Rose a gentle man in a gentleman's game

By John FeinsteinJune 28, 2014, 10:41 pm

BETHESDA, Md.  Justin Rose’s eyes were hidden by sunglasses as he came off the 18th green at Congressional Country Club on Saturday, but there wasn’t much doubt that they were smoldering with some anger.

He had just bogeyed the treacherous par-4 finishing hole, which took the edge off momentum-building birdies at 16 and 17 and dropped him from one shot out of the lead to  before the day was over  three shots behind Patrick Reed after 54 holes of the Quicken Loans National.

“Made a really good up-and-down at 16 (for birdie) and a good birdie at 17,” he said shortly after signing for an even-par 71. “I felt like I was competing really well. It was disappointing to finish like that at the last. It’s a little challenging when they put the tees back and forth and back and forth. From the up tee you feel like you’re hitting it down the left tree line  dangerously left  and I just bailed out a little bit.”

Even after that last bogey, Rose will go into Sunday tied for fifth on a leaderboard that has no other major championship winners among the top 10 and only one other player  Marc Leishman, who is a shot ahead of Rose  who has ever contended late on Sunday at a major.

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“I really enjoy this kind of golf course,” Rose said. “I love this kind of golf where eight or 10 under is probably going to win. If you play well the way I did (Friday) you’ll get rewarded. If you make a mistake, you’ll probably pay for it. The best thing you can do is accept the mistake and move on.”

The only time Rose didn’t do that Saturday was on the vexing 11th hole, when he missed his drive left and, instead of laying up and accepting a bogey, tried to get the ball on the green. He found a bunker, made double bogey and admitted later he’d forgotten his mantra.

Everyone knows that Rose plays well on difficult courses. He proved that  once and for all a year ago at Merion when he was the last man standing at a U.S. Open in which no one matched par for 72 holes. Winning that Open put Rose in a different category of player and a different category of celebrity. He has handled the celebrity flawlessly. The golf has been a little more difficult. He hasn’t won since Merion.

“It’s a longer spell than I’d like but I’ve had chances,” he said. “It’s not like this is the first chance I’ve had for a while. I know I’ll have a chance in the near future again, too. I know that if I’m playing well, I’ll create plenty of chances. I feel like my season is only really beginning to get going. I feel comfortable with my game for the first time so I’m not putting too much pressure on myself.”

Rose defines the phrase, ‘gentle man.’ He has dealt with triumph and disaster throughout his golf career and followed Kipling’s advice and treated the two imposters the same.

Well, almost. There was no doubting the joy his victory at Merion gave him although, unlike Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy, who were made Members of The British Empire (MBE’s) after their major championship wins, Rose still hasn’t received that honor.

“Doesn’t really bother me,” he said, smiling. “But it would certainly be a nice honor.”

For a long time Rose was known primarily as the 17-year-old who finished fourth in the British Open at Royal Birkdale in 1998 after holing out from left of the green for a birdie on the 72nd hole and then turned pro and missed his first 21 cuts. Even after he had become a very successful pro, it appeared that might be his enduring legacy. When 19-year-old Englishman Matthew Fitzpatrick was paired with Rose for the first two rounds of the U.S. Open earlier this month, he was asked what he knew of Rose’s performance at Birkdale.

“To be honest, what I know more about are the 21 missed cuts,” he said. “No offense to Justin but that’s what I remember most.”

Rose doesn’t take offense to that but he does remember it. He was more than happy when his legacy changed forever after his victory at Merion. He has also put his new-found celebrity to very good use. Several years ago, he and his wife Kate started “Blessings in a Backpack” in Orlando  where they now live  to help provide nutritious food for homeless kids. Since the Open they have started the “Kate and Justin Rose Foundation,” which has built on "Blessings in a Backpack,” and now feeds 1,600 kids every weekend.

Rose turned down a request Saturday to sit in the CBS booth after he finished playing, saying he and Kate had plans for the evening and needed to get going. No doubt that was true. But it was also pretty clear that he wanted to get what became a very difficult golf course late Saturday behind him and get ready for Sunday.

What Rose wants most right now is to be ready to play in the Open Championship in three weeks. He has never finished higher there than that fourth-place finish. And, while he knows that a strong finish on Sunday will give him a nice confidence boost when he heads to Europe next week, he would very much like to end the 12-months-plus winless spell.

In two weeks he’s planning to play the Scottish Open, something he hasn’t done in past years. “Phil (Mickelson) winning there and then winning at Muirfield last year got my attention,” he said, smiling. “I figure it’s worth giving it a try and see what happens.”

Maybe if the formula works and Rose wins in Liverpool he will get the Royal Family’s attention and finally get that MBE. He is certainly worthy of it.

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McCoy earns medalist honors at 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 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 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 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.