Muller Leads the Tour Championship

By Golf Channel NewsroomFebruary 22, 2001, 5:00 pm
While the biggest names in the field, Ernie Els and Mark McNulty, struggled, Grant Muller, who was on the verge of packing in professional golf just two years ago, fired a superb seven-under-par 64 over the much-vaunted Leopard Creek lay-out, bordering the Kruger National Park, to take the first round lead in The Tour Championship on Thursday.
Muller's bogey-free effort left him a shot clear of Canadian-based Scotsman Doug McGuigan and South Africans Richard Kaplan and Bradford Vaughan, the runaway winner at last week's Investec Royal Swazi Sun Open.
Darren Fichardt, who ended his round with four straight birdies, was one of a quartet on 66, which also included highly rated amateur Dean Lambert, who had six birdies and just a single dropped shot over the testing par-71 lay-out. In fact, it was a brilliant first day for the trio of amateur invitees, with both Richard Sterne and Jaco van der Merwe carding 69s.
But with 42 of the field of 75 returning scores of level par or better, Els and McNulty suffered the rare indignity of being among the first day also-rans. The 'Big Easy', who indicated he's struggled off the tee, was five over par for his round after a double-bogey six at the 10th, where he hit his drive 'way right' - 'I didn't even go and look for that one,' he said later - but an eagle three at the 13th and a rare birdie at the 15th got him back to a two-over-par 73.
McNulty also struggled early and was three over through seven holes, before making two birdies for a 72.
By contrast, 30-year-old Muller began in sensational fashion, with five birdies in a row, to cruise into an early lead. After that, he managed two further birdies, at the two par-fives on the back nine, the 13th and 18th.
Muller, who said he had developed a spasm between his shoulder blades on Wednesday evening and had got his (unnamed) room-mate to give it a rub, said the new lay-out was 'a hell of a tough course.'
'When I first looked at it, it looked to me like the toughest course I'd ever played. You can make this far tougher than Sun City,' he said. 'What made it a bit easier for me today was that I didn't miss a fairway.'
Muller, who has always worked to supplement his golf, as a teacher, an insurance salesman and in his own paint contracting business, said the current Sunshine Tour was 'the first year I've not worked and played and it has paid off.' He's still doing some teaching, but has confined that to certain hours in the day and is very much focussed on the professional game.
Not one of the longer hitters on the Tour, Muller said he preferred courses to be tougher, punishing shots that missed fairways, rather than allowing the big hitters to spray the ball off the tee 'and always have a shot.'
Noting that Leopard Creek was just such a lay-out, he said he fully expected 'to see McNulty up there by the end of the week.'
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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.