After Further Review: The real way to grow the game

By Jason Sobel, Rex Hoggard, Ryan LavnerApril 6, 2014, 9:24 pm

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. In this edition of After Further Review, our writers weigh in on the inaugural Drive, Chip and Putt Championship at Augusta, and Matt Jones's dramatic win at the Shell Houston Open.

This week we heard a lot about “growing the game.” After all, that’s what Golf Digest editors claimed to be doing when they put a scantily clad Paulina Gretzky on the cover of its fitness issue.

“She might get some new people interested in the game,” they said of the Internet starlet.

That statement grows only more absurd, and never were we reminded of that more than when 88 juniors competed Sunday morning at Augusta National in the inaugural Drive, Chip and Putt Championship.

Now this is how you grow the game.

Kids ages 7-15, on live television, competing for a national title … at Augusta National. This is like having the Little League World Series at Fenway, the Youth Basketball of America Championship at the Garden, the Pop Warner Championship at Lambeau.

This initiative will prove to be not only the most significant grow-the-game program in the short term, but they’re breeding the next generation of lifelong golfers.

Sorry, but Paulina isn’t doing that. Not even close. – Ryan Lavner

Of all the “grow the game” initiatives that have been introduced in recent years the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship may end up having the most lasting impact.

In its inaugural year, the event drew more than 15,000 juniors to local qualifiers across the United States, and Sunday’s final at Augusta National seems likely to make that number spike next year, when officials plan to expand to 256 local qualifying sites that will be able to accommodate more than 50,000 participants.

“I’m going to measure their success not by what they do in golf, but by how many kids they bring to golf,” Augusta National chairman Billy Payne said. – Rex Hoggard

Sunday was a day for making dreams come true. Just a few hours after 88 kids, ranging from adorable to adorably awkward, competed in the inaugural Drive, Chip and Putt Championship at Augusta National Golf Club, Matt Jones chipped in for his first career win and the last spot in the Masters field.

And, hey, that might lead to a dream come true for Matt Kuchar, too. He joined Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott as elite players to get overtaken late in a final round recently, but winners of the pre-Masters tourney traditionally don’t have much success at Augusta, anyway.

Jones will take his chances, of course. Directly after his maiden victory, he admitted he’ll have to buy a lot of badges for friends and family. Sounds like more dreams coming true on Sunday. – Jason Sobel

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.