Coming down the stretch at the Nelson

By Jason SobelMay 19, 2012, 11:31 pm

IRVING, Texas – There’s an old story about Byron Nelson which pretty much tells everything you need to know about the man’s character.

When he would arrive at an unfamiliar track, Nelson would inquire as to the course record and who owned it. That may sound like an arrogant maneuver, but it was actually quite the opposite. Instead, he always wanted to be careful not to break the record of a club pro or local member, so that they may keep their own legacy intact.

For one of the most dominant golfers of his – or any other – era, that wasn’t an easy proposition.

Nelson’s numbers are the stuff of legend. He won 52 career PGA Tour titles – good for sixth all-time – and in 1945 he posted 18 wins, including 11 straight at one point.

Let the records show that in the third round of his eponymous tournament on Saturday, there weren’t any competitors on the verge of pulling a Byron. Which is to say, the course record wasn’t under threat of being surpassed and individual dominance was the furthest thing from anybody’s mind.

On a warm, blustery Texas afternoon, Moving Day looked more like a nine-car pileup on the interstate, with nine different players holding at least a share of the lead throughout the day. Their names read like a combination of “who’s who” and “who’s that” amongst the game’s elite: Jonas Blixt, Keegan Bradley, Jason Day, Jason Dufner, J.J. Henry, Matt Kuchar, Marc Leishman, Dicky Pride and Vijay Singh.

When the dust settled and play was concluded, it was Dufner who owned a one-stroke advantage over Day, Henry and Pride, but there remains 16 players within four shots of the lead.

It’s a role with which Dufner is feeling an increased comfort level.

The 35-year-old is becoming accustomed to playing the role of front-runner. He was 54-hole leader at last year’s PGA Championship and 36-hole co-leader at this year’s Masters before finally winning for the first time after owning the 54-hole lead at last month’s Zurich Classic.

“I feel pretty good with it,” he explained. “Last time in New Orleans was back and forth with Ernie [Els]; this week it's going to be the same thing. There are a lot of guys around the lead. I feel good with where my game is at, what I'm doing out there, getting more comfortable playing in final groups and getting more comfortable trying to win these tournaments. I think the more you do it the more comfortable you're going to be, and the more successful you are, it's going to carry over.”

Dufner may own the lead, but with nasty crosswinds expected to blow through the TPC Four Seasons venue once again on Sunday, the tournament still owns an “anybody’s ballgame” type of feel.

“It's going to be tough [Sunday],” Day said. “There are a lot of great golfers up there, and it's going to be tough to win this tournament. The guy that obviously makes the least amount of mistakes out there tomorrow is going to win. That's just how things are going to go.”

“So many want to make drama about it, but it all comes down to just keep playing golf,” Pride added. “If I wasn't here at the HP Byron Nelson Championship, I would be at the Nationwide Tour playing golf. Or at home. Just playing golf. All those cliches that no one wants to hear, but you’ve got to play. It's a heck of a challenge, but that's the idea.”

After Pride walked off the course following a third-round 67 that left him in contention for his first title in nearly 18 years, he hugged Peggy Nelson, widow of Byron, and exclaimed, “I’m still here!”

On a day when course records were far from the forefront of anyone’s thoughts and a week where nobody is producing Nelson-like domination, it’s a proclamation that many contenders can claim entering Sunday’s final round. By day’s end, though, that thought process will belong to just one.

Whether it’s a “who’s who” or a “who’s that” is an answer that for now remains blowin’ in these Texas winds.

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.

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Wie takes shot at LPGA dress code in crop top

By Grill Room TeamDecember 10, 2017, 5:33 pm

The new LPGA dress code got mixed reviews when it was announced in July, and Michelle Wie is taking full advantage of her offseason with no restrictions.

The 28-year-old former U.S. Women's Open champion is keeping her game sharp while back in her home state of Hawaii, but couldn't help taking a shot at the rules while doing it, posting a photo to Instagram of her playing golf in a crop top with the caption, "Offseason = No dress code fine."

Offseason = No dress code fines #croptopdroptop

A post shared by Michelle Wie (@themichellewie) on

Wie isn't the first to voice her displeasure with the rules. Lexi Thompson posted a similar photo and caption to Instagram shortly after the policy was announced.