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Time is now for International team to win

By Rex HoggardSeptember 26, 2017, 7:12 pm

JERSEY CITY, N.J. – Nick Price played in the third match back in 1994 when the PGA Tour’s experiment with a match-play team event was launched.

Price lost that first fourball Presidents Cup match to Davis Love III and Fred Couples. Twenty-three years later he’s still facing Boom-Boom and DL3, both assistants for the U.S., with painfully similar results.

For Price, who turned in his scorecard for a captain’s golf cart in 2013 at the biennial bout between the U.S. and International teams, it’s been a definition of insanity deal ever since.

To put Price’s history with the Presidents Cup in context, the last time his International side won the event he was ranked No. 6 in the world, and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas were 5 years old.

Although there will be non-stop chatter about how evenly matched the teams are and how competitive this edition will be, on this the Presidents Cup is what its record says it is – a 1-9-1 International rout.

It’s not as though Price isn’t aware of the competitive swoon his side faces, it’s just that his options are limited.

Even before Price’s first turn as captain at the ’13 matches he’d made his plea to anyone who would listen at the Tour that change was needed if the Presidents Cup was going to be competitive.


Presidents Cup: Articles, video and photos


For Price and the other members of the International side, there was nothing wrong with the Presidents Cup that some new math couldn’t fix. Specifically, he wanted the matches to follow the same format as the Ryder Cup, which features just 28 points up for grabs compared with 34 at the ’13 Presidents Cup.

The Tour balked, the Internationals lost by three points.

Two years later, Price made another run at the Tour to adjust the points to mirror the format used at the Ryder Cup, which is the undisputed pinnacle of team golf.

Price and others contend that reducing the points would allow the International team, which is not as deep as the U.S. squad, to be more competitive, and prior to the ’15 matches the Tour agreed, to a point, and reduced the number of available points to 30.

The result was the closest match in a decade, with the cup decided on the final green by the final match when Bill Haas defeated Sangmoon Bae to secure a 15 1/2 to 14/ 1/2 U.S. victory.

On Tuesday at Liberty National, Price was asked if he made another run at the Tour and new commissioner Jay Monahan to further reduce the amount of points to 28.

“No, I didn’t. It would be very hard to go and push after what happened in South Korea,” Price said. “If you were commissioner and I came to you and said I want to reduce another two points, you’d say what was wrong with South Korea. I wouldn’t have had a strong leg to stand on with that argument, so I didn’t touch it.”

Perhaps this is the new normal. Maybe the matches are entering a long-awaited era of parity like that enjoyed at the Ryder Cup, which has been decided in recent years by the slimmest of margins. On paper, however, Price should ready himself for more of the same.

The average world ranking of the U.S. team is 15th and captain Steve Stricker’s crew won a combined 17 events this season on Tour, including three of the four major championships. That modern day Murder’s Row will face an International team with an average world ranking of 32nd and just eight combined victories this year on Tour.

These events aren’t won on paper, but you can’t hide talent. Or, more to the point, Price can’t hide mediocrity.

In ’15 in South Korea, Price had the benefit of a breakout performance from Branden Grace, who went 5-0 teamed with Louis Oosthuizen. Asked on Tuesday who this week’s “Grace” would be, he rattled off a list of potential leaders that included Anirban Lahiri.

Lahiri is one of the game’s most thoughtful and endearing players, but he has just two top-10 finishes this year on Tour and he failed to earn even a half point two years ago in South Korea. Perhaps it’s simply optimism, be it hopeless or otherwise, but under the current points structure it’s Price’s only option if his team is going to win the event for the first time since 1998.

“The next few we’ll see,” Price reasoned. “Maybe this is the optimum, maybe 30 is the right number. I don’t know. It’s just that the Ryder Cup has been proven over the last 30, 40 years, so maybe this is the better way to go. Time will tell.”

Perhaps, but how much time does the event have until it loses any semblance of competitive relevance?

In 2015, Price talked about the need to simply have a close match, a competitive match, something his players could see as progress; but the time for moral victories is over.

Anything short of an absolute sea change for the International side and it will be time for Price and Co. to make another plea for a points change, and time for the Tour to finally take action.

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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.