Hunger Game: Garcia, Scott both aching for a win

By Randall MellFebruary 28, 2016, 1:01 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – You could call them kindred spirits.

Sergio Garcia and Adam Scott were both once phenoms saddled with great expectations, dashing young stars who were supposed to conquer the world. They’ve enjoyed their share of success, Garcia winning 28 times around the world, Scott winning 27 times, but they’ve also had their share of struggles as they’ve grown to middle-aged veterans. They’ve battled through slumps, fought balky putters and shouldered pressures to win more than they’ve won.

Garcia, the Spaniard, turned 36 last month, while Scott, the Aussie, will turn 36 in July. They both have homes in Switzerland.

“There are some similarities, and maybe things we feel connected by,” Garcia said. “We enjoy each other, and we’re friends.”

They share more than the lead here going into Sunday at the Honda Classic. They share a hunger to end winless spells.

“I think we're both pretty desperate to have a win tomorrow after putting ourselves in this position,” Scott said.

Garcia and Scott pushed each other Saturday to the top of the leaderboard at 9-under 201, with Garcia shooting 67 and Scott 66.  They pushed each other four shots clear of the field. They’ll be pushing each other again Sunday to get that trophy Scott says they’re both craving.

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Scott’s last victory came at the PGA Tour’s Colonial Invitational in 2014. Garcia’s last on a major tour was also two years ago, at the European Tour’s Qatar Masters.

Garcia was asked which of them will be more desperate to win if it comes down to them in the end.

“I think we both will want it badly, if it gets to that,” Garcia said. “And, hopefully, it will get to that.”

They are such similar players, supreme ball strikers who may have won so much more had they not battled their putters as much as they have over the years. The big difference between them is the green jacket Scott owns, the Masters title he claimed in 2013. Scott unloaded a lot of pressure on himself breaking through to win a major championship. Garcia’s still dealing with it.

“I guess every year that goes by, it feels another chance has kind of gone by,” Garcia told the BBC last month. “But if I get to 45, and I haven't won any, then I will probably feel a lot of pressure then. But I still feel like I'm young enough to be able to do it, hopefully several times. My appetite is the same.”

Neither is assuming this is a two-man duel.

They know what can happen at PGA National, even if the winds are down, like they were Saturday.

They know what can go wrong with all the water at the 15th, 16th and 17th holes.

As trilogies go, the Bear Trap is an epic tale of wonder and woe.

Scott experienced both Saturday in a dizzying 30 minutes on that trio of holes.

After taking control early in the third round, Scott reminded us how quickly a lead can disappear through that stretch.

Pulling away brilliantly, Scott stepped to the start of the Bear Trap with a three-shot lead and promptly hit a 6-iron into the water at the 15th. The fun wasn’t over for Scott. After taking a drop there, he swatted a wedge from 120 yards over the green and into the water. He had to take yet another drop before walking off the hole with a quadruple-bogey 7.

“It took me five goes to get a ball dry,” Scott said.

And just like that, Scott’s lead was gone.

In a staggering four-shot swing, Garcia left the green with the lead.

Scott left the hole laughing to himself.

“What else can you do?” he said.

Both these guys have their share of scar tissue. They’ve both bounced back from hard times to win.

“I’ve experienced things along those lines plenty of times,” Scott said.

After extricating himself from trouble to save par at the 16th, and then stiffing a 6-iron to 9 feet to set up birdie at the 17th, Scott walked out of the Bear Trap back atop the leaderboard, one shot ahead of Garcia, who evened the score back up with a closing birdie.

Neither player is comfortable with just a four-shot cushion.

“So much can happen, especially at a golf course like this,” Scott said. “There's trouble waiting on every misjudgment or poor swing. I'm just going to try and play that solid round of golf and give myself as many opportunities as I can.”

They know what perils leaders face. They saw what happened to Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker.

Fowler and Walker went out in the final pairing on Saturday, Fowler with a one-shot lead on Walker.

After playing the first 36 holes bogey free, Fowler made four of them and not a single birdie.

Walker shot 79.

Last year, Ian Poulter took a three-shot lead into the final round and hit five balls in the water.

“I expect some of the guys behind to shoot a number and make it tough on all of us,” Garcia said.

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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.