Pavins Sixth Sense

By John HawkinsSeptember 7, 2010, 10:26 pm
Rickie Fowler? Talk about hunches and gut feelings. By adding a winless, 21-year-old PGA Tour rookie to the U.S. Ryder Cup team – a kid who finished 20th in the standings, no less – Corey Pavin made the gutsiest captain’s pick since Lanny Wadkins chose Curtis Strange back in 1995.

That one didn’t go so well, and in the 15 years since, seven U.S. skippers have ducked bold selections the way Lady Gaga avoids conventionality. In 2010, however, Pavin really didn’t have many suitable alternatives. Of the 11 guys between America’s eighth qualifier (Matt Kuchar) and Fowler, only Zach Johnson (11th) and Tiger Woods (12th) looked like sure things. The rest either had no experience or played their way out of serious consideration. For instance, Anthony Kim, who looked like a lock after winning in Houston this spring, made a hasty return from thumb surgery that proved futile – four consecutive missed cuts after a bottom-of-the-pack finish at the no-cut WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

Bo Van Pelt, Ricky Barnes, Nick Watney and Sean O’Hair all are without a victory in 2010. So is Fowler, for that matter, but Pavin clearly has a sense that Little Rickie has the competitive moxie and enough game to help the U.S. team, even if it means wearing red, white and blue instead of popsicle orange. Fowler’s case isn’t without some glaring holes, however. The kid was squarely in the hunt at the Memorial before knocking his tee shot in the water at the par-3 12th, leading to a double-bogey and a solo second, three behind Justin Rose (Van Pelt and Barnes finished T-3).

It was the last of five top-10 finishes Fowler has collected in 24 starts this year. He hasn’t vanished in the three months since, but he hasn’t contended, either. To say Captain Corey is going out on a limb with the selection isn’t, uh, going out on a limb. Having watched the Tuesday news conference, my sense is that Pavin chose Fowler against the wishes of his advisers, which I’m perfectly OK with. Independent thinkers will always be criticized, but let’s not penalize the man until we’re operating with the luxury of 20/20 hindsight, otherwise known as a moot point.

John Hawkins appears on Golf Central every Tuesday at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET and on the Grey Goose 19th Hole every Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET.

The addition of Fowler might have induced Pavin to get conservative with his three other picks: Tiger Woods, Zach Johnson and Stewart Cink. Tiger was the proverbial no-brainer, even if his game hadn’t started moving in the right direction. Johnson hasn’t missed a cut since the Valero Texas Open in May – he won at Colonial the following week and finished T-3 at the PGA. Cink? This is where things start to get a bit fuzzier. The 2009 British Open champion has just one top 10 at a full-field, stroke-play event all season (T-8 at Memorial).

What Cink does bring to the team is a large collection of battle scars and the type of easy personality that can serve as an asset in the team room. He has played in four consecutive Ryder Cups, but his 4-7-4 career record vs. the Europeans doesn’t exactly provide overwhelming evidence in terms of substantiating his addition. Again, Cink made the team because so many around him in the standings failed to win, or even command any leaderboard presence at big tournaments throughout the summer.

In final analysis, nobody could examine the large collection of options that went into composing this U.S. team and make everyone happy. Pavin’s roster is as strong, if not stronger, than yours or mine, but not as strong as that of the opposition, which will make winning in Wales a difficult task.
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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.