Sparks flew Thursday between Woods, McIlroy

By Randall MellSeptember 6, 2012, 11:12 pm

CARMEL, Ind. – When they were done sparring, when they were done trading a flurry of magnificent golf blows Thursday at the BMW Championship, you couldn’t have blamed Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods if they beat a path their separate ways.

They were breathing down each other’s necks all day in a spirited game of one-upsmanship.

They practically wore each other out answering one sensational shot with another.

Yet, after Woods chipped in for birdie at the last for a 7-under-par 65, and after McIlroy poured in a birdie on top of that for a 64, they stood side by side on Golf Channel and broke down their rounds together.

And they heaped praise on each other.

“It's fun to play with him, and he's just an amazing talent,” Woods said. “You watch him swing the club and watch him putt and play, he doesn't have a lot of weaknesses. You can see that, in the next decade or so, as he really matures and understands some of the nuances of the game, he's only going to get better, and that's kind of fun to see.”

Huh? Lions don’t share their turf, do they?

If you wonder how sincere this growing friendship is, if you have a hard time believing two fiercely driven competitors who covet the same big prizes can really like each other, you should have seen them marching into the Crooked Stick clubhouse locker room together.

You should have seen them moving to a table upstairs to have lunch after their round, just the two of them in a corner near a window.

The mutual respect is palpable.

After the fireworks show they put on Thursday, it could only have grown. They combined to make 16 birdies and an eagle.

Sure, it was only the first round, but McIlroy showed Woods something, and Woods showed McIlroy, too.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Woods said. “This is the next generation of guys coming out. He hits it great, putts it great, and on top of that he’s just a really nice kid.”

The two of them chattered the entire round like schoolboy chums.

You could see them laughing walking fairways, and you could see them engaged in more serious discussions.

What were they talking about?

“Anything, everything, whatever,” McIlroy said. “Just normal stuff, about this, about that.

“I’ve always enjoyed playing with Tiger, and every time we’re paired up, we seem to have a good time.”

McIlroy said it’s the only time he really gets to throw some playful digs at Woods, and Woods loves that. He loves giving it back.

McIlroy is just 23, Woods is 36, but there’s clearly a connection between them.

“He’s very mature,” Woods said. “He understands and handles things well.”

Zach Johnson played with Woods and McIlroy when they were paired together for the first time in a PGA Tour event at The Barclays two weeks ago.

“The way Tiger and Rory play the game is very similar, and you can tell they do like playing together,” Johnson said. “Tiger is the best player I’ve ever played with, and Rory has the potential to be in that category. Rory’s already won two majors in the Tiger era. That tells you something.”

Thursday marked the seventh time Woods and McIlroy were paired together as pros, but just the second time McIlroy posted a better score when they were head to head. Still, in the last two years, McIlroy is 13-5-2 when measured against Woods in events they’ve played together.

They first played together two years ago at the Chevron World Challenge, Tiger’s event at Sherwood Oaks in Thousand Oaks, Calif.

McIlroy said their first pairing was nerve-wracking.

“Yeah, of course,” McIlroy said. “You’re watching a guy your whole life, you’re growing up watching him do all these unbelievable things on TV, and then you’re stuck in there with him. Yeah, Chevron was the first time I got to play with him, and I was a little nervous. But the more I’ve played with him, obviously the more comfortable I’ve been. I think that’s showed the last few weeks.”

McIlroy didn’t really know Woods very well until they played a practice round together at Abu Dhabi earlier this year. They also played the first two rounds there together.

Whatever connection they made, they seem to be bringing out the best in each other.

That bodes well for golf-loving fans who want to see more fireworks shows like we saw Thursday at Crooked Stick.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.