Woods shines on a surreal Saturday at AT&T

By Rex HoggardJuly 1, 2012, 1:47 am

BETHESDA, Md. – A little myth busting.

If a 100-year-old tree falls across Congressional’s 14th fairway no one hears it, but when Tiger Woods cut a swath across the baked-out Blue Course on Saturday with the absolute minimum of eyeballs on him the entire golf world sat up and took notice.

On a surreal day when cheers were replaced by chainsaws the guy in the green shirt made magic, not that many actually witnessed the AT&T National host roll his way to a 25-putt 67 that leaves him a stroke behind third-round leader Brendon de Jonge and closing on his second victory in as many starts at Congressional.

But Saturday wasn’t so much about what Woods shot as it was what it took to set the stage for his heroics and the precious few who actually watched it.

Late Friday a storm blew through Washington D.C., toppling trees and leaving more than a million homes without power.

The damage to Congressional was extensive and crews worked through the night to ready the layout for Round 3 play but officials never felt comfortable allowing fans onto the property so Saturday’s proceedings were something of a private affair.

As Woods readied for his third round your scribe asked one Tour type when was the last time he played without a gallery? “Yesterday,” he deadpanned. Fair enough, but Woods’ reality, at least between the ropes, is always inside the public domain.

As chainsaws and wood chippers echoed in the background, a threesome that included Greg Owen, George McNeill and Brian Harman teed off in the first group to begin what Tour officials say was the first tournament round closed to the public in recent memory.

After McNeill was announced to the tee first, which drew a round of strange looks considering the low-key nature of the event, he was forced to back off his tee shot as the cleanup effort buzzed around him.

“I knew it,” he laughed.

Who knew Woods, who has ignited galleries with his on-course theatrics for more than a decade, would be just as prolific in relative solitude?

The storm that whipped winds to 70 mph and ravaged the area is called a “derecho,” a native American word meaning straight. On Saturday Woods was wielding something of a derecho putter, which he established early with five consecutive one-putts to begin his day.

Statistically he’s posted three carbon copies on the Blue Course, 11 of 18 greens in regulation and 8 of 14 fairways hit each of the first three rounds. The difference on Day 3 was his putter, which dropped key par saves at Nos. 4, 14 and 17 and birdie putts at Nos. 1, 3, 6 and 10.

“I was fighting back and trying to make a run and I was able to do that,” said Woods, who won the 2009 AT&T National the last time this event was played at Congressional.

But if his putter was the meat and potatoes of Woods’ round, it was a delicate flop shot from left of the sixth green that was the highlight of day. Faced with a difficult par save after his approach bounced hard off of a ridge and ran into the rough Woods banged the shot off the flag for an unlikely birdie.

Quintessential Woods, only without the crowd-pleasing fist pump and cheers. It was just like Augusta National, only without the pine trees and roars.

“I felt like I got cheated on (No.) 6 when he chipped that ball in because normal crowds, that would have got really loud,” said Bo Van Pelt, who was paired with Woods on Saturday. “I didn't get to hear that cheer when he made that flop shot. Because it's fun; you take energy from that.”

Woods, however, was just as well with the serenity.

The host had an idea things were going to be interesting when he peeked out of his hotel window late Friday and “the (water) fountain, it's normally a fountain, but it looked like someone had turned the fire hose on.”

At 4 a.m. his cellphone began buzzing with messages from the tournament staff and when he arrived just past lunchtime to prepare for his round crews were still turning large, felled trees into mulch.

“I told Tiger that was a Bo Van Pelt crowd, so I was used to that,” Van Pelt smiled. “I was very comfortable with 10 or 15 people watching me play golf.”

Tour officials were confident the cleanup effort would be far enough along to allow spectators on the golf course for Sunday’s final round, setting the stage for a Tiger crowd and Woods’ third victory of 2012.

It would be a return to normalcy on many levels, particularly after Woods charged back into the hunt with no crowds and surprisingly little television coverage (CBS ended its telecast of the third round just as Woods was making his way around the back nine).

Here’s another myth that seems destined for busting: If Woods continues to putt the way he did on “Solitude Saturday” the competitive dominance that some figured would never return would seem closer than ever.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.