Clarke named 2016 European Ryder Cup captain

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 18, 2015, 12:31 pm

As expected, Darren Clarke was appointed as Europe’s next Ryder Cup captain on Wednesday.

Clarke was one of three candidates for the 2016 captaincy, along with Miguel Angel Jimenez and Thomas Bjorn. 

“It’s a huge honor for me,” he said. “It’s another part of my golfing career that I could never have imagined when I started off. To be given the honor of leading the team is massive for me.”

The final decision was made by the five-man selection committee, comprised of past captains Colin Montgomerie, Jose Maria Olazabal and Paul McGinley, European Tour CEO George O’Grady and former Ryder Cupper David Howell. The group assembled Wednesday for two hours at European Tour headquarters outside London.

The decision was unanimous.

“This will be a difficult task for Europe,” Montgomerie said, “but we have the best man for the job in place to try and retain that Ryder Cup.”

Added O'Grady: “It was Darren’s time.”

Of great interest to many observers during the run-up to the announcement was how McGinley, the 2014 captain, would vote. McGinley and Clarke had been close since their early days on tour, but their friendship soured a few years ago over the Gleneagles captaincy.

Photos: Darren Clarke through the years

Clarke promised to allow McGinley a free run at the job, only to throw his name into contention at the last minute. When he withdrew from consideration, he backed Montgomerie, not McGinley, saying that the European captain “needs a huge presence” to counter the Americans’ choice of Tom Watson. 

Beloved by his players and credited with a near-flawless game plan, McGinley extended the Europeans’ run of dominance. Their five-point blowout at Gleneagles was Europe’s sixth Ryder Cup win in the last seven matches.

Last week, McGinley said he would put aside his personal differences and vote for Clarke.

“I think Paul did such an amazing job that if I wasn’t to follow in his footprints that would be foolish,” Clarke said. “I think Paul found a successful formula and hopefully I can tap into that.” 

Said McGinley: “It’s not a case of ripping up everything we’ve done before and starting again. It’s an evolution of where we’ve come from and hopefully a continuation.” 

Clarke, 46, was a five-time Ryder Cup participant (10-7-3 record) and twice served as a vice captain, in 2010 and ’12. Only once has he been a part of a losing team, in 1999, when the Americans staged an incredible final-day rally to win.

A 14-time European Tour winner who captured the 2011 Open Championship, Clarke had the support of many of Europe’s biggest names, including world No. 1 Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter.

Long considered the frontrunner, Clarke has been unequivocal in his desire for the job, while Jimenez and Bjorn – both of whom are ranked inside the top 50 in the world – have expressed an interest in qualifying for the 2016 squad.

The Northern Irishman will go head-to-head with Davis Love III, whom Golf Channel reported will return as captain in 2016. An official announcement will be made Tuesday in South Florida.

“That would be wonderful,” Clarke said. “We’re very good friends. There isn’t a nicer man in our sport.” 

Clarke and Love have enjoyed a long friendship. At the 2004 Ryder Cup, they halved their singles match after Love declined to take relief from a sprinkler head.    

Clarke missed the cut when the PGA Championship was held at Hazeltine in 2002. 

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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.