Logjam After One in Tucson
Kevin Sutherland, Tim Herron, Australian Geoff Ogilvy, Glen Day, Willie Wood and South African Tim Clark each opened in 5-under-par 67 to grab hold of the 18-hole lead.
Two courses are in rotation this week, the Omni Tucson National and The Gallery. Of the leaders, only Herron played The Gallery course on Thursday.
On the other hand, five of the six players tied for seventh place competed on The Gallery. Neal Lancaster, Germany's Bernhard Langer, Olin Browne, Harrison Frazar and Japan's Kaname Yokoo all carded 4-under-par 68s; as did 2001 U.S. Ryder Cup captain Curtis Strange, who took his 68 strokes along Tucson National, Thursday.
Ogilvy and Clark are rookies on the 2001 PGA Tour. Ogilvy earned his Tour card by finishing tied for 14th at the Qualifying Tournament, while Clark won twice on the 2000 Buy.Com Tour, finishing the season third on the money list.
'It's a whole different setup,' said Clark, who played in the 1998 Masters after winning the 1997 Public Links title. 'Playing Augusta is just a dream, and I didn't go there with any expectations. But now I'm a professional. I have to come out and play well and perform, keep my card and stuff.'
Forty-four players are within three strokes of the first-round lead, including John Daly. The former British Open and PGA champion birdied six of his first eight holes before bogeying the 9th, 11th, 16th and 17th holes to finish at 2-under-par 70.
Sutherland was the only player to reach 7-under on Thursday. Still in search of his maiden Tour triumph, the six-year Tour veteran birdied seven of his first 13 holes, but errant drives at the 14th and 18th holes cost him a couple of strokes.
'The course is in beautiful shape, but it is playing tough,' said Sutherland, who played Tucson National. 'The wind is blowing, and club selection is tough. I played very well. I hit the ball very solid.'
Ogilvy also bogeyed the 18th at Tucson National. However, earlier in his round, the 23-year-old chipped in from 15 and 25 feet, and holed a sand wedge for birdies.
'Two chips and a sand iron,' Ogilvy said. 'That's three greens with no putts.'
Amidst all the lesser-known players stand a pair of past major champions. Two-time U.S. Open winner Strange and two-time Masters winner Langer are just one stroke off the 18-hole lead.
This is the first year since 1976 that Strange is not a full-time PGA Tour member. He declined to use his top-50 on the career money list exemption, instead saving it for a year in which he will not have the worries of being Ryder Cup captain.
Langer, in turn, has said he will play more stateside events in 2001. The 43-year-old hasn't played in more than 10 PGA Tour events in a single season since 1989.
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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.