Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1: Tiger Woods

By Rex HoggardDecember 30, 2011, 1:00 pm

[Editor's note: Click here for the Top 10 Newsmakers and selection process.]

Tiger Woods is no stranger to media scrutiny but it is a sign of how little his Q rating has been impacted by his current competitive swoon that in 2011 he stepped to the press podium no fewer than 68 times.

Not surprisingly the most telling of those trips were bookend appearances that focused on where Woods was as a person more so than as a player. On Jan. 26 at his season-opener in San Diego he was asked if his love of the game had fluctuated during his most recent slump.

“Life goes on and life moves forward,” he reasoned.

Some 10 months later another scribe struck a similar nerve on the eve of the Australian Open in Sydney when he asked about racially insensitive remarks made by his former caddie Stevie Williams that were directed at Woods.

“Life goes forward and this is it,” he shrugged.

In many ways 2011 was a transition year for Woods, who failed to win an official-money event for the second consecutive season and plummeted outside the top 50 in the World Golf Ranking for the first time since he turned pro in 1996.

There were signs of progress – most notably his Sunday charge at Augusta National and year-ending victory at the Chevron World Challenge – and setbacks – his 5-over-par weekend at Torrey Pines qualifies as does his missed cut at the PGA Championship. But most of all it seemed as if Woods was finally ready to move beyond the self-inflicted shell that was 2010.

It was also a measure of Woods’ continued influence that those in his wake ebbed and flowed with the former world No. 1’s tide. Even those around Woods made headlines in 2011, most notably his caddie Williams, who was dismissed in July after 12 years and 13 major victories, and his manager Mark Steinberg, who split with IMG in May and joined Excel Sports Management a month later.

There was even a tree.

The famed Eisenhower tree along Augusta National’s 17th hole became “water cooler” fodder when Woods’ play from under the infamous pine in Round 3 resulted in another early exit from The Players Championship and another prolonged stay on the DL.

In total, Woods missed the better part of four months and, more importantly, two majors, as a result of knee and Achilles’ tendon injuries. He struggled when he returned – missing the cut at Atlanta Athletic Club to mark just the third time as a professional he’s failed to advance to the weekend at a major – and needed a captain’s pick to make the U.S. Presidents Cup team.

A poor-putting Saturday likely cost him the Australian Open title and he recorded the clinching point for captain Fred Couples at Royal Melbourne before closing out his year with his victory at the Chevron.

It’s best to rate Woods’ competitive calendar as an incomplete, another disjointed collection of starts and stops dotted with equal of amounts of promise and problems. Psychologically, however, there was progress. Or, as Woods would say, life goes forward.

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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.