Woods plays his way into final pairing

By Ryan LavnerAugust 11, 2012, 1:19 am

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – Sand blew out of the waste areas. Claps of thunder boomed from ominous clouds in the distance. Play on the most difficult course in America twice came to a halt.

And when many of the contenders were sandblasted off the leaderboard Friday in the 94th PGA Championship, look who reappeared – once again – atop a major-championship leaderboard: Tiger Woods.

Driving the ball as well as he has all year, and continuing to pour in momentum-saving putts from virtually everywhere (save for a three-putt from 30 feet on the last), Woods was at his shotmaking-best in difficult conditions to secure a spot in the final group of a major for the second time this season.

This time, Woods is hoping the end result is a whole lot better.

“It was tough out there, wow,” he said after signing for a 1-under 71 in mild and blustery afternoon conditions, when the wind gusted to 30 mph and the round took more than 5 ½ hours to complete. “You can’t take anything for granted out there.”

Woods, ranked second in the Official World Golf Ranking, now has held at least a share of the lead at some point during each of the past three majors. At the U.S. Open, he shot 75-73 on the weekend and plummeted to T-21. At the Open Championship, he never diverted from his conservative game plan, and a few untimely miscues cost him a shot at an elusive 15th major championship.

Here on Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course, Woods has demonstrated the kind of ball-striking prowess that largely was missing over the past two years, when he overhauled his swing with coach Sean Foley. Now, Woods said, “I’m swinging it well. The thing is, all year my strength has been my driving (ranks fourth in total driving on the PGA Tour). People probably don’t think so, but the stats – that’s what they are.

“I’ve been driving the ball well all year, and I’ve been putting streaky. Finally I’ve married the two together, and it’s working out.”

Indeed, there is no better tactician in the game than Woods, and when the forecast called for high winds – it blew 20 mph all day, steadily, with gusts even stronger on the holes closest to the shore – it gave him a distinct advantage. He hit high shots, such as his booming drives off the tee. He hit low shots, such as his stinger irons and fairway woods. Hooks. Cuts. Flops. Every shot in his arsenal.  

Said Keegan Bradley, the reigning PGA champion who was paired with Woods on Friday: “It was one of the best rounds I have ever seen.”

And Woods’ putter also began cooperating, unlike during the first two rounds of last week’s event in Akron. Here in Round 1, he needed only 22 putts to get around on these sticky Paspalum greens. On Friday, he took only 11 putts on his opening nine, eventually finishing with 26 total, and remained near the top of the rankings in that category. He was one of only four players to break par on the most difficult scoring day (78.10) in tournament history.

Said Woods, with great delight, “I just grinded my way around this golf course.”

At 4-under 140, Woods is in a three-way tie for the lead with Vijay Singh and Carl Pettersson, and will play in the final pairing Saturday with the Big Fijian, 49, who is vying to become the oldest major champion in history.

Pettersson (74), the leader after Day 1, will play with Englishman Ian Poulter (71), and world No. 3 Rory McIlroy and Jamie Donaldson are two shots off the lead.

In this age of parity, 16 different players have won the past 16 major championships – as if Woods, shut out of the majors since June 2008, needed any reminder in the gloaming Friday.

“I’ve been here before,” he said, smiling. “I’ve been in this position many times in my career. Again, we’re only at the halfway point. There’s a long way to go.” 

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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.