Storylines, contenders plentiful Sunday at Masters

By Rex HoggardApril 14, 2013, 12:29 am

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Turns out the show does go on – for Tiger Woods and the Masters.

In one of the most bizarre rules snafus since Roberto De Vicenzo miscalculated himself into Masters lore, Woods was issued a two-stroke penalty and given metaphorical free relief all before the leaders reached the first tee on Saturday.

Woods, who was penalized for taking an incorrect drop after ricocheting his approach at the par-5 15th hole into the water, began his day with the rules committee at 8 a.m. ET. Nearly six hours later, he teed off despite having signed for an incorrect score thanks to a caveat in the rules.

If, as Nike Golf reasoned after Woods won last month at Bay Hill and regained the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking, “winning takes care of everything,” Augusta National proved equally adept as a conversation changer thanks to a collection of classic contenders.

Brandt Snedeker, the hottest player on the planet before the PGA Tour moved east and he was slowed by a muscle injury, and Angel Cabrera, who has also been no stranger to injuries and inconsistent play in recent years, enter the most famous final round in golf tied for the lead at 7 under.

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Both have been in similar situations before – Snedeker in 2008 when he went off in Sunday’s final group, closed with a 77 and tied for third; and Cabrera, who was tied for second – and in the final pairing – going into the last lap in 2011, but faded with a 71.

Both will be trailed by demons into the final round, not to mention a deep leaderboard that includes Woods, Matt Kuchar, Jason Day and Adam Scott all within four strokes of the lead.

In fact, for those with a sense of history, if not a rooting interest, Sunday is shaping up to be historic for Australia. The Aussie duck – duck being a cricket term meaning zero, which is how many green jackets have been won by a player from Oz – may finally, and mercifully, be lifted.

Not since the days of Greg Norman has Australia had numbers like this. Scott, one back after a third-round 69, is alone in third followed by Day, who held a share of the lead for much of the day before finishing with consecutive bogeys and falling to 5 under along with fellow countryman Marc Leishman.

“We were talking about it this morning,” said Day’s caddie/swing coach Col Swatton. “Obviously, Aussies feel a little more pressure, but there always has to be a first time.”

For Cabrera it would be a surprising second time. In 2012, the ’09 Masters champion missed as many cuts (nine) as he made and didn’t post a single top-10 finish. He seemed to turn things around late last year, winning the Argentine Open in December, but had shown little form in the U.S. this season.

That was until this week.

“Last June he knew he wasn’t doing things the right way,” said Charlie Epps, the Argentine’s swing coach. “It’s all mental. Sometimes you get in ruts, life is hard and it’s not fun, but he did what he had to do and he did it well.”

Those odds would suggest the green jacket is headed back to the Southern Hemisphere – or maybe just the South.

Snedeker ramped up for this week’s event just downstate at Sea Island (Ga.) Resort and has played the Georgia gem, either as a competitor or guest, hundreds of times. That he is also one of the game’s top putters is also worth style points in these parts.

“I spent 32 years getting ready for tomorrow,” said Snedeker, who was nearly flawless in his Saturday 69.

Through the first month of the season he was almost as perfect, finishing third, second, second and first in four of his first five events. But after his victory at Pebble Beach he went on the DL with a strained intercostal muscle and missed consecutive cuts when he returned.

That the highlight of his Masters career is his Sunday swoon in 2008 promises to also be a talking point, but five years removed from that emotional Sunday the five-time Tour winner and reigning FedEx Cup champion didn’t sound like a man haunted by Masters memories.

“I had no clue what I was doing in 2008. No idea,” Snedeker said. “I have a complete and clear focus of what I need to do tomorrow.”

So does Woods, although he hasn’t done it in eight years.

They say the Masters doesn’t begin until the back nine on Sunday. For Woods it almost ended just past Amen Corner on Friday.

Officials initially deemed Woods’ drop on No. 15 during the second round within the rules. It wasn’t until he signed his scorecard and spoke with the media that they realized he’d dropped a few feet from where he took the original shot, which is a violation.

When the dust and speculation settled, Woods received a two-stroke penalty and the Masters took a mulligan, using Rule 33-7 to keep Woods from being disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard.

“(The rule) is to protect the player when the committee changes its mind,” said Fred Ridley, chairman of the tournament’s rules committee. “The committee makes mistakes some times. I think he’s entitled to protection.”

Woods made the most of the ruling, carding a 2-under 70 that included birdies at Nos. 12, 13 and 15. For the fifth time in the last seven years since he collected green jacket No. 4, Woods begins the final day within the top 10. Or, put another way, he’s exactly where he wants to be.

“As we all know, if you are within six shots on the back nine on Sunday you’ve got a chance,” said Woods, who has won all 14 of his majors with at least a share of the lead going into the last 18 holes. “I’m right there with a good shot to win the tournament.”

And it seems that after a brief detour early Saturday, Augusta National is right on schedule.

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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.