Poulter puts the peril in the Honda Classic

By Randall MellMarch 2, 2015, 12:47 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Drama didn’t race into Sunday at PGA National with quite the dizzying speed of one of Ian Poulter’s Ferraris, but it was close.

With Poulter’s stunning shank at the fifth tee, the Honda Classic went from a yawner to a thriller in a heart-thumping hurry.

After Poulter hooked his drive into the very same lake off the sixth tee, the leaderboard looked as bunched as an IndyCar race running under a caution flag.

For better or worse, Poulter steered the frenzied action in the suspended final round on the Champion Course.

Somehow, some way, when darkness finally suspended play, Poulter marched off the seventh green tied for the lead with Paul Casey, who was through nine holes.

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At 7 under overall, they were a shot ahead of Patrick Reed (through 7 holes) and three ahead of a pack of five players that includes Phil Mickelson (through 10 holes).

The field will be back in place at 8 a.m. Monday to conclude the final round.

From three shots up at the fifth tee to a shot down walking off the sixth green, Poulter was beyond frustrated with himself.

You could almost see tendrils of smoke coming off his head.

Asked what he was muttering to himself internally walking to the seventh tee, Poulter’s eyes widened to that saucer-like intensity so familiar to golf fans.

“You don't really want to know,” Poulter said. “Trust me, you don't. It's not newspaper or Internet worthy. I was pissed. I was seriously pissed.”

Poulter appeared in total control of this tournament, making one wonderful swing after another in shooting 64 in the second round and 66 in the third. His rhythm went south at that fifth tee, where he shanked an 8-iron sideways, off a cart path and into a part of the lake that no player in Honda’s nine-year history at PGA National may ever have reached before.

“It was a lack of concentration,” Poulter said. “I tried to take too much off an 8-iron and hit a beautiful shank.”

Poulter made double bogey. Adding to the dizzying turn of events, Reed holed out from off the green for birdie, putting up a steep slope and a winding  turn from 34 feet away.

The three-shot swing was a blow to Poulter, leaving him briefly tied with Reed.

“I didn't even realize that I had a three-shot lead,” Poulter said. “I was in cruise control, shall we say, not making bad swings. You take your foot off the accelerator for one second, all of a sudden, you find yourself completely out of position, making an easy double bogey.”

Poulter, 39, has never closed out a 54-hole lead in a PGA Tour event, but that’s because, surprisingly, he never held a 54-hole lead, until Sunday at PGA National. He has won 16 times around the world, with his two PGA Tour titles including the 2010 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship and the 2012 WGC-HSBC Champions in China, where he came from behind in the final round.

On Sunday, Poulter’s lead was gone after he hooked that tee shot at the sixth into the lake and made bogey.

That led to the scolding he gave himself, some self-talk that actually got him back a share of the lead at the seventh hole, where he stiffed a 6-iron to 3 feet to make birdie.

“Yeah, I was internally very angry, shall we say,” Poulter said. “And when I do that, obviously, my heart rate goes up slightly, and, obviously that sometimes is what needs to kick in, to kick in the adrenaline. So the shot on seven was fueled with adrenaline, because I was so pissed off.”

How important was that birdie to end his day?

“Massive, massive,” Poulter said. “It was a bit of a body blow, shall we say, five and six, coming out of nowhere.

“It was some pretty good golf today, I've got to be honest, and that just came out of left field.”

With Poulter in trouble, fellow Englishman Casey quietly climbed the leaderboard playing two holes in front. Casey, 37, is seeking to add to his lone PGA Tour title, the 2009 Shell Houston Open. He’s a 13-time European Tour winner who is devoting himself solely to the PGA Tour this season.

“I'm eager to win,” Casey said. “I feel like I'm playing good golf, and there are no obstacles in the way. Everything's great on and off the golf course. No two tours to worry about. There's just nothing standing there, nothing that's distracting me, which is a great feeling to have.

“It doesn't mean anything. It doesn't mean I'll win, but I hope I win this year. I'd love to win tomorrow."

While Poulter has never held a 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour, he has proved himself a formidable closer on the European Tour. He has closed the deal seven of nine times taking a lead into the final round on that tour.

At day’s end, Poulter rode into the clubhouse sitting alongside his 10-year-old son, Luke. Despite all the adventure, Poulter is still very much in the running for his first stroke-play title on U.S. soil.

“I'm playing good,” Poulter said. “So, I just need to be patient, keep making the swings I've made.”

With the Honda Classic feeling like it will open under a caution flag with Monday’s conclusion of the final round, Poulter will be looking to lead the race with a steadier hand.

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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.