Recovering from flu, Popov an unlikely leader

By Randall MellMarch 20, 2015, 2:14 am

PHOENIX – Even Sophia Popov didn’t expect to see herself atop the leaderboard Thursday at the weather-suspended first round of the JTBC Founders Cup.

That’s because she spent seven days in a hospital last week fighting a “Type A flu” and infection.

Popov, 22, a rookie from Germany who also has U.S. citizenship, is a most improbable first-round co-leader.

Popov is a rookie making just her second start this season after shooting an 80 and a 76 and missing the cut at the Women’s Australian Open. She was the last player to get into the Founders Cup field, getting her chance after Azahara Munoz withdrew to undergo surgery to remove a tumor on her left hand. Popov was lying in a hospital bed in Naples, Fla., last Friday when she got the news she was in for Phoenix.

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“I was lying there with an IV, stuck,” Popov said. “I more or less wanted to cut it off and leave.”

Popov said hospital staff practically forbid her to play when she first got the news on that Friday.

“I was kind of feeling better, and the doctor said, `You’re not going anywhere,’” Popov said. “Tough luck, pretty much. He’s pretty mean.”

Popov said she felt well enough by late Sunday that she was released from the hospital. She arrived in Phoenix Tuesday and played just nine practice holes. She did not play Wednesday. She’s still not feeling at full strength.

“I'm just kind of waiting for the rest of the antibiotics to kick in, but they are doing their job, I think,” Popov said. “I'm definitely feeling a lot better than I did even two days ago.”

Popov believes she contracted an infection while back in Germany, where she visited after missing the cut in Australia.

“I got sick, more or less, two weeks ago,” Popov said. “I was in the hospital probably seven days, around six nights. I didn't actually touch a golf club for almost 10 days, maybe even a little more.”

A USC graduate, Popov, 22, helped the Trojans win the NCAA Championship last year. She earned her LPGA membership tying for 11th at Q-School in December. She was born in the United States. Her mother’s American, her father’s German. She moved to Germany when she was 5 and remained there until coming back to the United States when she was 17. She won a school-record five titles while at USC.

“I consider myself German,” she said.

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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.