Europeans Dominating at Ladies Masters
Spain's Paula Marti and England's Samantha Head retained their early clubhouse lead to stay atop the leaderboard with Nicola Moult (ENG) and Elizabeth Esterl (GER) at 70 (2-under), with Marina Arruti (ESP), Lynne Brooky (NZ), Cecilie Lundgreen (NOR) and Alison Munt (AUS) at 71(1-under), the only other players out of 120 to card under-par rounds.
Marti was the first to finish at 2-under-par, 70, although bogeys on the par-4 3rd and 5th holes hampered her chances of coming in lower. At 1-under-par after 17 holes, the waif-like Spaniard hit a great approach with a wedge, leaving herself with an easy 3-foot putt for birdie back in the lead.
The 21-year old from Barcelona, a good friend of Spanish sensation Sergio Garcia, whom she partnered in the National Amateur Team Championships two years ago, recently turned professional on the Ladies European Tour.
In her first three outings, the rookie has made two cuts, finishing 11th in Australia and 20th in Taiwan. With the rest of the field struggling, Marti was obviously delighted with her round, which included an eagle on the par-5 16th.
'It's very tough if you miss the fairways, and the long rough also makes it very difficult to get up and down if you miss the greens,' commented Marti. 'I missed a few short putts for par and one for birdie but overall I'm pleased with 70, especially as I started with a bogey.'
Head found her pace after struggling in the Pro-Am round yesterday, where she shot 7-over. 'I had to be very patient out there today. I found the course tough to play during the practice rounds, but today the patient paid off and I posted my best round this season,' remarked the lanky blonde.
Head's boyfriend, European Tour pro Ignacio Garrido, is carrying her bag this week, lending his expertise to the 28-year-old, who clinched her maiden pro victory when she beat Trish Johnson in the 1999 Italian Open.
On a day that promised much, but was littered with dropped shots, Spain's Marina Arruti recorded a career first hole-in-one, when she holed the 184 yard par-3 4th hole using a 5-iron.
The South African ladies found the going a bit tough and posted scores well over par. Two-time winner this season on the LPGT, Anneri Wessels, posted a round of 3-over-par, while last week's winner of the Cape Times SA Women's Open, Vanessa Smith, finished at 13-over-par. 'I lost my game near the first and never found it again', joked a disappointed Smith of her unspectacular round.
The second round tees of tomorrow at 7:30am, and a cut to the top-60 and ties will follow immediately after play.
McCoy earns medalist honors at Web.com Q-School
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
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.
Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4
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
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."
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.