Transitions Championship faces uncertain future

By John HawkinsMarch 17, 2012, 1:05 am

PALM HARBOR, Fla. – If the PGA Tour’s Florida Swing appears to be in robust health, the Transitions Championship has accounted for a significant portion of that positive vibe. The Copperhead Course at Innisbrook continues to strengthen its reputation as a superb test for Tour pros, and though Tiger and Phil never fail to leave the event off their schedules, the fields here are deep – full of top-tier players and recognizable names.

Tampa-St. Petersburg is certainly a golf-friendly market, producing decent-sized galleries and an atmosphere that is very conducive to an enjoyable experience. A lot of factors contribute to the success of any Tour stop, however, one of the biggest being the title sponsor, and Transitions has decided not to continue hosting the event after this year.

In other words, this tournament has issues. Another corporation could step in and succeed Transitions without skipping a beat, but after talking to several knowledgeable players this week, one gets the sense Innisbrook will become part of the Fall Series in 2013, forfeiting its prime spot on the calendar to the Puerto Rico Open or McGladrey Classic.

As one veteran told me Thursday, “When Hilton Head lost its sponsor, it was a case of the Tour having to find a new one or the tournament would die. That doesn’t seem like the case here.” Perhaps not, but moving this tournament to October would amount to a serious demotion. For all the happy talk about the great golf on the Fall Series – the dramatic finishes, Tiger comes to San Jose, the top-125 puzzle, insert your own storyline here – it’s not three weeks before the Masters with a major network televising on the weekend and half of the World Ranking’s top 10 in attendance.

It’s a big step down. The Tour has its business interests to look after and a responsibility to its entire membership, and though one could look at a mounting pile of autumn tournaments and rationalize that it serves both of those purposes, there comes a point when you arrive in the Land of Diminishing Returns.

They’re not “unofficial events,” yet they’re not part of the regular season and don’t award FedEx Cup points. If the top 125 on the money list is still of dire importance, why was it replaced by a points system five years ago – so we can squeeze in another commercial mention of the Tour’s favorite overnight courier? Moreover, the Fall Series has been a constant shuffle. Tournaments come and go. There have been as many as seven (2007) and as few as four (2010).

To some, golf is a very hard game to play and an even harder game to follow, nor will it be getting any easier. A couple of in-the-know pros believe a dramatic schedule alteration will be approved at next week’s players meeting – the 2014 season would actually begin in October 2013 at the Open in northern California, run through Asia, then pick up after the holidays in Hawaii, where the regular season begins now.

Looking at it from a localized angle, there's something cockeyed about a community losing its golf tournament because some company decided to take its shingle and go home. Maybe the fall-first format would salvage Innisbrook to a certain point, but pro golf shouldn't be so reliant on other people's marketing budgets. It's a really good event now – one that shouldn't have its fate played out in a board room.

The more things change, the more we can rely on the things that stay the same. And the harder the Tour tries to define progress according to how big, how many and how much, the less likely some are to continue paying attention. You might even surmise that one man’s solution is another man’s dilution.

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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.