Fichardt Takes Lead at Tour Championship

By Golf Channel NewsroomFebruary 24, 2001, 5:00 pm
Darren Fichardt had just 25 putts in a round of 4-under-par 67, giving him a one-shot lead after the third round of the inaugural Tour Championship at Leopard Creek on Saturday.
Fichardt's round gave him a 54-hole total of 11-under-par 202, a shot clear of first round leader Grant Mulle. Muller matched his 67 and finished one ahead of the winner of the Vodacom Players Championship, Trevor Immelman, who made three birdies in his last six holes en route to a 69.
On a widely spread leader board, Englishman Mark Hilton was three off the pace after a 68 and Steve van Vuuren, who hails from nearby Nelspruit, was four behind Fichardt after his third straight round under 70, a 69.
Fichardt, who said he had been making some swing changes with a coach in Spain, got off to a slow start, his putter coming to his rescue on three of the first four holes after he'd missed the green. 'My putter got me through the first few holes,' he said.
On the fifth and sixth, he added to his birdie four at the second, jumping out to 10-under-par and a three-shot lead. Overnight leader Keith Horne faded on Saturday with a 76, and Richard Kaplan, one off the halfway pace, both started with bogeys, Horne adding a second at the par-4 3rd.
Muller had picked up a shot at the third and another birdie at the ninth, where he overcame one of a number of tricky pin positions, got him to within two shots, but Fichardt immediately extended his advantage to three again at the 10th, despite his drive finishing in a fairway bunker.
The 25-year-old from Pretoria unlike many of his fellow pros, drained a birdie from 5m after going in with a 7-iron.
His first major problem of the round came shortly afterwards, when his tee shot on the par-5 13th 'caught a rock or something and went straight left into the long grass'. Forced to declare it unplayable and take a penalty drop, Fichardt hit a 5-wood just short of the green, but for once couldn't get up and down for par.
Typically of his fighting round, though, the man who topped last year's order of merit after finishing second in the SA Open, struck back with a birdie, hitting a wedge close at the 14th.
The course bit back at the long par-4 15th. His drive finished in a bunker running alongside a lake which guards the green. 'I had 200m to the flag, but the pin was 20m on, so it was 180m to the front. I took a 3-iron, but I hit it a little fat and it went in the water.'
That resulted in a double-bogey six, but Fichardt, who lost his sister in a tragic accident just over a month ago, showed incredible character to bounce back again at the 16th, holing a putt of some 50 feet for birdie. 'That was huge,' was all he could say about the viciously swinging putt.
At the par-5 18th, a 6-iron approach gave him a putt for eagle, but he 'left it in the mouth' and settled for a birdie to lead on his own.
Muller should have been alongside on Fichardt on 202, but for his mistake in giving himself a four on the sixth hole, when he had taken a three, in Friday's second round. Muller, who said he had gone through his card three times without picking up the error, was asked how important that shot might be. 'I'll tell you after tomorrow's round. Please God, it doesn't cost me,' he replied, adding: 'The only way I can ify that shot is to win the tournament. If I finish second or third by a shot, I'll know how much it cost me.'
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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.