Molinari takes early lead at Wells Fargo

By Will GrayMay 4, 2017, 10:58 pm

It's a new venue this week for the Wells Fargo Championship, but players still managed to find plenty of birdies in the opening round. Here's how things stand after the first day in Wilmington, where a former Ryder Cupper holds a slim advantage:

Leaderboard: Francesco Molinari (-6), Grayson Murray (-5), Brian Campbell (-5), Alex Noren (-5), J.B. Holmes (-5), Seamus Power (-4)

What it means: Molinari set the early pace, but he was briefly caught by Campbell and then passed by Murray. When the two Americans dropped shots down the stretch, it left Molinari atop the leaderboard as he looks for his first official PGA Tour win. Among those one shot off the pace are Campbell, who earned the Tour's first slow-play penalty in 22 years last week, and Holmes, who won this event at Quail Hollow in 2014.

Round of the day: Molinari has been a consistent presence on worldwide leaderboards since his win at the Italian Open in the fall, and that trend continued with an opening-round 66. Molinari made just two bogeys while rolling in eight birdies, including five in a seven-hole stretch from Nos. 3-9 to distance himself from the rest of the early wave.

Best of the rest: Murray has received more attention for his Twitter presence than his on-course game in recent weeks, having endured a run of five straight missed cuts. But he finished T-14 last week at the Zurich and then poured in nine birdies en route to an opening 67. Murray birdied three of his first four holes and was the only player to reach 7 under before closing with bogeys on his final two holes.

Biggest disappointment: Carl Pettersson was one of few players with some experience at Eagle Point, but it didn't help him during the opening round. Pettersson is a member at this week's venue and currently holds the course record with a 62, but he was 17 shots higher Thursday during a 7-ovver 79 that included no birdies and left him ahead of only two players in the 156-man field.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Molinari's consistent ball-striking makes him a clear player to watch, but he'll also receive plenty of heat from the chase pack. Among those to watch are Jon Rahm, who opened with a 3-under 69, and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who showed no signs of injury while signing for a 2-under 70 in his first round since March.

Shot of the day: Molinari was left of the 18th green with his approach, but he managed to hole the subsequent 25-foot chip shot for a closing birdie, his eighth of the day.

Quote of the day: "As far as physically, no issues. That's a good thing. I just need to get some rounds in." - Johnson

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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.