Yanks Too Preoccupied to Bother With Open
They get their fancy courtesy cars - a Mercedes one week, a Cadillac the next, a Buick at worst - and play for $5 million purses on courses that are manicured to perfection. But ask them to fly overseas, whether it's a World Golf Championship or the oldest championship in golf, and it becomes an imposition.
Stuart Appleby of Australia summed up it best a few years ago when a dozen Americans declined to take a chartered plane to Valderrama to play in a tournament that guaranteed $25,000 for last place.
'They're like a bag of prawns on a hot Sunday,' he said. 'They don't travel well.'
The outrage at Royal Troon is not just the number of no-shows - Fred Funk, of all people, topping the list - but how the Royal & Ancient Golf Club made it easier than ever for Americans to qualify for the British Open and they still turned their nose up at the benevolence.
For the first time, the R&A expanded its 36-hole qualifying from four links courses near the Open to include four courses around the world, giving tour players a chance to qualify without having to travel to Britain.
And how did they show their gratitude?
Fifty-two PGA Tour players didn't bother to show up for the U.S. qualifier at Congressional two weeks ago. Worse yet, six players didn't even call to say they weren't coming. None seemed the least bit bothered by turning down a chance to play in the British Open.
'Well, we are close to Iraq,' Colin Montgomerie said, not missing a chance to tweak the Americans.
The real jab came from Marcus Fraser, a European tour player from Australia who lost his chance to qualify in Malaysia because of a shoulder injury that kept him from traveling. He petitioned the R&A to play in the European qualifier when he was healthy, and was turned down.
So, Marcus, did you hear about the 52 Americans who got injured at Congressional?
'Sudden injury,' Fraser mused. 'Heart muscle, wasn't it?'
No, just poor etiquette, brought on by a sudden case of brain cramps.
'They made it easy for those guys, and it's a real slap in the face,' Tom Weiskopf said.
Even some players eligible for the British Open are not here.
Kirk Triplett said it was his favorite tournament to watch on TV. Fred Funk gave no reason for withdrawing, although one can only suspect that after his whining about links golf last year, he figures it will be easier to collect Ryder Cup points at the minor-league B.C. Open this week.
'This is the greatest tournament in the world,' Mark Calcavecchia said. 'If you're exempt, you should take a row boat if you have to.'
Funk said he would row a boat to South Africa for a chance to play in the Presidents Cup, but he won't take an eight-hour flight to Scotland for the British Open? Maybe it cost too much money for a former college golf coach with over $13 million in career earnings.
But whatever the reason, it is up to Funk to decide whether he wants to play for diamonds or costume jewelry.
It's up to Paul Stankowski and John Rollins whether to withdraw from an Open qualifier in their backyard.
And that's why the joke is on the R&A.
It has gotten away from its roots - the 'Open' championship of golf - by catering to the pros. It wanted a stronger field, but that is not the identity of the British Open. Whether it's Tiger Woods or Ben Curtis, Ernie Els or Paul Lawrie, the winner is introduced as the champion golfer of the world.
Those who aspire to such glory will earn their way to the British Open through exceptional golf or they will not think twice about traveling to Britain for 36 holes of qualifying.
Brad Faxon, who has a keen sense of history, came over to St. Andrews in 2000 and tried to qualify. He failed, flew home and won the B.C. Open.
It was a sad sight Saturday morning to see the parking lot at Western Gailes lined with cars, with players taking their clubs out of the trunk and heading to the tee to begin the first round of final qualifying. One had a caddie with a mohawk, presumably a distant cousin. Some used trolleys.
What remains of the 36-hole qualifying are the amateurs or tour wannabes - long shots, both. They once played alongside Faxon, Jeff Maggert and Ian Woosnam.
Now, only 15 spots were available in the four local qualifying sites. The rest went to the professional qualifying sites in England, Washington, Australia and Malaysia. And to free up more spots, the R&A reduced the exemption for U.S. Open champions like Corey Pavin and Lee Janzen from 10 years to five, so they were suddenly no longer eligible.
It was changed to get a stronger field, yet only 71 of the top 100 in the world are at Royal Troon.
The R&A is investigating the 52 no-shows at Congressional and sanctions are possible. PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said it reflects poorly, and 'some action may be warranted.'
The easy solution is to go back to the way it was, and make everyone travel to Britain if they want to play in the British Open.
Those who don't come won't be missed.
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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.