Watson's win shows personal, professional growth

By Rex HoggardNovember 9, 2014, 1:24 pm

Like most entering this week’s WGC-HSBC Champions, the unofficial start of the 2014-15 PGA Tour season for many top players, Bubba Watson began the week looking for improvement.

Improvements to a game that has made him a two-time Masters champion and a perennial fan favorite; and – perhaps more importantly – improvements to a life that has made the southpaw surprisingly inconsistent and a media enigma.

“When I make mistakes, when your friends call you out, when the media calls you out, when my wife calls me out, when my mom calls me out, when these people call you out and tell you you're doing something wrong, it's not to punish you or get on to you,” Watson figured. “It's about to help you improve later in life.”

On Sunday “Bubba from Bagdad (Fla.)” put a stamp on a victory that was filled with improvements, both personal and professional.

The golf world has become accustomed to Bubba’s high-wire act – carving impossible shots from improbable positions and always walking the tightrope between masterpiece and meltdown.


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On Sunday at the WGC-HSBC Champions, it could have gone either way for Watson. After beginning the day two shots behind front-runner Graeme McDowell, Bubba did what he does best. He birdied three straight, starting at Sheshan International’s sixth hole, to move into the lead and appeared on cruise control heading down the stretch to his first World Golf Championships bottle cap.

Cue Bubba being Bubba.

Watson bogeyed the 16th hole, double bogeyed at the 17th hole and arrived at a greenside bunker at the par-5 closing hole in two shots, needing an eagle to force a playoff with Tim Clark.

It’s not stunning that Watson holed has bunker shot to force overtime and won the playoff with a birdie at the first extra hole. We’ve seen these types of heroics before (see Masters, 2012).

What we have seen far too little of, however, is a gritty performance when things aren’t going Watson’s way. As talented as Watson is, he has shown a penchant for unraveling at crucial moments (see Travelers Championship, 2013).

On Sunday in China, Watson showed signs of improvement, through good times and bad. During a moment when the old Bubba may have lapsed into a self-destructive cycle, the new guy pressed ahead and delivered a signature victory.

On the heels of his most successful season on the Tour, the top-ranked American has shown real signs of improvement – professionally and personally.

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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.