Late surge propels Martin to Shriners victory

By Ryan LavnerOctober 20, 2014, 12:03 am

With his big lead gone, Ben Martin played his last four holes in 4 under par – including a big-breaking, 46-foot eagle on 16 – to secure his first PGA Tour victory Sunday at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. Here's the skinny on the final round at TPC Summerlin:

The leaderboard: Ben Martin (-20); Kevin Streelman (-18); Russell Knox (-16); Webb Simpson, Brooks Koepka and Jimmy Walker at -15 

What it means: It’s the first PGA Tour title for Martin, who squandered a good opportunity last season at the Zurich Classic. The new wraparound season has proved a launching pad for some of the Tour’s up-and-coming stars, after Sang-Moon Bae won the opener in California and now Martin, 27, moves into the winner’s circle for the first time. It was quite a turnaround for Martin, who shot 78-79 in the season-opening last week. With the victory, Martin also secured a spot in the 2015 Masters, his second trip to Augusta (MC as an amateur in 2010). 

Round of the day: Up by two at the start of the day, Martin pushed his lead to four shots after an early birdie, then played his next 12 holes in 2 over par. With some of his pursuers going low, Martin lost the outright lead, then gained it back with a two-putt birdie on the drivable 15th, the long eagle on 16 and a closing birdie that moved him from one back to two shots clear.

Best of the rest: Authoring another final-day rally, Kevin Streelman made five birdies in a six-hole span on the back nine to give himself a chance for his second win in the past five months. But unlike at the Travelers, where he birdied the last seven holes on his way to the win, Streelman couldn’t convert a 10-footer on the last that could have made the final half hour even more intriguing. Instead, he settled for a back-nine 31, a 63-65 weekend and a runner-up finish in the Tour’s second event of the season.

Biggest disappointment: The 2014-15 season has lacked a bit of sizzle so far. Webb Simpson, Brooks Koepka and Jimmy Walker gave it a run Sunday at the Shriners, but ultimately they could get no closer than a T-4 finish. A similar scenario played out last week, when the largely unheralded Bae won the title with Hunter Mahan and Hideki Matsuyama (both T-3) among those in pursuit.  

Shot of the day: Needing to make something happen to catch Streelman, Martin hit a long iron from 212 yards to 46 feet on 16, then sank the long eagle putt to jump back into the lead.

Quote of the day: “It was just an awesome way to finish,” Martin said. “I didn’t really feel like I had much going all day, but to finish 4 under in the last four to cap my first win was just awesome.” 

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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.