Players Trying to Break From Their Shells in Houston

By Mercer BaggsApril 18, 2001, 4:00 pm
Is there a window of winning opportunity? And if so, is that window closing in 2001 for some of the games best.
Aside from world No. 1 Tiger Woods, there are six full-time PGA Tour members ranked in the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Those six players ' Phil Mickelson (No. 2), Ernie Els (3), Vijay Singh (6), David Duval (7), Davis Love III (8) and Hal Sutton (10) ' have combined for all of two tour victories this season.
Love won the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, shooting 64 in the final round to earn a come-from-behind victory. And Mickelson defended his title at the Buick Invitational, doing so in a bizarre playoff.
Its not to say that the aforementioned have played poorly in 2001. In fact, its just the opposite.
The six players have combined for 19 top-five finishes.
Still, while Steve Stricker, Garrett Willis, Joe Durant, Scott McCarron and Jose Coceres have all found the winners circle this year; Els, Singh, Duval and Sutton have not.
All have had excellent chances to cash at least one first-place check.
Els finished in the top-4 in each of his first three starts this season.
After winning at Pebble, Love lost to Mickelson in the Buick playoff. In his next start, the Nissan Open, Love led by three shots entering the final round, only to shoot a Sunday 75 and finish in a tie for 8th.
The week before winning the Buick, Mickelson double bogeyed the 72nd hole at Pebble to finish in a tie for third. He then finished a shot back of Woods at the Bay Hill Invitational.
At the BellSouth Classic, the left-hander was within two shots of the 54-hole lead, but fired a final-round 75 to tie for third.
And at the Masters Tournament, Mickelson was on pace to win his first major for the better part of Sunday. But too many loose shots resulted in another third-place finish.
Duval and Sutton have both been hampered by injuries this year. Suttons bad back kept him out of contention early in the season. Hes since found his form, earning a pair of top-5s over his last four starts.
In the Genuity Classic at Doral, Sutton was just one shot off the 54-hole lead, but shot 72 in the final round to tie for third.
Duval missed over a months worth of action due to tendonitis in his right wrist. When he emerged at Augusta, Duval found himself in great shape to garner his first major title, but an errant 7-iron plus a missed five-footer equaled a runner-up finish.
Then theres Singh.
Despite finishing fourth or better in six of his ten starts this year, the Fijian has yet to record a win.
Three times ' the Mercedes Championships, Pebble Beach and The Players Championship ' Singh was within two strokes of the lead entering the final round. On each occasion, he failed to due what was necessary to win.
Last week, at the WorldCom Classic, Singh led by two shots after 54 holes. Yet he shot 74 on Sunday to tie for third.
Once again, opportunity arises for Singh, Sutton and Duval. The three men are the only players ranked inside the top 10 scheduled to compete in this weeks Shell Houston Open at the TPC at The Woodlands.
Duval won this event in 1998; Sutton is a two-time runner-up (1994, 99). Singh has three top-10 finishes in five career starts.
With their track records at The Woodlands ' combined with their consistent play this season ' it shouldnt come as a surprise if any, or all three, contend for the title this week.
Whether or not one of them can break through and win is a question which will take a full 72 holes to answer.
Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.