Sabbatini Sabotages Mercedes Field

By Mercer BaggsJanuary 13, 2001, 5:00 pm
For the second straight round a South African leads the Mercedes Championships. But it's not you one you might think.
Under calm conditions, Rory Sabbatini fired a flawless 8-under-par 65 to turn a four-shot overnight deficit into a two-stroke advantage entering the final round at the par-73 Plantation Course in Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii.
At 16-under, Sabbatini has supplanted his countryman, Ernie Els, at the top of the leaderboard. In fact, Els has fallen from four-up to four-down following an even-par 73 in the third round. The two-time U.S. Open champion slipped from outright first into a share of third place with Jim Furyk(69) at 12-under-par, two shots back of Vijay Singh.
The reigning Masters champion birdied each of his final four holes in the third round to climb to 14-under for the tournament, thus earning a spot in Sunday's final pairing.
Four players are five off the pace at 11-under, including Paul Azinger (68), who was within two strokes of the lead before topping his second shot at the par-5 15th and taking double bogey.
Saturday, Sabbatini recorded six birdies over his first 15 holes, yet it was still Els who was in control of the tournament. The elder South African birdied his final four holes on the front nine to maintain his four-stroke advantage over the field.
Then everything fell apart.
Els played the two par-5s on the back nine in 3-over-par, twice having to take penalty drops because of errant tee shots. He added another bogey at the 12th hole for an inward half of 41.
Els led throughout the day, until he bogeyed the par-5 15th to fall into a tie for first with Sabbatini. Then, before he could even make his way to the 16th tee, Els found himself trailing by two.

Less than a minute removed from Els' bogey at the 15th, Sabbatini holed a wedge approach shot at the par-4 16th. The result was a three-shot swing and a two-stroke lead for the younger statesman.
'I wasn't trying to hole it,' Sabbatini later said. 'I just wanted to get it up there and give myself a chance.'
That moved Sabbatini to 16-under, where he finished the day after tapping in for par on the home hole, a hole that Els would eventually double-bogey.
Said Els after his round: 'I had a four-shot lead coming in here and now I'm four shots behind. It seemed to happen in just seconds. But, yeah, I can turn it around tomorrow.'
This is Sabbatini's first visit to Kapalua; and he seems to be handling the grainy greens quite well. The 24-year-old qualified for the event by winning last year's Air Canada Championship. Another day like today and he can add a second Tour trophy to his mantle.
'It was one of those days where everything seems to go your way,' Sabbatini said. 'I'm just going to go into tomorrow, have some fun and, I guess, God will determine the outcome.'
As for Tiger Woods, the defending champion is eight shots off the lead at 8-under-par. Paired with David Duval, Woods shot a 6-birdie, one-bogey 68 on Saturday, three strokes higher than that recorded by Duval.
The 1999 Mercedes champion posted eight birdies to nary a bogey to tie Sabbatini for the tournament's low score, an 8-under-par 65. Duval stands at 10-under for the tournament, six off the lead.
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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.