What We Learned: WGC-HSBC

By Damon HackNovember 4, 2012, 9:25 pm

Each week, GolfChannel.com offers thoughts on 'what we learned' from the week. This week, our writers weigh in on a 14-year-old phenom getting an invite to the Masters, Sunday comebacks for Ian Poulter and Stacy Lewis, the Tiger Woods-Rory McIlroy 'friendly' that seemed to overshadow a big-time event, and Tom Lehman's impressive finish to his Champions Tour season.

I’d already marked 2012 as one of the greatest years in golf and that was well before I rolled out of bed Sunday morning.

Bubba’s hook shot from the pine needles, Rory’s summer surge and the European comeback at Medinah had been plenty for me.

But on Sunday we all got a little more. Ryder Cup hero Ian Poulter dialed up a second straight 65 to win the WGC-HSBC Champions, officially moving into “Best Player Without A Major” territory. Stacy Lewis made up a seven-shot deficit to win the Mizuno Classic and all but locked up LPGA Rolex Player of the Year honors (she would be the first American since Beth Daniel in 1994 to do so). And a 14-year-old named Guan Tianling – winner of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in Thailand – will be chauffeured down Magnolia Lane next April. (Might Augusta National chairman Billy Payne allow him a one-time exemption to rollerblade down Magnolia Lane?)

The stories in golf continue to grow richer and more colorful. The game is becoming more global. And we’re all the better for it. – Damon Hack

The older I get, the less I feel I've accomplished. A 14-year-old qualifying for The Masters? The best I could do at that age was No. 3 singles on my high school tennis team. Enjoy it, kid. Next thing you know, you'll be 37, watching a 14-year-old win the Masters and thinking, 'I was never that good at that age.' – Mercer Baggs

Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy participated in a two-man hit-and-giggle money-grab exhibition in China this past week. Just about all of the world’s other elite players competed in a bona fide World Golf Championship in China this past week. It’s a toss-up as to which one received more worldwide attention, but the needle may be pointing slightly in favor of the four-hour Nike advertisement. Look, there’s no secret that interest in golf is dictated by superstars and it’s even less of a secret that Woods and McIlroy are the game’s two biggest superstars right now. Nothing wrong with that, just like there’s nothing wrong with them going all Rod Tidwell in their spare time. You know: “Show me the money!” But there’s something patently wrong with a meaningless round between the two drawing greater interest than a WGC leaderboard that included major champions and Ryder Cup players galore. There is a stark contrast between these two events, but those who nonchalantly shrug it off will be doomed to repeat it. Now that Rory is reportedly joining Tiger as a Nike stablemate, there will undoubtedly be more of these casual confrontations in the future. We can watch, we can enjoy the banter, we can even crave these meetings, but when they start usurping actual big-time tournaments, the game may be in some trouble. And that’s the worst news here, because they already have. – Jason Sobel

Despite a new contract extension through 2015, full FedEx Cup status beginning in 2013 and a permanent home, the WGC-HSBC Champions may have the pedigree to be Asia’s premier golf event but it hasn’t proven to be a must-play just yet. This year the HSBC was the victim of golf’s growing success in the region, losing world Nos. 1 and 2 Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods, respectively, to appearance-fee events the week before. The HSBC may have plenty of new street cred, but it remains to be seen if it will be enough to woo all of the game’s top players in the future. – Rex Hoggard

It appears that Ian Poulter may be more than just a match-play maven. The fiery Englishman claimed his second WGC title Sunday in China and over the past four months has shown that perhaps his name needs to be included when creating a short list of Europe’s elite players. Poulter was considered one of the world’s best in match play long before his dazzling performance at Medinah, but questions lingered about a perceived lack of success in stroke play – a format in which he had only two worldwide wins since 2006 entering this week. In rallying for the victory at Mission Hills, Poulter put an exclamation point on a late-season surge that began when he posted top-10 finishes at both the British Open and PGA Championship in advance of his Ryder Cup heroics. For the second straight week, he closed with a Sunday 65 in China – a round that netted him a fourth-place finish at the BMW Masters in Shanghai, and one that yielded a trophy seven days later in Shenzhen. 

While he has yet to break through for a win in a major or a stroke-play event in the U.S., Poulter now has two WGC titles to his credit and will be a name to watch in tournaments – regardless of format – as the calendar turns to 2013. – Will Gray

The LPGA's season-ending Rolex Awards program looks like it will finally be something American women can relish. With Stacy Lewis' victory Sunday in Japan, she has all but clinched the Rolex Player of the Year award. Barring a spectacular finish by South Korea's Inbee Park, an American will be honored in two weeks as the LPGA's best player for the first time in 18 years. Beth Daniel last won the honor in '94. American women will likely go into next year being spared constant reminders of the drought, thanks to Lewis. – Randall Mell

For Tom Lehman to play the kind of golf he played this weekend in winning the Charles Schwab Cup Championship and Charles Schwab Cup speaks to Lehman's still-formidable talent and his powers of concentration. With his longtime teacher Jim Flick extremely ill with pancreatic cancer, it can't have been easy for Lehman to concentrate on something as mundane as a golf tournament. But he knew Flick would have wanted him to close the deal, and that's exactly what he did. – Al Tays

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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.