Nothing Better Than the Present
Extremely likeable as a person, and so polished as a professional who knows how to handle the good with the bad, there could not have been a better ending to the 85th edition of the Samsung Canadian PGA Championship. Dating back to 1912, this championship has a history that really only a man who's represented his country for the better part of 20 years as a golfer can appreciate. You didn't have to tell Zokol that Arnold Palmer, Raymond Floyd and Lee Trevino had joined the likes of Canadian legend Moe Norman and fellow PGA Tour veteran Dave Barr as names engraved on the P.D. Ross trophy. He knew all about it.
Richard Zokol talks about winning the Canadian PGA
In fact, what made Zokol's week all the more special was his promotion of the event itself. You see, the Canadian PGA Championship was in need of some new flavor. It was not receiving the support it once had, and the purse was certainly in need of a bump. This year, it got both as the PGA Tour joined forces with the Canadian PGA to bring the
Buy.Com Tour north of the border for the first time in its 12 year history. With the change came a field strong in Buy.Com talent but weak in Canadian numbers. Just 23 Canadians played in the championship, which certainly hurt some feelings. But not Zokol. A man with a great sense of the past and a vision for the future talked openly about how the event was given 'new life' and a chance to really grow and gain more exposure through television coverage on The Golf Channel.
And from the first tee on Thursday, Zokol let his game do some talking as well. Easily the most recognizable Canadian name in the field, the winner of the Greater Milwaukee Open in 1992 fired a first round 67. He then followed it with rounds of 68, 70 and a remarkable 66 to capture the championship he so dearly wanted by three shots.
From my vantage point in the booth with Curt Byrum, this was the best storybook finish in the Buy.Com Tour's history. A win for Zokol himself, who hadn't won since that Milwaukee triumph in 92' but was able to hold off all comers while not letting the frenzy of support frazzle his game, a win for his country which so desperately wanted one of its own to hold the trophy, and a win for the Championship itself, which was under a critical eye from local columnists all week because of its new joint venture with the PGA Tour, that as they saw it, had taken away it's Canadian charm and replaced it with unknown Americans and a tour that wasn't its own. (Completely wrong as I saw it).
Nothis Championship is on an upward path because of the new merger, and also because of the way it played out on Sunday. Richard Zokol, who works so hard to stay in the present on the golf course not letting himself drift into the 'what might be's' or the consequences of 'what just was', gave this Championship a present that it won't soon forget - one of its very own as Champion in every sense of the word. And my sense is that it might be quite some time before a man of such class and stature wins THE tournament he wants more than any other he can think of.
Congratulations Richard Zokol, and go get 'em at Southern Hills!
McCoy earns medalist honors at Web.com Q-School
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
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.
Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4
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
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."
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.