Punch Shot: Who will be 2016 Player of the Year?

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 1, 2016, 4:00 pm

Jordan Spieth ruled in 2015, but Jason Day wasn't too far behind. So who will emerge as the top dog in 2016? Our writers weigh in.

By RYAN LAVNER

Rory McIlroy.

He says there is “no reason” he can’t be world No. 1 by the time the Masters rolls around, and he’s absolutely right. With seven scheduled starts before Augusta – two more than in 2015 – it’s clear that McIlroy is determined to be in top form for the year’s first major and not coast through the opening months of the season as he has in recent years.

Jordan Spieth will be adjusting to his new normal as a global superstar. Jason Day will be adjusting to his new normal as a parent of two young kids. And Rory? Well, his personal life has quieted down, and the alpha dog should be nothing if not motivated in 2016, after a frustrating and humbling year in which he lost his No. 1 ranking, his spot atop the sport’s marquee and his chance at two majors because of an ill-timed kickabout.

McIlroy is poised to reclaim his spot atop golf’s pecking order. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.


By RANDALL MELL

This year ended with Rory McIlroy holding up a pair of trophies in Dubai.

It was a nice image with a strong message.

McIlroy might have slipped behind Jordan Spieth and Jason Day in the Official World Golf Ranking and major championship title hauls in 2015, but he’s highly motivated to catch up. Winning the DP World Tour Championship and the Race to Dubai left McIlroy with good feelings about making the best of his injury-interrupted year and taking some strong momentum into 2016.

You remember how McIlroy bounced back from his struggles in 2013, winning a pair of majors in ’14? He didn’t really struggle in ’15. There was the ankle injury in the important summer run, but he still won four times around the world. The swing and confidence are intact. With all the talent he possesses, it’s all you need to know about his prospects coming into the new year. He’s still the best all-around player in the game, and he’ll be looking to remind Spieth and Day of that fact.


By REX HOGGARD

Jordan Spieth was historic in 2015, dominant on the game’s biggest stages and otherwise unrivaled in the final PGA Tour Player of the Year voting, but in 2016 that honor will shift back to Rory McIlroy.

We’ve seen the Northern Irishman’s modus operandi before.

In 2012, McIlroy won four times on Tour, including the PGA Championship by eight strokes, and was the consensus Player of the Year; but he followed that campaign with a relatively pedestrian 2013.

McIlroy rebounded in 2014, winning three times on Tour including the Open Championship and PGA Championship to claim the Jack Nicklaus Award for the second time only to endure another lackluster season in 2015 that featured two victories but no major championships.

Although his struggles in ’15 were born from a mid-season ankle injury that forced him to miss the Open Championship and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, it has become a familiar ebb and flow to the 26-year-old’s career – periods of brilliant play framed by stretches of mortal performances.

McIlroy also seemed to learn a valuable lesson from his injury-induced hiatus in 2015. After winning the season-ending DP World Tour Championship on the European Tour, he lamented his missed opportunities in ’15 and talked of a renewed desire to continue his dominance.

If history is any guide, another “bounce-back” year is likely.


By WILL GRAY

Hey guys, remember me?

Just little old Patrick Reed, sitting here with my four PGA Tour trophies and a game that many seem to have forgotten.

It was a year ago, after all, that Reed kick-started his 2015 campaign with a playoff win at Kapalua. But the rest of the season didn’t go according to plan, and even though he made the Tour Championship it was seen as a bit of a disappointing season for Reed, as the brunt of the discussion shifted to names like Spieth, Day, and McIlroy.

But then a funny thing happened this fall. While spanning the globe and cementing his European Tour status, Reed rekindled his game. In fact, he closed out the year with six straight top-10 finishes in OWGR-sanctioned events, highlighted by runner-up finishes at the BMW Masters and the Hero World Challenge, and cracked the top 10 in the world for the first time.

No one disputes Reed’s ability to win on a big stage, or his desire to perform under the brightest of spotlights. So don’t be surprised if this year ends with Reed winning multiple events, and not only earning a spot in that elusive top-5 category – but taking home Player of the Year honors, as well.

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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.