Woods on Mandela: 'The world is going to miss him'

By Jason SobelDecember 6, 2013, 1:24 am

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Tiger Woods missed what he described as kick-in putts on his first and last holes in the opening round of the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge on Thursday, leaving him four shots off the lead with a 1-under 71. He was maybe not quite incensed, but certainly walked off the final green at Sherwood Country Club feeling a measure of frustration.

That feeling quickly dissipated, though, those trivialities overcome by a healthy dose of perspective.

That’s because upon finishing his round, Woods learned of the death of Nelson Mandela, whose impact on his life cannot be overstated.

“I've been influenced by him,” he said. “I got a chance to meet him with my father back in '98. He invited us to his home, and it was one of the inspiring times I've ever had in my life.”

One year after winning his first Masters title at the age of 21, a man of mixed cultural heritage triumphing on grounds that not long before would have prohibited him from competing, Woods was in South Africa to play in the Million Dollar Golf Challenge at Sun City. Mandela invited him and his father, Earl, to his home, resulting in a story Tiger has recounted publicly dozens of times since.

“My father and I went to have lunch with him,” he recalled earlier this year. “It still gives me chills to this day, thinking about it. A gentleman asked us to go into this side room over here and [said], ‘President Mandela will join you in a little bit.’ And we walked in the room and my dad and I were just kind of looking around.

“I said, ‘Dad, do you feel that?’ And he says, ‘Yeah, it feels different in this room.’

“It was just like a different energy in the room. We just looked at each other and just shrugged our shoulders and whatever. And maybe, I'm guessing probably 30 seconds later, I heard some movement behind me and it was President Mandela folding up the paper. And it was pretty amazing. The energy that he has, that he exudes, is unlike any person I've ever met.

“It was an honor to meet him at his home. And that's an experience that I will never, ever forget.”

When asked about Mandela on Thursday, Woods declined to recount this story one more time. “I'm not going to bore you with it again,” he said. But the truth is, even 15 years later, the story has never gotten boring.

For a man who so often appears robotic when answering questions, this story always gave him an opportunity to display some emotion. For one who frequently straddles the fence when addressing any political issue, it allowed a rare glimpse of passion that had always endured.

Tiger didn’t just meet Mandela. He didn’t just have lunch in his home and feel his presence in the room. No, he studied him. He understood – like so many other people – what this man meant to the world. He knew of the 27 years of imprisonment, the nonexistence of hatred, the refusal to inflict revenge upon those who had wronged him.

“I don't think any of us probably here could have survived that and come out as humble and as dignified as he did,” Woods said, echoing so many others’ sentiments. “To lead an entire nation and to basically love the world when he came out, I think that's a testament to his will and his spirit and who he was.”

Let’s not limit this story to the impact it had on the golf world solely to Woods, though.

Gary Player wore black and white pants during the 1960 Open Championship to raise awareness for his native South Africa’s struggles with apartheid. Forty years later, he wore the same pants to help celebrate its demise. After learning of Mandela’s death, he tweeted, “Nelson Mandela’s courage, forgiveness, love & hope inspired people around the world. He made me want to be a better man.”

When Louis Oosthuizen won the Open Championship in 2010 with Zack Rasego, a black man from South Africa, as his caddie, he thanked Mandela in the victory speech, ironically on his birthday. When countryman Ernie Els won the same tournament two years later, he likewise credited Mandela.

Each of these men, like Woods, has endured missteps within the game of golf. A few wayward drives, or some squirrely iron shots, or, yes, even a couple of missed putts from kick-in range. They are enough to leave any professional golfer walking off the final green with a measure of frustration.

On Thursday, those frustrations were displaced by perspective after the day’s biggest news. Suddenly none of it felt very substantial, being four shots off the lead instead of two didn’t seem too important.

Woods thought back to that day 15 years ago, when he felt Nelson Mandela’s presence in his home before meeting him, and spoke from the heart.

“It's a sad day for many people around the world,” he said. “The world is going to miss him.”

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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.