Punch Shot: Who will win the 99th PGA?

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 9, 2017, 6:14 pm

With the season's final major ready to get underway, GolfChannel.com writers, using real-time messaging system Slack, offer up their thoughts to four big questions:

Moderator: The 99th PGA Championship is this week at Quail Hollow Club. Let's get right to it: Who's your winner and why?

Rex Hoggard: Have asked a dozen players this week what the key to playing Quail Hollow will be and have gotten a dozen different answers. The only common theme is length and the ability to putt on fast, Bermuda grass greens, so I'm going with Brooks Koepka.

Ryan Lavner: Quail Hollow has produced recent winners like Derek Ernst and James Hahn, but no player is more synonymous with this track than Rory McIlroy. He is obliterating his driver and trending in the right direction. If he can shore up his wedge game – it can't get much worse – he should win. By a lot.

Will Gray: Lavner stole much of my thunder, as I'm also siding with McIlroy. The glint in his eye is undeniable, and the advantage he enjoyed off the tee in Akron should be even more significant this week on a wet track he adores. He's had this one circled for a while, and a Kiawah repeat wouldn't surprise me.

Nick Menta: Rain has made Quail Hollow soft, and more is on the way, meaning distance off the tee is going to come in handy with so little roll. Justin Thomas has already fired a 59 this year on the PGA Tour and a 63 at the U.S. Open. Give him his first major.

Moderator: Let's go a bit down the world rankings, outside the top 25: Who is your dark horse pick who could win this week?

Rex Hoggard: Always a bit of a debate over what we all consider a "dark horse," but I'll go with Branden Grace. He always plays well at the biggest events and it was just last month that he made major championship history at Royal Birkdale by becoming the first player to shoot 62 in a major.

Ryan Lavner: I’ll take Tony Finau as my sleeper, for what feels like the third consecutive major. (Someone look that up.) The winner this week will be among the driving distance leaders, and few can send it like Finau. Three top-7s in his last five starts, too, so he’s coming in hot.

Will Gray: Guy that shot 62 last month? Real bold, Hoggard. Xander Schauffele was a surprise at Erin Hills, but he shouldn't be that much of a shocker this time around. The rookie has exceeded expectations since bursting onto the scene with a T-5 finish at the U.S. Open, including a win at Greenbrier and a T-13 finish last week at Firestone. The good form will continue.

Nick Menta: And Will just stole my pick as I also like young Mr. Schauffele. As with Thomas, his prodigious length should give him a leg up. That and he’s got a Max Power kind of name.

PGA Championship: Tee times | Full coverage

Moderator: Not everyone will leave Charlotte happy. Give us one name, in particular, who will disappoint this week.

Rex Hoggard: Dustin Johnson. The world No. 1 hasn't been the same since taking a tumble at Augusta National, missing the cut at the Memorial and U.S. Open and posting a pedestrian T-54 at Royal Birkdale. On paper, DJ is an easy pick, but for the fourth consecutive major he'll be a non-story.

Ryan Lavner: It’s wildly unfair, of course, but wouldn’t anything but a victory this week feel somewhat disappointing for Jordan Spieth? I just don’t see it happening. He’s ranked 100th in strokes gained-off the tee, and 130th in driving accuracy, so unless he starts hitting the big stick on a rope he’s going to be hacking out of the thick, juicy rough all week. Perhaps that’s why he doesn’t feel stressed – he’s not expecting to win.

Will Gray: I'm not sure what exactly has derailed Jason Day's season, but I don't think he'll find the solution this week. Day has gone 1-2 in the PGA the last two years but has now dropped to seventh in the world and seemingly out of relevance when discussing the game's biggest names. The playoff loss at the Nelson didn't prove to be a spark, and 2017 is shaping up as a year to forget for the Aussie.

Nick Menta: Hideki Matsuyama has been known to get hot, but it seems like a big ask to follow a tournament-winning 61 with his first major victory. Hideki will get his – probably sooner rather than later – but his balky putter may struggle on Quail’s quick, grainy, Bermuda greens.

Moderator: And one final question: What's the story line everyone will be talking about on Monday?

Rex Hoggard: Although my head went with Koepka to win this week, my heart says it's Rory McIlroy's week to get back on the major board. The Monday story will be: Who will win the PGA Tour Player of the Year award - Spieth, Johnson, McIlroy, a TBD champion at East Lake?

Ryan Lavner: Golf is longing for a rivalry, and if the Boy Wonder wins, we’ll finally have one: Spieth vs. Rory, a pair of telegenic 20-somethings who have ambition, swagger and loads of talent. Here’s hoping, anyway.

Will Gray: Quail Hollow's questionable standing as a top-tier venue. The spotlight will return here for the Presidents Cup in four years, but reviews of the recent overhaul have been mixed at best and soggy conditions will prevent the course from playing as firm and fast as officials had hoped. I don't think players will be in a rush to see a major return to Charlotte.

Nick Menta: We’ll wind up with another first-time, 20-something major winner and we’ll continue to be in awe of the post-Tiger era. We’ll also expand golf’s top tier to the Big Ten, but we’ll have an 11 in the logo and 14 guys.

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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.