Cut Line Playoffs pro-ams and curious picks

By Rex HoggardSeptember 4, 2010, 2:52 am

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NORTON, Mass. – Golf finally has an answer for that age-old question: If a PGA Tour player misses his pro-am tee time would anyone hear about it? The answer, at least if you’re Jim Furyk and you have Phil Mickelson as your champion, is a resounding yes.

Pro-am-gate reached a crescendo this week, interrupted only by Colin Montgomerie’s curious captain’s picks and a hurricane named Earl. And the Tour was worried about the start of football season overshadowing its playoffs.

Made Cut

Playoff volatility. Six guys played well at The Barclays and moved into the top 100 and into Boston for the second postseason event. Conversely, six guys meat-handed their way out of a TPC Boston tee time. If that doesn’t scream playoffs, we’re not sure what would.

Although the playoff experiment still seems to be a work in progress, the volatility the Tour tinkered so hard to achieve has created the desired movement, that is to say two-way traffic.

In fact, one could argue that there is not enough volatility. Consider Tiger Woods began the playoffs 112th on the points list, finished tied for 12th at The Barclays to move on to Boston and likely needs to finish better than 57th this week to make it to the BMW Championship. For a Tour player, any Tour player, that’s not exactly do-or-die time.

U.S. Amateurs. On Sunday Peter Uihlein won this year’s U.S. Amateur, former champion Matt Kuchar hoisted a 7-iron to inches in a playoff at Ridgewood and the most important hardware of his career and Edoardo Molinari blindsided a field in Scotland, to say nothing of Monty’s wildcard selection party.

Jack Nicklaus often counts his two U.S. Amateur titles among his Grand Slam accomplishments. Sunday was certainly a major day for U.S. Amateur champions past, present and future.

Tweet of the Week. @stewartcink “Weather must be deteriorating at TPC Boston now. I’m pretty sure I just saw (Weather Channel reporter) Jim Cantore by the range.”

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Phil Mickelson. Tiger Woods may still be the world No. 1 and the game’s alpha male, but Lefty has become the Tour’s E.F. Hutton, and when he spoke out against the pro-am rule that sent Jim Furyk packing from The Barclays Camp Ponte Vedra Beach listened.

But when Mickelson bailed from this week’s pro-am under a provision that gives top players two get-out-of-a-pro am cards it just seemed like overkill.

Perhaps Lefty had a legitimate reason to miss Thursday’s outing, the second time this year he’s used the provision, but it just seems like he was trying to make a point that had already been made.

European Tour. Competitive integrity has become the new buzz word on Tour these days and the decision to announce Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie’s three wildcard picks just as things were getting interesting at The Barclays smacks of indifference, or worse, petty politics.

Luke Donald, who landed one of the coveted picks, charged out with a 28 on Ridgewood’s front nine, learned he’d gotten Monty’s nod at the turn and proceeded to bogey his next two holes and finished with a 40.

Paul Casey figured he’d gotten passed over when he saw Padraig Harrington’s wife give the Irishman a thumbs up and struggled to keep his emotions in check.

The announcement could have waited until the day after the final round like they do on this side of the pond. It’s the right thing to do, if not for the PGA Tour than for Europe’s own players.

Nationwide. The insurance giant has been a good corporate partner for the Tour for nearly a decade and maybe it was time to move on and leave sponsorship of the Tour’s secondary circuit to someone else.

It’s just that the move this week has the feel of a jilted prom date when combined with Nationwide’s new commitment to the Memorial tournament.

“We’ve been very, very happy over the last eight years with the Nationwide Tour, but when we had the opportunity to step up and become sponsor of the Memorial it was too good to pass up,” said Jim Lyski, Nationwide’s chief marketing officer. “When you look at that and the inventory we have in golf you reach a point of diminishing returns if you just keep adding and adding.”

Our gut tells us the 200 or so guys who play the Nationwide Tour are about to learn a thing or two about diminishing returns.

Missed Cut

PGA Tour. Nothing happens fast in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., not rounds at TPC Sawgrass, not traffic on A1A and certainly not decisions within the circuit’s halls of power. All of which made last week’s real-time 180 on the pro-am rule that cost Furyk his start at The Barclays curious.

In six years, only seven players have been disqualified for missing their pro-am tee time and it happened just once this year (Furyk), which means the problem was neither chronic nor pressing.

Even Woods, who normally avoids controversial Tour issues, suggested the move was premature, while others were stunned.

“I’m embarrassed the commissioner waffled so easily on the rule that he convinced the (Player Advisory Council) and the player directors was so desperately needed,” one veteran member of the PAC said.

Colin Montgomerie. Some suggested Monty could throw three darts at a board and come away with a threesome of fine captain’s picks, and yet somehow his selections just seemed wrong.

Harrington and Donald certainly deserved consideration, but when the ninth-, now eighth-, ranked player in the world (Paul Casey) and another who has won two marquee PGA Tour events this year (Justin Rose) will be watching the matches from the sidelines something is wrong.

Even Paul Azinger, Captain America who knows a thing or two about wildcard picks, knows that dog won’t hunt. “Shocking, Monty leaves Rose and Casey off team for arguably third-best Englishman to not qualify,” he Tweeted.

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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.