Par 5 Questions Surrounding Hilton Head - COPIED

By Randall MellApril 26, 2011, 5:50 pm

Setting the agenda for the week ahead with five questions for tournament golf at large . . .

When is bad really good?

Ask Kevin Na.

He knows.

There’s genius in being so bad people love you. Na stumbled and slashed his way into a realm of athletic brilliance inhabited by English ski jumper Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards, the Jamaican bobsled team and Charlie Brown.

When Na tees it up this week at the Heritage at Hilton Head Island, S.C., he will no longer be that slow guy with the temper on the PGA Tour. He’s now the patron saint of high-handicappers. As talented as Na really is – he made a run at winning the Northern Trust Open this year and is the 64th ranked player in the world – he has endeared himself to the golfing public because he was so charmingly bad for one hole in the first round of last week’s Valero Texas Open. His score of 16 at TPC San Antonio’s par-4 ninth hole goes down in infamy.

A lot of twentysomethings are making news in golf these days, but Na’s the only one who made the front page of the New York Times last week and created a YouTube sensation. There were probably more water cooler conversations in workplaces over Na’s performance than over 17-year-old Matteo Manassero winning the Maybank Malaysian Open.

Is the best young talent from overseas?

It seems that way with the Italian Manassero winning his second European Tour event before the age of 18.

It seems that way with Manassero dueling Northern Ireland’s 21-year-old Rory McIlroy for the title on the heels of 26-year-old South African Charl Schwartzel’s Masters’ victory. Schwartzel’s first major comes after Germany’s Martin Kaymer won the PGA Championship at 25 and South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen the British Open at 27.

But there are more players from the United States (8) among the top 50 in the world rankings than any other nation.

Here’s how the best players under 30 sit in this week’s world rankings with their ages in parenthesis:

No. 1 Martin Kaymer, Germany (26).

No. 7 Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland (21).

No. 11 Charl Schwartzel, South Africa (26).

No. 12 Dustin Johnson, United States (26).

No. 14 Nick Watney, United States (29).

No. 19 Francesco Molinari, Italy (28).

No. 20 Hunter Mahan, United States (28).

No. 23 Martin Laird, Scotland (28).

No. 24 Jason Day, Australia (23).

No. 26 Alvaro Quiros, Spain (28).

No. 31 Louis Oosthuizen, South Africa (28).

No. 33 Matteo Manassero, Italy (18).

No. 34 Rickie Fowler, United States (22).

No. 39 Kyung-Tae Kim, South Korea (25).

No. 40 Ryan Moore, United States (28).

No. 43 Anthony Kim, United States (25).

No. 45 Ryo Ishikawa, Japan (19).

No. 48 Gary Woodland, United States (26).

No. 49 Bill Haas, United States (28).

So who’s going to break through next on the PGA Tour?

It’s looking like the year of the breakthroughs on the PGA Tour

If you’re into statistics, you should like the chances of Hunter Haas breaking through at the Heritage to become the sixth first-time winner this season.

The average world ranking of the winner of a PGA Tour event this year is 152.9.

Haas is No. 153 in the world.

Brendan Steele was No. 231 when he won the Valero Texas Open last week. He’s the 10th player this season to win a PGA Tour event with a ranking of 100 or higher, and the fifth player with a ranking of 200 or higher.

Who’s going to break out at the Heritage?

The fact that so many players are breaking through on the PGA Tour this season tells you there are a number of established winners looking to break out with their first victories of 2011.

There are reasons to believe Jim Furyk, Stewart Cink, Davis Love III, Boo Weekley and Brian Gay will contend this week. They’ve all won at Harbour Town before.

And there is reason to like Ernie Els breaking out to win for the first time this year with his seven top-10 finishes at Harbour Town.

Is this the PGA Tour’s farewell performance at Harbour Town?

Whispers and rumors give hope that a new title sponsor will be found to keep the long-standing PGA Tour event on the schedule, but its troubling tournament week has arrived and there’s still no announcement.

Arnold Palmer won the inaugural Heritage Classic in 1969. So many of the game’s biggest names have won at Harbour Town. Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Johnny Miller, Hale Irwin, Nick Faldo, Greg Norman, Bernhard Langer and Payne Stewart are among the past champions.

This year’s event is being staged without a title sponsor. After Verizon’s contract expired, tournament organizers bought themselves another year funding the event with $4 million in tournament reserves and another $1 million from local governing bodies. With no title sponsor announcements appearing imminent, the pressure’s on the tournament to put on a good show in hopes of wooing somebody this week.

Follow Randall Mell on Twitter @RandallMell


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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.