Great expectations

By Rex HoggardJune 22, 2011, 9:16 pm

The accolades have rained down like a Northern Irish squall. As countryman Graeme McDowell opined, you can run out of things to say about Rory McIlroy’s victory last week at Congressional, but that hasn’t stopped the pundits from trying.

Among the headlines that awaited Monday morning, The Washington Post went with “The future is now,” while Sports Illustrated gave us “Golf’s New Era.” With a monsoon of respect to both institutions, Dewey didn’t win.

If the Chicago Daily Tribune’s infamous “Dewey defeats Truman” headline in 1948 was a tad premature, the modern media’s incessant hyperbole is equally misplaced. McIlroy’s eight-stroke U.S. Open romp was historic, brilliant, as the Northern Irish might say, maybe even a game changer, but to declare that the 22-year-old is poised to step in for the injured and widely invisible Tiger Woods is unfair and wildly unrealistic.

For the record, McIlroy now has one major – the same number, it should be noted, as Shaun Micheel, Ben Curtis and Todd Hamilton. Hold off on the emails and “reader’s comments” for a moment – we’re not saying McIlroy is a similar “one-hit” wonder, just that we may be getting ahead of ourselves.

That he’s been in the hunt at four of the last seven majors and is possibly two cards of 80 away from the front-end of a “Rory Slam” is certainly reason to sit up and take notice, but before we dub him the next king let’s take a moment and listen to the man himself.

“It is nice that people say that he could be this or he could be that or he could win 20 major championships, but at the end of the day I've won one,” McIlroy said in Sunday’s victory glow.

It’s worth noting that at 22, McIlroy may have been the coolest head in the Congressional media room Sunday night.

It wasn’t that long ago we were handing Woods the major championship crown, Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 Grand Slams an easy mark as he marched to history at an alarming clip. He’d won 14 majors in 41 Grand Slam starts as a professional, a .350 batting average that put the Golden Bear’s benchmark in danger long before Woods’ 40th birthday.

But then Woods got sideways on a residential Isleworth thoroughfare, sent to the DL by an assortment of injuries and, in the wake of Wednesday’s announcement he will not play next week’s AT&T National, appears destined for the toughest climb of his career.

Like they were for Nicklaus before him, the last four majors promise to be the toughest for Woods.

Similarly, forgive our reluctance to anoint McIlroy the next king. Despite the media’s quick-draw declarations there is going to be nothing easy about the next 13 majors for McIlroy.

This has nothing to do with McIlroy’s U.S. Open performance or a golf course on the softer side of par. His victory had nothing to do with his relation to par, although his assortment of shattered scoring records are nothing short of mind blowing, as much as it was his relation to the rest of the field.

The best player won, by a touchdown and then some.

Nor is this about the level of competition. Many of the same scribes who have declared McIlroy the game’s next alpha male have penned that his victory at Congressional came against a deeper level of competition than Woods faced, an opinion that dismiss Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson, a Hall of Famer and a future Hall of Famer, respectively, as bit players.

The field is not deeper now, although the collective confidence may be at an all-time high thanks in no small part to Woods’ recent swoon.

Lost amid the Rory hyperbole is also the logistical truth that the Northern Irishlad is happier at home, content to ply his trade on the European Tour with only the occasional American cameo on his calendar.

As a former PGA Tour member who let his membership lapse last year, McIlroy is limited this season to 10 Tour starts plus The Players Championship, which he skipped. He already has seven Tour starts and currently plans to play only the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and PGA Championship the rest of the way.

On this McIlroy’s charismatic manager Chubby Chandler has been clear – don’t expect to see his client playing full-time in the United States any time soon.

“It will be three or four years before he tries the PGA Tour again,” Chandler said in April at Augusta National. “The scoreboard says he’s probably got it right. He’s very aware that he doesn’t want to get burnt out. It’s not a slap on the (PGA) Tour. If he could play 12 or 13 he’d be all right.”

Bypassing a PGA Tour card is certainly his right and it’s impossible to argue with the results McIlroy’s limited schedule has produced, but from a pure marketing point of view it will be difficult to build the kind of momentum Woods had with a limited Tour schedule.

Time will tell if McIlroy eventually challenges Woods, or Nicklaus, for the Grand Slam crown. Recent history certainly suggests he’s on the right road, but as the last two years have taught us that byway is filled with more potholes than a Northern Irish alley. Let’s enjoy the moment and let history and his own limitless potential dictate how far McIlroy will go.

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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.