Stand and Deliver

By Randall MellSeptember 13, 2010, 4:41 am
BMW ChampionshipLEMONT, Ill. –  There were no demons haunting Dustin Johnson down the stretch Sunday at the BMW Championship.

No wicked memories banging about his head in a bid to ruin another ending.

No hint that some unrepaired crack in his armor was going to split wide open with the pressure building yet again.

“He was singing some Usher song the last two holes,” said his caddie, Bobby Brown. “I’ve never worked for a cooler customer.”

Johnson said he was singing lyrics from Usher’s song 'OMG.'

Dustin Johnson
Dustin Johnson captured his second victory of the 2010 PGA Tour season at the BMW Championship. (Getty Images)
“I got that song stuck in my head,” Johnson, 26, said after winning the third leg of the FedEx Cup playoffs at Cog Hill in Chicago. “I was definitely singing it over golf shots today.”

'OMG' is a love song, and maybe that was fitting, because Johnson’s been feeding off the love from the Midwestern crowds in his first return to this part of the country since he lost the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in heart-wrenching fashion last month.

“It seems like 99 out of 100 people are cheering for him,” Brown said.

Fans have been rooting hard for Johnson to overcome the controversial blow that led to his loss at Whistling Straits, the penalty for grounding a club in a bunker that his caddie still insists wasn’t really a bunker at the final hole of the PGA Championship.

“It wasn’t a bunker!” has become the rallying cry Johnson keeps hearing out here.

“Hear it about every hole,” Johnson said.

Brown can smile hearing it now, but he got as much heat as Johnson for failing to recognize his player was standing in a bunker in that ending to the PGA Championship, albeit a bunker that was crowded with golf patrons.

“I will be the first one to tell you I think we were in a wash-out area left of that bunker at Whistling Straits,” Brown said as he packed up his player’s bag after Sunday’s victory, the fourth of Johnson’s young career and his second this season. “That’s all I can say.”

Brown will tell you Johnson carries no bitterness about that ruling, nor does he protect tender scars from his U.S. Open loss in June. Johnson’s blowing the final-round lead at Pebble Beach had to be nearly as painful as the PGA Championship loss. He went from three shots up to three shots down in dizzying speed over the first four holes that head-spinning Sunday three months ago.

Two crushing major championship losses in one summer are enough to crush the spirit of the strongest player. Golf’s seen players disappear after less.

“He’s gone through a lot,” said Paul Casey, who finished a shot back of Johnson and knows something about trying to rebound from heartache. Casey played himself into contention this weekend in the wake of his disappointment over being passed up as a captain’s pick for the European Ryder Cup team.

It’s a testament to Johnson’s unbreakable spirit that he’s come back to win a big event so quickly. And make no mistake, Sunday’s BMW Championship was large. Johnson leaped to second on the FedEx Cup points list going to the Tour Championship in two weeks. He trails only Matt Kuchar in his bid to win the FedEx Cup and the $10 million jackpot that goes with it. He’s also now in position to win PGA Tour Player of the Year honors.

“I think this is the biggest win for sure,” Johnson said.

The way Johnson closed at Cog Hill made the victory all the more satisfying.

He did it fearlessly, attacking with his driver over the final two holes when the pressure was the greatest. That’s the club that failed him at the finish at Whistling Straits. He wouldn’t have been in that controversial spot in a “bunker” if he hadn’t hit his driver so wildly to the right.

Tied for the lead with Casey at the 17th hole Sunday at Cog Hill, Johnson cut the corner of the dogleg there with a 308-yard cut that he held against the wind. His controlled rocket split the fairway. With a 54-degree wedge in hand, Johnson delicately coaxed a shot to 2 feet to set up what would prove to be the winning birdie.

At the 18th, Johnson didn’t hesitate plucking driver from his bag yet again. He launched this drive 315 yards, holding a cut into a crosswind yet again. He hit the fairway there, too.

“He nutted driver,” Brown said.

That shot's a testament to his nerve because he's just learning to trust the fade under the tutelage of his new coach, Butch Harmon. The shot set up a smart approach to the safe side of the 18th green and a solid two-putt for the win.

“To finally get it done, especially after all the things I’ve gone through this summer, to finally get it done on Sunday, it can’t feel any better,” Johnson 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.