Bunker Shots No Sleeping on World Cup

By Randall MellNovember 24, 2009, 10:36 pm

Blasting to China and the World Cup in a quiet week of tour golf . . .

The Americans will be trying to win for the first time in nine years at the Omega Mission Hills World Cup in Shenzhen, China.

Two-man teams from 28 nations will tee it up in the 55th staging of the competition beginning Thursday (All four rounds air on Golf Channel Wednesday-Saturday at 10:30 p.m. ET).

Nick Watney and John Merrick will represent the United States.

This event used to be a big deal for Americans. There have been some dynamic U.S. pairings over the years. Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer teamed up to win it four times in the 1960s. Palmer and Sam Snead won it twice. Ben Hogan and Snead teamed to win it once. Nicklaus was a part of six victories, pairing up with Johnny Miller in a victory and Lee Trevino in another.

The most formidable duo might have been Fred Couples and Davis Love III, who teamed to win the World Cup four consecutive years (1992-95), the longest winning streak by a duo in the event’s history.

U.S. teams have won the World Cup 23 times, more than any other nation, but the Americans haven’t won it since 2000, when Tiger Woods paired with David Duval. Woods also won it in ’99 with Mark O’Meara.

With the nature of golf’s scheduling altered, the World Cup isn’t the priority it used to be. The fact that 11 Americans passed on the chance to play before Nick Watney accepted brings that point home. Woods, Phil Mickelson, Kenny Perry, Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk, Sean O’Hair, Anthony Kim, Lucas Glover, Zach Johnson, Stewart Cink and Ben Curtis all passed on chances. As the highest ranked American accepting, Watney got to pick his partner. The world rankings are used to set the top 18 teams in the field. China gets a team as the host. The rest of the nations played their way in through qualifying.

The format features fourballs (best ball) on Thursday and Saturday and foursomes (alternate shot) on Friday and Sunday. There’s $1.7 million as the payoff for the winners ($850,000 to each player).

Just three of the top 10 players in the world are competing with No. 7 Henrik Stenson, No. 8 Sergio Garcia and No. 10 Rory McIlroy in the field. Notably, McIlroy jumped into the top 10 for the first time with his third-place finish Sunday at the Dubai World Championship. He joins Garcia as the youngest players to have cracked the top 10. Garcia also was 20 when he first did it.

The Swedish team of Stenson and Robert Karlsson are defending champs. McIlroy is teaming with Graeme McDowell for Northern Ireland. Garcia will play with Spanish teammate Gonzalo Fernandez-Costano. England features the only tandem with both players among the top 20 in the world. No. 13 Ian Poulter and No. 20 Ross Fisher are paired.

Stance: With the PGA Tour season officially over, Q-School resuming next week for its final stage, the Race to Dubai complete and the LPGA season over, it’s the quietest week this year in tour golf. The World Cup isn’t what it used to be, a mere hors d’oeuvre on the golf plate this Thanksgiving week, but there are enough familiar names and a compelling format to keep us interested.

Takeaway: With so much attention sure to be focused on McIlroy, Watney gets another chance to distinguish himself as one of the game’s up-and-coming players, though he’ll need help from Merrick in this team format. When Watney won the Buick Invitational in February and followed up with a second-place finish to Mickelson at the WGC-CA Championship and a tie for fourth behind Woods at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Watney looked ready to step up in class before cooling off the rest of the way. He had one top 10 after March on the PGA Tour season but warmed up with a fifth-place finish at the HSBC Champions in China two weeks ago.

Bunker shot: McIlroy didn’t win the Dubai World Championship last weekend or the Race to Dubai, but he finished off an impressive year in Europe and the United States. He won the Dubai Desert Classic earlier this season, finished second in the Race to Dubai and logged top 10s at the U.S. Open and PGA Championship. When you’re sorting the list of promising young talent, McIlroy has to sit at the top by virtue of his performances in the world’s biggest events.

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.

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Wie takes shot at LPGA dress code in crop top

By Grill Room TeamDecember 10, 2017, 5:33 pm

The new LPGA dress code got mixed reviews when it was announced in July, and Michelle Wie is taking full advantage of her offseason with no restrictions.

The 28-year-old former U.S. Women's Open champion is keeping her game sharp while back in her home state of Hawaii, but couldn't help taking a shot at the rules while doing it, posting a photo to Instagram of her playing golf in a crop top with the caption, "Offseason = No dress code fine."

Offseason = No dress code fines #croptopdroptop

A post shared by Michelle Wie (@themichellewie) on

Wie isn't the first to voice her displeasure with the rules. Lexi Thompson posted a similar photo and caption to Instagram shortly after the policy was announced.