Punch Shot: Top PGA Tour stop to attend

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 23, 2013, 3:48 pm

The PGA Tour hits New Orleans this week for the Zurich Classic. With its atmosphere, festivities and food, is it the best annual stop on Tour? GolfChannel.com writers weigh in with their top tournaments to attend.


Full disclosure: I was married in New Orleans, just across Canal Street from the iconic Hotel Monteleone, and spend two gluttonous weeks out of each calendar in the Crescent City.

Our favorite restaurant is Galatoire’s ... or maybe Tujague’s (as if you could pick your favorite child), and continue to be amazed by the resilience of my extended family in the chaotic years since Hurricane Katrina.

No, TPC Louisiana is not among the PGA Tour’s best layouts – truth is, it’s not among the best TPC's – but there is not a better event on Tour in terms of atmosphere. In New Orleans it’s called lagniappe – a little extra, a gift.

From Ruth’s Chris steak sliders on the range on Wednesday to the soulful buzz wafting through the French Quarter (no one stays in Westwego, which is where TPC Louisiana is located), the Zurich Classic is less golf tournament than it is second line.

And the potential is there to get even better. An East Lake-like project continues to gain momentum and ground has already been broken in City Park for a championship golf course that could one day host the Zurich.

Full disclosure: the Zurich Classic doesn’t get the best field or have the best course on Tour, but there is no better vibe in golf.


Give me the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

It’s the best Tour stop to attend solely by virtue of being “The most felicitous meeting of land and sea in creation.” That’s how Robert Louis Stevenson described the spectacular nature of the land that is home to the golf courses that this event is played upon.

There’s entertainment beyond golf shots with Bill Murray’s comic banter. If you’re not a Murray fan, you don’t have to follow him. You can sit yourself aside the seventh hole and listen to sea lions barking and waves crashing on the craggy shoreline. There is also 17-Mile Drive, the Del Monte Forest and Cannery Row. A trip to this event is just plain good for the soul.


One of my colleagues said it best a few years ago: If Clifford Roberts and Bobby Jones had traveled north (OK, northeast) from Atlanta instead of due east, then Quail Hollow Golf Course would exist as the modern-day version of Augusta National.

As it is, the host venue for the Wells Fargo Championship isn’t that far off.

In the 10 years since the tournament first found its way onto the PGA Tour schedule, it’s been home to superstar-filled fields and a major championship-ready course. As such, the winners list shows proven champions like Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh and Jim Furyk, plus up-and-coming youngsters like Rory McIlroy, Anthony Kim and Rickie Fowler.

Throw in an increasingly knowledgeable fan base, the usually perfect Charlotte weather and other charms of the surrounding Queen City, and the Wells Fargo Championship is a still-underrated gem.

I’m hardly a one tournament kind of guy. Ask me tomorrow and I may reply with anything from Sawgrass to Phoenix, or East Lake to Kapalua, but right this very second, I’m looking ahead to Quail Hollow – and pretty happy that I only have to wait a few more days until I’m there.


For my money, you can’t beat a Saturday afternoon at The Players.

Where to begin? A top-notch field playing for one of the game’s most prestigious titles. A golf course that each year is in pristine condition and is designed with spectator viewing en masse in mind. A state-of-the-art clubhouse and veranda that serves as a backdrop for the leaders coming down the final fairway.

Perhaps it’s my bias as an SEC alum, or perhaps it’s the fact that in mid-May my internal clock is already starting to count down the days until college football’s return and TPC Sawgrass often offers a glimpse into the atmosphere of fall. Either way, the frenzied scene surrounding the course’s signature 17th hole – with crowds packing the hill around the island green, and a dollar or two changing hands behind the hedge lining the tee box – is nearly unrivaled among the Tour’s regular stops.

There may be other courses that are more visually breathtaking, or venues that are more iconic. But I’ll take an afternoon among North Florida’s finest, watching the best in the game battle against one of the more memorable finishing stretches they encounter each year. 

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McCoy earns medalist honors at Web.com 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 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

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.