that he could play in his home tournament one final time. 

Though McCoy is an All-American with a sparkling résumé – the low single-season scoring average in school history (quite an accomplishment, given the alumni), a U.S. Open appearance, a Walker Cup team – Haack has been working with his 22-year-old star on his on-course comportment. He knew the final-round date with Spieth was a significant test. 

“I thought he did a terrific job,” Haack said. “I told him: Yesterday it looked like you’d arrived. You’d finally learned it’s a game and you plug along. I was very impressed.”

No school has produced more PGA Tour wins over the past few years than Georgia, a testament to the way that Haack runs his program. For the past 20 years, he has challenged his players on a daily basis with an intense qualifying system.

“We don’t interfere,” he said. “We leave it up to them and how they’re going to perform. And so they’re playing every round with pressure, so they’re used to it. They always have to hit shots with the heat on.” 

Apparently, that system works. Haack’s former players include Bubba Watson, Kevin Kisner, Russell Henley, Harris English, Chris Kirk, Brian Harman and Brendon Todd, among others. 

Both Henley and English won Tour events as amateurs, in 2011. Now, McCoy is getting his turn in the spotlight, just months before he embarks on a pro career. 

“He’s got the game and physical attributes to play as good as anybody I’ve ever had,” Haack said. “What he needed to get better at was composure and mental toughness. As he conquers that, he’s going to be a very good Tour player.” 

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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.