U.S. off to another rough start in International Crown

By Randall MellJuly 21, 2016, 11:58 pm

GURNEE, Ill. – The Americans are hoping the UL International Crown isn’t some twisted version of Groundhog Day.

England swept the United States on Thursday in the opening round of the biennial international team event at the Merit Club.

The sweep puts the Americans in a hole, just as it did two years ago, when they were swept by Chinese Taipei in the opening matches of the inaugural event and then ended up failing to advance out of pool play.

The United States is dead last in Pool B, joining the Australians as the only teams failing to put a point on the board in the opening fourball matches. The challenge doesn’t get a whole lot easier with the Americans meeting Thailand, a rising Asian golf force, in Friday’s fourballs.

Charley Hull proved a one-woman wrecking crew leading the English upset.

Hull teamed with Mel Reid to defeat Americans Stacy Lewis and Gerina Piller, 2 and 1.

Jodi Ewart Shadoff teamed with Holly Clyburn to defeat Lexi Thompson and Cristie Kerr, also by a 2-and-1 score.

Hull made six birdies and an eagle. She was 8 under through 17 holes on her own card.

Lewis and Piller were 6 under as a combined best-ball score.

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“Charley made everything she looked at,” Lewis said. “We kind of had a lot of swings of momentum. We kind of got it early, and then they took it back as we made the turn. I thought we got some momentum back on 15, and then Charley makes an eagle putt. It was just really back and forth, and the match was really tight all day.”

It was a wild match, with seven lead changes.

There were 18 birdies total in the match and two eagles, with the English making both eagles.

Hull rolled in a 12-foot eagle putt at the 16th to move England 1 up, and then she closed out the match stiffing a shot at the 17th to 5 feet and then rolling in the birdie putt.

“I just love playing in this kind of environment, especially when you are a bit of an underdog,” Hull said. “I just like proving people wrong, and it just makes you go out there, gives you a little bit more of a buzz.”

Hull, 20, has already shown a knack for team golf in her professional career. She is 6-2 in her two Solheim Cup appearances.

The English team, who seem to have some special chemistry, making fun of each other all week, especially relished the underdog role against the Americans.

“I think we just get fired up beating you guys whenever, really,” Reid told American reporters. “You guys are very, very strong so, so it's always nice to beat you guys.”

England vs. the United States was almost like a mini-Solheim Cup.

“There's obviously a rivalry there, and we knew we were going to have to play well, both groups today, to get the four points,” Reid said. “Yeah, we're very, very proud that we took those four points. We're a small nation, but we respect you guys, and, obviously, we really do want to beat you, as well.”

The Americans may find themselves in a familiar hole, but these Americans have something special going for them.

Thompson, Lewis, Piller and Kerr were all members of the U.S. Solheim Cup team that mounted the greatest comeback in the history of that event beating the Europeans in Germany last fall.

“I felt like we played good golf today,” Lewis said. “That's what this format is, you play good golf and you're going to lose matches, and that's the way it goes. We're going to go out there and play good golf again, and hopefully we get on the good side of it. We're still in this thing, and we've just got to take care of business tomorrow.”

The English upset was particularly impressive because it came against the two most formidable pairings the Americans had in their Solheim Cup victory last fall. The Lewis/Piller and Thompson/Kerr teams were 4-0-1 in Germany.

“The whole day was just really awesome,” Shadoff said. “To see [Charley and Mel] win, too, it’s really impressive, especially against pretty much the toughest team out here.”

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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.