Fowler in position to again win on Mother's Day

By Rex HoggardMay 7, 2016, 11:17 pm

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Rickie Fowler is making Mother’s Day increasingly hard for sons everywhere.

Last year on Mother’s Day, the golden child rallied from five-shots down with six holes to play to win The Players in an overtime for the ages; and on Saturday at the Wells Fargo Championship he moved into the lead with a similar charge to set the stage for a second consecutive unforgettable Mother’s Day for Lynn Fowler.

There aren’t enough roses in Charlotte to compete with that kind of largesse.

Fowler did the lion’s share of his work in a pair of three-hole sprints, playing Nos. 8-10 in 3 under par and claiming his spot in Sunday’s final group with a second birdie trifecta at Nos. 14-16 to move to 9 under par.

The favorite son moved into the lead and a shot clear of Roberto Castro and Andrew Loupe with a 4-under 68, salvaging an event that was in danger of being transformed into a pre-Players afterthought bereft of superstars.

“The meat of our schedule is from now until September,” Fowler said. “If you could pick a time to play well, I guess you would pick this time of year to go. This time of year has been good to me.”

For the week, Fowler is first in strokes gained-tee to green, fourth in fairways hit, third in greens in regulation and he picked up 2.634 strokes on the greens on Saturday thanks to his birdie barrages.

The 2012 champion at Quail Hollow rolled in birdie putts of 5 feet (No. 8), 16 feet (No. 9) and 8 feet (No. 10) to make his move. After dropping shots at the 11th and 13th holes, both the byproduct of missed greens, he added birdies at Nos. 14 (4 feet after driving the green), 15 (2 feet) and 16 (27 feet).

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Perhaps the most telling part of Fowler’s play this week is the state of his game. Following a first-round 80 and missed cut at the Masters and a tie for 20th last week at the weather-delayed Zurich Classic, he conceded that he’s struggling to turn the ball from right-to-left with his driver, which most players will tell you is a prerequisite for many holes at Quail Hollow.

“I haven't had my best tee to green,” Fowler admitted. “I've definitely missed some short putts as well so I'm looking forward to cleaning it up even more tomorrow.”

But that’s the difference with Rickie 2.0. Before he teamed with Butch Harmon in late 2013 that type of inability to move the ball in the proper direction would have kept him from contending, but as his results have improved so has his ability to improvise.

His maiden PGA Tour victory here in 2012 against Rory McIlroy in extra holes may have been his breakthrough, but it was the steady progression he’s made toward consistency since he started working with Harmon that has given him the confidence needed to score well even if the swing isn’t perfect.

“From about a year ago to two years ago to where I'm at right now, whether it's being in the final group or having a chance to win, being in contention, it's completely different,” Fowler said. “Now it's fun to go out there and go take care of business.”

It seems like a lifetime ago that Fowler made an impressive statement with his Players victory just days after an anonymous player poll named him the Tour’s most overrated.

In the 12 months since that slight Fowler has added another Tour win (Deutsche Bank Championship) and two European Tour titles (Scottish Open and Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship).

He’s also solidified himself as a bona fide star capable of carrying a leaderboard with his play as well as his panache and millennial appeal, which is fortunate because many of the game’s other standard-bearers seemed to take the week off.

McIlroy shot his second 73 of the week on Saturday and appears to be a clean 18 holes away from finding his winning form. He was tied with Adam Scott a touchdown shy of Fowler; while Phil Mickelson has been, well Phil Mickelson, posting a 4-over 76 on Day 3 that included the same number of birdies and bogeys (three) and a closing quadruple bogey-8 that assured the left-hander will not win the Wells Fargo Championship, again.

Fowler’s current confidence aside, Sunday will be a new scenario for him. In his three Tour victories the 27-year-old has come from behind in each and Quail Hollow, which is playing more than a stroke over par this week, is not exactly the kind of place that favors a defensive touch.

But if Fowler was concerned with this different perspective he wasn’t letting on, explaining the difference between his game now and in 2012, “The belief in the game and knowing what I'm capable of now,” he said.

At last year’s Players Lynn Fowler had to scramble back to TPC Sawgrass from a local airport to watch her son’s victory, but considering the ease her son is dismantling an increasingly difficult Quail Hollow there will be no early exit on Sunday.

“She’s flying with me to The Players, so she’s good,” Fowler smiled.

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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.