A. Jutanugarn puts on a happy face

By Randall MellJuly 28, 2016, 6:16 pm

WOBURN, England – Ariya Jutanugarn learned a lot from her late collapse at the ANA Inspiration almost four months ago.

You can see it in that practiced little smile she flashes stepping over every shot now.

It’s a pre-shot routine trigger she learned from her Vision 54 coaches, Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott.

Jutanugarn is hoping to turn those hard lessons learned losing to Lydia Ko at Mission Hills into a major championship breakthrough this week at the Ricoh Women’s British Open.

With a 7-under-par 65 Thursday, Jutanugarn moved into early contention at Woburn Golf Club, where she sits three shots behind the leader, Mirim Lee.

“One time in my life, I really want a major,” Jutanugarn said after her bogey-free round Thursday.

Jutanugarn, 20, had a major championship within her grasp at the ANA in April before losing a two-shot lead with three holes to go. After breaking down in tears in the clubhouse, she told her sister, Mo, that she was going to do everything she could to learn how to close out leads.

That’s where the pre-shot smile comes from.

Nilsson and Marriott broke down what they saw in the final round at Mission Hills, showing Jutanugarn that she was speeding up under pressure, which was leading to more tension and tightness in her body.

Ricoh Women’s British Open: Articles, photos and videos

“We tried nine different things [to use as a trigger], to help her step into the present, to keep from looking ahead, because she said she would get anxious about hitting a shot,” Nilsson said.

They tried different waggles and movements like that, but when they suggested a smile, Jutanugarn seized on it.

“It was about getting her to really look forward to hitting the shot, about feeling a passion for hitting the shot,” Nilsson said.

The Thai star used that smile like a mental waggle, rebounding from the ANA loss to win the Yokohama Tire Classic, Kingsmill Championship and Volvik Championship in consecutive starts. She also used it to give herself a shot at winning the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, where she finished third, missing out on a playoff by a shot.

That little smile embodies a lot of the mental work Jutanugarn did coming back from the ANA loss.

“May is so cute, her big smile is obvious,” Nilsson said. “Really, though, it’s not about the smile. It’s about how she feels inside that’s important. When we tried the smile, she said, `That’s me.’”

Jutanugarn also went to work with her swing coach, Gary Gilchrist. Her entire team is here this week. Like Nilsson and Marriott, Gilchrist walked with Jutanugarn on Thursday. The biggest difference he sees in Jutanugarn is the confidence a good plan is giving her.

“She has the game to win every single week,” Gilchrist said. “And now there’s a lot less doubt.

“If she would have won before the ANA, she would have won the ANA.”

Jutanugarn has a new member of her team, with Pete Godfrey on her bag as caddie for a third consecutive event.

There was no driver in Jutanugarn’s bag again Thursday. She navigated her way around Woburn using  3-wood and 2-iron off tees, carving shots around all the doglegs here. She may be the only other LPGA pro beside Laura Davies who carries a 2-iron. It’s become a valuable tool. She routinely rips it past other player’s drivers.

“I love this course,” Jutganugarn said. “It really feeds my game.

“I don’t have to hit my driver. The course is not too long [6,463 yards]. I really feel comfortable with my 2-iron. I feel like I can hit it hard and do whatever I want to do with it. I can hit a draw, I can hit a fade.”

Jutanugarn had every facet of her game working at Woburn. She hit 12 of 14 fairways, was 13th in driving distance (254 yards per drive), hit 16 greens in regulation and took just 25 putts.

“I got a lot more confident after ANA and KPMG,” she said. “Now, I feel really confident.”

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McCoy earns medalist honors at Web.com 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 Web.com 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 Web.com 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 Web.com 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.