Minjee Lee (65) thrives in difficult conditions at Skirts

By Randall MellApril 22, 2016, 10:17 pm

DALY CITY, Calif. – Cold slaps in the face didn’t slow Minjee Lee’s steady march up the leaderboard Friday at the Swinging Skirts Classic.

That’s what it felt like playing through spells of the second round, with bone-chilling winds blowing rain sideways across Lake Merced Golf Club. Gray, somber skies rolled low across the Bay area all morning, sweeping away smiles and uncertain shots.

Lee, though, kept riding all the momentum she built coming here.

Her round of 7-under-par 65 was four shots better than anyone else in the morning wave. Just eight players broke par in the morning while six players shot in the 80s. She was a shot off the lead with the afternoon wave just getting started and weather beginning to improve.

“It’s just momentum,” Lee said. “It’s just timing. I came off a really great win last week, so I should have a lot of confidence and momentum coming into this week.”

Lee, 19, is seeking back-to-back victories. She won the Lotte Championship in heavy winds last week in Hawaii. She closed out there impressively with a 64 for her second LPGA title, but she says she has never really considered herself somebody who thrives in bad weather.

“It depends on how you're feeling and how you're hitting it on that day,” Lee said. “I don't think you can say, ‘Oh, I'm so good in bad weather.’ You just take it as it comes and try your best, I guess.”

There were challenges staying warm and dry Friday.

Full-field scores from the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic

“It was on and off rain,” Lee said. “I was putting my rain jacket on and off and on and off.”

Lee is looking to make it four consecutive victories for teenagers playing the LPGA. Before Lee’s victory in Hawaii, 18-year-old Lydia Ko won back-to-back events.

There would have been great vibes coming here for Lee even without last week’s victory. She won the 2012 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship at Lake Merced, topping a talented field that included Ko, Brooke Henderson, Ariya Jutanugarn and Alison Lee.

“It was like my first time in America, after all my junior years in Australia,” Minjee said. “I was really excited because I was here.”

Minjee beat Alison Lee in the finals.

“I have really great memories here,” Lee said. “I really love the golf course, and I think it's always in great condition.”

Lee’s scorecard Friday didn’t include a dropped shot on a day when scorecards were littered with bogeys. The winds were up and rain was falling almost from day’s start for the morning wave, and Lee still hit 12 of 14 fairways and all but two greens in regulation.

“I just took advantage of the opportunities I had,” Lee said. “I had a couple of wedges into some of the par 4s on the back nine, which was my front nine, and I had like three birdie chances that were, I don't know, 5 or 6 feet because I hit wedges in.

“I just stayed patient. If I made a mistake, I tried to make up-and-downs. I just chipped and putted well today.”

Lee was part of last year’s dynamic LPGA rookie class, probably the strongest and deepest in the history of the tour. She was the world No. 1 amateur when she turned pro in September 2014 and three months later shared medalist honors at LPGA Q-School. She didn’t wait long to break through for her first LPGA title. She won the Kingsmill Championship four months into her rookie season. A month after Kingsmill, Lee moved past Hall of Famer Karrie Webb as the highest ranked Australian in the world. Lee is No. 12 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings this week and looking to crack the top 10.

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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.