Real Open Just Beginning

By John HawkinsJuly 17, 2010, 3:07 pm

There was a lot of foaming at the mouth after Rory McIlroy’s opening-round 63 at St. Andrews, which not only gave him a share of the 18-hole, major-championship scoring record, but tricked some people into thinking the 21-year-old Irishman was well on his way to claiming one of golf’s most coveted titles. I consider myself one of the biggest McIlroy admirers on Earth, but a superb start in utterly docile conditions is not how British Opens are won.

Friday’s follow-up of 80 was more of a reminder than a surprise. Having carded no worse than a 69 on 11 previous trips around the Old Course, McIlroy might find a bit of dark humor in the fact that he still hasn’t played a round in the 70s to this point in his career. At 1 under par through 36 holes, he can still win the tournament, but what McIlroy does Saturday will determine how seriously he will contend Sunday. That he went from three ahead to 11 behind means nothing now.

One could easily project a score of 6 or 8 under as being good enough to hoist the claret jug, so if McIlroy has some work to do, he obviously is capable of getting it done. Nobody ever won a British Open on a Thursday, and in recent years, not many guys have won it on a Saturday afternoon, either. Nine of the last 17 champions trailed going into the final round, several of them by formidable margins. The Masters is the major with the reputation for the final-nine fireworks, but the British has become the home of the fourth-quarter comeback:

*Tom Watson’s heartbreaking loss last summer was Stewart Cink’s gain – he wiped out a three-stroke deficit and seemingly came out of nowhere to nab his first major title.

*Both of Padraig Harrington’s victories (2007, 2008) were led by late rallies. Paddy came from six behind in ’07 and two back the following year, although it’s fair to say the ’08 triumph over Greg Norman featured a much stronger homestretch.

  • *Ben Curtis was easy to miss among a pack of big names in ’03, but he got into the clubhouse at 1 under, then watched Tiger Woods miss a series of make-able putts and Thomas Bjorn double bogey the 16th from a greenside bunker. A strange British Open, a stunning winner.
  • *The comebacks don’t get any bigger than in 1999, when Paul Lawrie roared back from a 10-stroke deficit to beat the one-and-only Jean Van de Velde (and Justin Leonard) in a playoff. Van de Velde’s 72nd-hole calamity made history. Eleven years later, Lawrie remains a mystery.

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.

*Leonard would whiff another chance two years later, but in 1997, he came from four behind to defeat Jesper Parnevik, catching the leader with a pair of lengthy putts down the stretch.

*Let’s not forget John Daly, who rallied from four strokes off the pace in 1995 on a Sunday when the winds howled through St. Andrews with only slightly less ferocity than on Friday.

Few halftime leads have seemed more precarious than the one currently held by Louis Oosthuizen, although a man can do worse than to head into the third round leading by five. Woods, meanwhile, comes off one of his grittiest performance of the year: a 73 in the brunt of the breeze, leaving him within striking distance (eight back) heading into the weekend. Lee Westwood, Paul Casey, Retief Goosen, Graeme McDowell, Martin Kaymer – there’s no such thing as too far back on a Saturday morning.

So hold the foam, please. The longer you look at this leaderboard, the more you realize this tournament hasn’t even started.

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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.