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Stanley (64) takes early lead at Tour Championship

By Will GraySeptember 21, 2017, 9:40 pm

The final event of the season is off and running, but there's a surprising name at the top of the leaderboard. Here's how things look after the first round of the Tour Championship, where Kyle Stanley holds a two-shot lead:

Leaderboard: Kyle Stanley (-6), Webb Simpson (-4), Daniel Berger (-4), Brooks Koepka (-4), Paul Casey (-4), Jordan Spieth (-3), Jon Rahm (-3), Justin Thomas (-3)

What it means: Spieth started the week as the top seed, and the top five players in the season-long points race will win the FedExCup with a tournament victory. But the top spot after Round 1 belongs to Stanley, whose win at the Quicken Loans National in June was his first since 2012 and who started the week at No. 22, making him a relative longshot to lift the season-long trophy.

Round of the day: Stanley has had a quietly consistent season, with five top-10 finishes and only six missed cuts. He is now in contention for the biggest win of his career after opening with a 6-under 64 at East Lake, a round that included seven birdies against just one bogey. Stanley raced to the top of the leaderboard with four straight birdies on Nos. 3-6 and added three more in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16.

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Current FedExCup Playoff points standings

Best of the rest: Koepka showed at Erin Hills that he can handle a long course with plenty of teeth, and he leaned on his advantage off the tee Thursday while carding a 4-under 66. Koepka closed his round with four straight drives over 330 yards in length and made it around East Lake without dropping a shot after getting off to a quick start with three front-nine birdies.

Biggest disappointment: It wasn't that long ago that Hideki Matsuyama was routing elite fields, but the Japanese phenom continues to struggle in the postseason. Matsuyama finished T-47 among a 70-man field last week and opened Thursday with a 5-over 75 that left him ahead of only one player. He made three double bogeys, including two during a front-nine 41 that didn't include a single birdie.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Stanley currently holds the top spot, but there's no reason to move the spotlight off of Spieth. It was an adventurous round for the No. 1seed, filled with plenty of errant tee shots, but a 67 still left him in fine position with three rounds to go. Spieth often talks about trying to peak for this event, and if he improves on his opening-round ball-striking there's every reason to believe he'll challenge for both trophies come Sunday.

Shot of the day: Berger made a late move up the standings with a closing eagle after carving his approach from 234 yards on the par-5 18th hole to within 14 feet and making the subsequent putt.

Quote of the day: "I feel like the key to this course is if you can get it in play off the tee, you can score." - Stanley, whose 64 came in his first competitive round at East Lake.

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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.