Tiger survives 'flinch,' leads at Bay Hill

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2012, 9:27 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – “A kid fainted, a lady yelled, I flinched.”

If that sounds like the dramatic beginnings of a low-budget Hollywood thriller you’re not too far off. Tiger Woods’ less-than-embellished assessment of what happened in a split second on Bay Hill’s 15th tee is historically accurate and, more to the point, metaphorically apropos as the final stop on the Florida Swing moves into its final lap.

With a three-stroke lead over Graeme McDowell, Woods, who had bogeyed the 14th hole, began his backswing just a teen-aged boy passed out near a concession stand behind the 15th tee. A woman yelled and Woods pulled his tee shot left into a yard adjacent the fairway.

Woods signed for a double bogey-6 and briefly gave up a share of the lead to McDowell a hole later.

“I tried to stop (the swing), but I was past the point of no return and flipped it out of bounds,” said Woods, who finished with a 71 for an 11-under 205 total. “It was a solid day. Just happened to have one little fluke thing where a kid passed out.”

Officially the Tour calls what happened next “bounce back,” a statistic that measures the number of times a player follows an over-par hole with an under-par hole. But Woods’ birdie at the par-5 17th lifted him one shot clear of the Ulsterman and salvaged what was quickly becoming a runaway.

Instead of a four-stroke (or more) cushion, Woods will begin Sunday’s turn a shot ahead. In political terms, it’s a statistical dead heat.

Sure, McDowell ran down Woods when he was four down through 54 holes at the 2010 Chevron World Challenge. But that was a “one-dimensional” player who had been on Sean Foley’s watch for less than four months at a limited-field silly event.

“(In 2010) I had just started working with Foley so I was very new to the mold,” Woods said. “I only had one pattern at the time. Now I’ve got much more variety in my game.”

The new Woods is showing a surprising amount of savvy in recent weeks. Although he wasn’t as sharp on Saturday as he was on Friday, when he hit 17 of 18 greens in regulation and had a birdie, or eagle, putt on every hole, he played the type of round that could have made Sunday a formality if not for a 15th-hole “fluke.”

The new repertoire includes an updated version of the stinger shot, which he hit on numerous occasions Saturday, and a surprisingly conservative game plan.

“I wasn’t aggressive hardly any,” Woods said. “It was just too firm. I just relied on my lag putting.”

Well putting, and historical context that would suggest that regardless of his prolonged victory slide Woods is still the easy bet on Sunday.

He is 48-for-52 with a 54-hole lead and on the half dozen occasions he has won at Bay Hill just once (2009) he began the final round without at least a share of the lead.

There are other numbers, however, that suggest, as foregone conclusions go, Woods may be something short of a lock. In January he began the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship tied for the lead but faded into a tie for third and having GMac in the final pairing will only serve to remind him of his 2010 miss at Sherwood Country Club.

“There’s a familiarity of Tiger Woods being on the leaderboard every week, but that’s what he did when he was at his best, up until a few years ago,” McDowell said. “It’s been a weird couple of years without him kind of competing . . . I know he says he’s not on a comeback, he’s been around for a long time, but he’s still got to win.”

A victory on Sunday would be Woods’ first official Tour title since the 2009 BMW Championship, a run of 30 months filled with questions and doubt and more than one missed opportunity.

Late Saturday Woods was asked what a long-awaited “W” would mean, “It would mean No. 72 (Tour title). Not a bad number, either.”

This time he’s hoping he doesn’t flinch.

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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.