Clock ticking to make U.S. Ryder Cup team

By Rex HoggardAugust 10, 2012, 11:45 pm

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – Few Fridays in golf are as emotionally toxic for the game’s top 1 percent as PGA Friday.

Each year, be it a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup calendar, those looking to play for crown and country receive the most Draconian of progress reports. That Friday at Kiawah felt more monsoon than major only served to add to the degree of difficulty.

The Ryder Cup clock has been running for two years now, but on Friday the hands finally caught up with the hopefuls.

One by one they drifted off a windswept Ocean Course counting strokes and crushed dreams. First off was Rickie Fowler, 12th on the U.S. points list but out of time following his second consecutive Friday 80.

The captain’s-pick-turned-darling of the 2010 matches will need another lifeline, this time from Davis Love III who will announce his four picks on Sept. 4, if he’s going to make it to Medinah.

On Thursday night Fowler, and a handful of other Ryder Cup hopefuls, attended a dinner hosted by Love at the tony Sanctuary Club on Kiawah Island, and Captain America’s message was predictably esoteric.

“(Love’s) biggest thing was just go out and have fun and play. Try not to worry about making the team or pushing yourself and putting extra pressure on yourself,” Fowler said. “Let it happen.”

Easier said than done, as all six players currently on the “pick bubble” (Nos. 9-14 in Ryder Cup points) learned on Friday.

Just three of the six bubble boys made the cut – No. 10 Steve Stricker, No. 14 Dustin Johnson and No. 15 Bo Van Pelt – while No. 12 Rickie Fowler, who rebounded from his Friday 80 last week at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational with a weekend 69-69, No. 9 Hunter Mahan, No. 13 Brandt Snedeker will now have to wait until Sept. 4 to learn their Ryder Cup fate.

But then Van Pelt has been here before. In 2010 he arrived at Whistling Straits, another faux linksland design courtesy of Pete Dye, 13th on the U.S. points list. He tied for 28th to finish the week where he started at No. 13 and never got the phone call from captain Corey Pavin.

For Van Pelt, a salt-of-the-earth, no-nonsense type, getting worked up over the Ryder Cup is wasted energy.

“It’s one of those deals where you had two years to get inside that top 8,” said Van Pelt, who missed Thursday’s dinner to celebrate his son’s sixth birthday. “Coming down to the last week it’s kind of like an exam. Whatever happens, happens. It’s kind of out of my control.”

Mahan, who did attend Love’s dinner, seemed a tad more invested in the subject, the byproduct, no doubt, of a burgeoning cup resume that saw him emerge as a team leader at last year’s Presidents Cup.

“It’s not just one tournament, it’s all year long. It goes on for all year. The focus is on this week, but we have the next few weeks to make an impression,” Mahan said. “This isn’t a one-tournament pick. Through eight months of golf you’re not going to play well every week. You’re not going to play well when you want to.”

If the status quo remains unchanged – a distinct likelihood given No. 8 Phil Mickelson’s turnaround on Friday (71) and Lefty’s 600-point advantage over Stricker – conventional wisdom suggests Love would pick Mahan, Stricker and Furyk, who was 5-0 at last year’s Presidents Cup, and let Fowler, Snedeker, Johnson and Van Pelt decide who lands the last spot with their play over the next three weeks.

But then picking a rookie, either Snedeker or Van Pelt, over Fowler, who scored his first Tour victory this year and was a rare bright spot on the ’10 team, seems unlikely considering Love’s apparent aversion to risk taking.

In that scenario, the person with the most to lose, or gain, on a fierce Friday was Snedeker, who has not been treated kindly by the various team selection processes throughout his career.

In 2003 Snedeker won the U.S. Amateur Public Links, earned All-America honors at Vanderbilt and was named the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year and yet was snubbed for that season’s Walker Cup team.

Last year, he was again passed over for a spot on Fred Couples’ Presidents Cup team. A Ryder Cup snub would make it an imperfect trifecta, a reality that seemed etched into Snedeker’s face as he slumped onto a bench in the locker room following a second-round 78 that left him at 11 over.

“I don’t think I played poorly because of the Ryder Cup, I just played poorly. I can’t put my finger on it,” Snedeker said. “I didn’t put more pressure on myself, felt like I had good preparation for the tournament, sometimes you just have one of those weeks. You just don’t want it to be this one week because it is two years boiled down to this one week to try to make the team . . . that sucks.”

Snedeker missed Love’s soiree on Thursday, opting instead for an intense 45-minute session on the practice tee with his swing coach. There didn’t seem to be much Love could say, but he tried.

“He texted me at the British Open, he texted me this week. It’s just, ‘Have fun and play golf don’t worry about the Ryder Cup,’” Snedeker said. “That’s what we’re trying to do, but you want to get there.”

When it comes to playing for one’s country it seems you really can want something too much.

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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.