Hot Seat: Feel the heat

By Randall MellJanuary 3, 2012, 4:30 pm

Welcome to golf’s Hot Seat.

Once a week, the aim is to gauge who is feeling the most heat to perform going into a tournament or major championship.

This week, though, the look ahead spans the entire season.

Here’s our Hot Seat index:

Smoldering pants: Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods, at his best, made the guys teeing it up with him feel like somebody rubbed Deep Heat in their jockeys.

He was a human thermostat able to turn up the heat on foes like nobody since Jack Nicklaus.

A final-round Sunday pairing with Woods was once only slightly less daunting than sitting through an IRS audit.

His 36th birthday in his rear-view mirror, Woods faces the audit now with so many young stars looking to measure themselves against him in late Sunday duels, young stars who built their confidence while Woods did them a big favor getting out of their way.

With five more major championship titles to be won to top Nicklaus’ record, the heat is on Woods to show he can build on his Chevron World Challenge title last month. Fourteen major championships have passed since Woods won his last major at the U.S. Open in 2008, though he’s only played in 10 of them. Still, 14 majors have never passed in the Woods era without a Woods title. The longest previous dry spell was 10.

Time isn’t on Woods' side anymore. Though his knee is feeling better, we don’t know how it will hold up in his bid to pass Nicklaus. That ratchets up the temperature in trying to get there sooner rather than later.

Phil Mickelson

A summer at the Equator: Phil Mickelson

Yeah, sure, he’ll be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in May, but Mickelson would love to make the folks in St. Augustine expand his exhibit in the future.

Mickelson wants to win the career grand slam before he retires, but, at 41, there’s the possibility he’s old for his age with psoriatic arthritis an issue. Mickelson needs to win the U.S. Open and British Open to claim all four of golf’s majors and become just the sixth player since the Masters began to win the career slam.

The U.S. Open is at the Olympic Club outside San Francisco this year. Mickelson tied for 10th the last time the U.S. Open was played there in '98. The British Open is at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. Mickelson tied for 40th there in '96 and tied for 30th there in '01.

Luke Donald

Death Valley discomfort: Luke Donald

Donald may be No. 1 in the world rankings, but he’s also the best player in the world who hasn’t won a major.

There’s an invisible asterisk with any major-less No. 1.

Can you lay claim to being the best in the world when you have been shut out in the four most important events in the game? The question turns up the temperature on Donald in this year’s majors. He’s 0 for 34 trying to win one.

Lee Westwood

Sahara heat: Lee Westwood

The former No. 1 wants that title back, and he would love to take it back winning his first major. At 38, Westwood’s still got time, but the clock’s ticking faster. He’s 0 for 55 in majors.

Davis Love III

Jalapeno spicy: Davis Love III

The United States will be looking to win back the Ryder Cup on its home turf in Medinah in September after losing four of the last five Ryder Cups and six of the last eight. As the American captain, Love faces the wonder of Ryder Cup captaincy: He will be celebrated as a genius or panned as a dunce. Depends on the outcome. That’s typically the brutal nature of Ryder Cup captaincy.

Rickie Fowler

Subtropical humidity: Rickie Fowler

Fowler just turned 24, but with a profile as high as his, there’s a downside to having no wins to show all those folks who think there’s too much hype.

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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.