A Captains Dilemma

By Rex HoggardAugust 8, 2010, 3:12 am

PGA of AmericaAKRON, Ohio – There are three basic tenets to a successful Ryder Cup captaincy – avoid really bad pairings (Hal Sutton in 2004), really bad shirts (Ben Crenshaw in 1999) and really bad circumstances (Tom Lehman in 2006).

That is, of course, unless you’re Corey Pavin and you find yourself being backed into a really bad corner.

If Freddie Couples’ 2009 Presidents Cup stint was characterized by a “captain cool” atmosphere, Pavin’s early calling card may be something along the lines of “captain come on.”

No? Consider Pavin’s options as the matches close in on the scrappy captain with an American star in Tiger Woods who appears either unable or unwilling to make this year’s squad.

Forget Saturday’s 75 from Woods at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, his worst round ever at Firestone. It is, by and large, the status quo for a season that has many more valleys than peaks.

Captain Corey plans to huddle with Woods next week at Whistling Straits for a meeting that promises to be largely one-sided. At ninth on the U.S. points list, the best player of his generation, perhaps of all time, certainly has the resume to justify a captain’s pick.

That is, of course, if he even needs a freebie. His record at the PGA Championship (four victories and eight top 10s) is impossible to ignore and we’ve watched him do more with less before (see Open, 2008 U.S.). Woods and Pavin also have time on their side. The captain’s picks are not made until Sept. 7 and a lot can change in four weeks.

Whether the world No. 1 has any interest in making the hop to Wales for a week full of pomp and team play is the more important question.

On Wednesday Woods was asked whether he would want to be a captain’s pick if it came to that: “I'm planning on playing my way into the team,” Woods said sternly.

Asked a second time and the response was even more chilly, “I'm planning on playing my way into the team.”

Tough to read between so few lines, but as early as June’s Memorial tournament, Woods and Steve Stricker, who paired together so successfully last year at Harding Park, talked about this year’s matches.

“For sure he can help the team and I hope I’m his partner again,” Stricker said. “He’s as tough a competitor as anyone and I can’t imagine him sitting at home.”

Stricker would know, he teamed with Woods last year to secure four points for the American side and was paired with him more in 2009 than any other player. But that was a different time, a different Tiger.

The man who is currently placed third from last among a field of 80 players in Ohio seems to be missing some of the cache or confidence that lifted him to 14 Grand Slam tilts.

For Pavin, however, his hands are tied. To not make Woods a captain’s pick, even a Woods who is firing on six of eight cylinders, would ignite immediate second guessing from the media. Woods, a true competitor despite his current form, could provide Pavin with political cover by publically declining a spot, although Stricker can’t imagine that scenario.

“If he’s outside the top 8 (automatic qualifying) and (Pavin) asked him to be a pick I imagine he would do it,” Stricker said. “He’s trying to rebuild an image and I don’t think that would be a good way to start.”

Besides, among the players currently on the outside looking to be one of four picks (Nos. 10 Hunter Mahan, 11 Ricky Barnes and 12 Ben Crane) it’s hard to make an argument that Woods is not deserving.

So it is with both player and captain backed into a corner the odds of Woods not being on the Air American charter bound for Wales later this year seems about as slim as his title chances at Firestone.

Still, that does little to help Pavin.

Given Woods’ current status on the FedEx Cup points list, 111th and fading, it is not a stretch to imagine a first-round Playoff exit, which would create a three-week competitive void before the matches and likely only exacerbate his playing problems.

And deepen the corner Pavin now finds his back against.

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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.