Righting the wrong

By Rex HoggardJune 30, 2011, 10:54 pm

NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. – Right scores, wrong course.

That’s what U.S. Golf Association executive director Mike Davis must have been thinking as he watched the action unfold at Aronimink Golf Club – a measured slug-fest where par has not succumbed to the inflationary realities of the modern game and hitting fairways matters.

It’s a dramatic contrast to Congressional and this year’s U.S. Open – an event some say was an Open in name only.

Contrasting weather conditions, of course, dictate most of what transpired at Congressional – where Rory McIlroy mowed down century’s old scoring records, to say nothing of a stunned field – and on Thursday at Aronimink.

At Congressional hot and dry preceded a predictably wet week, the nuclear option for set-up types, while PGA Tour officials enjoyed the preferred opposite, rain in the weeks leading up to the AT&T National and cloudless sunshine this week.

On Tuesday defending AT&T National champion Justin Rose tweeted, “It could be more U.S. Open [than] the U.S. Open was,” and on Thursday the Englishman’s sage predictions played out perfectly.

The Round 1 scoring average at Aronimink was 71.499, 1.499 strokes over par; well ahead of Sunday’s average at TPC Pincushion . . . eh, make that Congressional (71.444 average, .444 over par).

Twenty-eight players posted sub-par scores on Thursday at the AT&T National, compared to 32 on Sunday at Congressional, a collection that included McIlroy’s silly 69 to complete his Open march.

“This course is set up like a U.S. Open,” said Joe Ogilvie, whose 3-under 67 wedged him into a tie for third place. “The fairways are a little bit wider, but it’s definitely playing very similar . . . except for this year’s U.S. Open.”

Tour officials got the weather the USGA was hoping for, but to hear the rank-and-file make the obvious comparisons on Thursday it’s impossible not to think that maybe AT&T National got the golf course the blue blazers wanted as well.

“This golf course is a lot firmer (than Congressional),” said Robert Garrigus, whose opening 68 is two strokes off the pace set by Adam Scott and Hunter Haas.

“The rough is thicker and the greens are firmer and I don’t think double digits (under par) is going to win this week. I think right around 10 under par will get it done this week.”

Garrigus, who tied for third at Congressional for co-low American honors, lets that statement linger in the air for a moment before adding, “We’re going to have fun at Olympic next year.”

The Olympic Club is scheduled to host next year’s national championship and caddie yard wisdom suggests that Davis and the USGA will want to prove that they haven’t gone soft when they set up the 2012 venue. But that’s a different column, and a much different golf course.

Similarly, Aronimink is being viewed much differently, perhaps even as a more worthy Grand Slam test, than Congressional. It’s a fact that likely explains why Kerry Haigh, the PGA of America’s top set-up man, was lurking about the Donald Ross gem on Thursday.

Aronimink hasn’t hosted a regular men’s major since the 1962 PGA Championship, and has been the site of just two USGA championships (’97 U.S. Junior and ’77 U.S. Amateur) in its 115-year history. The U.S. Open will be played at nearby Merion in 2013 so it doesn’t seem likely the USGA would come calling. But the PGA hasn’t held “Glory’s Last Shot” in the Philadelphia area since that ’62 championship.

Considering how Aronimink has held up to the modern game, not to mention the inevitable comparisons to Congressional, it might be time to weave the layout back into the Grand Slam fold.

AT&T National moves back down Interstate-95 to Washington, D.C., next year, leaving Philly fans golf-less, again. It’s a curious injustice considering the size of the market and the potential quality of a venue like Aronimink.

“Even if I wasn’t a member here it’s probably as good as it gets as far as what we play on Tour,” Sean O’Hair said. “It’s one of the top 5 courses we play all year.”

Tour officials got the conditions, and maybe even the course, the USGA wanted. Now it’s time for Aronimink to get the major it deserves.

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McCoy earns medalist honors at Web.com 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 Web.com 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 Web.com 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 Web.com 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.