Ryder Cup Chitchat

By Rex HoggardJanuary 14, 2010, 4:41 am

Of all the rabbits Paul Azinger pulled from his Ryder Cup top hat, his hard sell of a revamped selection process may have been the Valhalla VIP.

America’s five-of-six slide in the transatlantic grudge match did not bottom out because of a raucous Kentucky gallery or an ingenious pod system so much as it was saved by an overhauled selection process that favored a hot hand and the intrinsic value of a victory.

Just ask Colin Montgomerie, the European warhorse tasked with bringing Samuel Ryder’s chalice back home later this year. According to published reports, Monty pressed officials for a new system and more captain’s picks (suggesting, at one point, he wouldn’t mind 12 picks).

Officials met the Scot in the driveway, giving their captain an extra freebie and reducing the number of players who qualify off the World Ranking list (read: Europeans who play primarily in the United States) to four. However, the number of players picked from the European Tour list, which awards one point for every euro earned over the last 12 months, remained the same (five), a nod that should make the home tour more attractive and much more important in 2010.

It also creates a question for players looking to join Monty’s squad later this year in Wales. The World Ranking list, or at the least a captain’s pick, is the realm of the headliners – Lee Westwood, Padraig Harrington, et al. – whose focus is primarily on the PGA Tour and who are assured starts in the biggest events.

But if you’re not on a first name basis with Tiger Woods, Ryder Cup years present a dilemma for many Europeans who must decide whether to chase a Ryder Cup spot on the U.S. tour, or back home, if by back home you mean every continent where golf is played.

The only wrong answer seems to be a fractured, hectic schedule that tries to juggle membership on both the PGA and European Tours in an energy-sapping attempt to qualify on either list.

“I feel like I have the best chance of getting on the team through the World Ranking,” said England’s Luke Donald, who estimated he will play 75 percent of his 2010 schedule on the PGA Tour.

Northern Irish phenom Rory McIlroy seems to have subscribed to the same theory, earning enough as a non-member last year (11 starts, $849,000) to take up membership in 2010.

McIlroy and Donald, however, seem to be the exception to the rule this year.

Although the split European selection system has worked well since its inception prior to the 2004 matches – the far side of the pond is 2-1 under the duel process – Monty’s extra pick has reduced the room for error for American-based Europeans and made a year playing the European circuit much more appealing, particularly to younger players.

Like McIlroy, Oliver Wilson earned enough in ’09 thanks to top-11 finishes in three World Golf Championships for a PGA Tour card but declined membership. Instead the Englishman, who went to college in the United States and still owns a house in North Carolina, will play at least 15 European Tour events this year with an eye toward September’s matches.

“There are so many Europeans that are playing the U.S. Tour you have to worry you can make it based on the World Ranking,” said Rocky Hambric, Wilson’s manager with Hambric Sports. “Your best bet is playing in Europe especially if you’re a younger player and less likely to get one of the captain’s picks.”

Westwood and Henrik Stenson, both non-members in 2009, also turned down membership this year in the United States, although their status and Ryder Cup record would likely assure them a spot on this year’s team.

Although it’s still early in the selection process, the year’s first European Ryder Cup list was published this week and was dotted with the names of the next generation – McIlroy, Ross Fisher, Martin Kaymer and Francesco Molinari. Most of Class 2.0 will spend more time in Europe than the United States this year, and for Montgomerie that truth could be more encouraging than 12 captain’s picks, Dave Stockton Sr. on retainer as team putting guru and a Sergio Garcia resurgence.

The 2008 U.S. Ryder Cup team enjoyed a healthy collision of young and old. Phil Mickelson and Justin Leonard proved perfectly matched with Anthony Kim and Hunter Mahan. The result: a five-point American walkover.

Whether by design or destiny, the slightly tinkered European selection process could produce a similar concoction. And, as Monty knows, the outcome in Wales has probably already been decided. Just ask Azinger.

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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.