For Woods, a win would be nice, not epic

By Rex HoggardDecember 4, 2011, 1:20 am

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif.  – It’s December.

The time for Tour types to wind down, or retool, children to shape up or suffer the consequences and a hyperventilating golf public to reach for the brown bag of reason.

Yes, Tiger Woods is one stroke back at his own Chevron World Challenge through three days of Santa Ana insanity. Sure he’s fresh off an Australian fortnight that left plenty of room for optimism. It’s just the intoxicating combination of renewed health and budding confidence in a new swing has left many tipsy from expectation.

As a rule, Tour types don’t do expectations. It is the ugly cousin of self-doubt to the sports psychologist and competitive kryptonite for those who play for a paycheck. But Woods’ scorching run through early winter has many declaring mission accomplished.

“I don’t like expectations, but if you had expectations for anyone you’re going to have them with him,” said Zach Johnson, who will begin Sunday’s final lap at Sherwood Country Club a shot clear thanks to a 7-iron approach shot at the last on Saturday that didn’t stop rolling until it was in the bottom of the cup.

Without question there is reason to be optimistic, maybe even unrealistically so. A win for Woods on Sunday would end a two-year, 26-tournament drought and be the best evidence to date that swing, mind and body are becoming one.

What it wouldn’t be is the finish line. With all due respect to the Chevron and those who toil to produce the best 18-man event in golf it is still the silly season. His fifth Chevron title would be rewarding on many levels for Woods, but don’t confuse progress for perfection. The level of hyperbole that has gripped Sherwood is something just south of a major championship.

Early Saturday a scruffy-looking type braved the cold wind on the approach to Sherwood holding a handmade sign: “Need tickets.” It is the type of scene one expects along Washington Road in spring, not Westlake Boulevard in winter.

Satellite trucks have been prepositioned and more reporters dispatched in anticipation of “the moment,” and not even two bogeys over his last six holes on Saturday could quiet the frenzied crowds.

For Woods to get off the schneid here would be fitting but deep down even the host knows it would be a step forward, not a giant leap. Those bounds will come next year at Abu Dhabi and Augusta National and the Olympic Club for the U.S. Open.

Woods also knows these are no longer the formalities they used to be.

Last time he held a 54-hole lead was at Sherwood last year, when he began the final loop four clear of Graeme McDowell, opened Sunday bogey-birdie-bogey, slipped into a playoff with a double bogey at the 13th hole and blinked in overtime.

The Sean Foley-rebuilt swing is solid, but there are still moments of uncertainty – particularly when the Santa Ana winds begin wafting from every direction.

Nor is Woods making the most of the par 5s, low-hanging fruit for him before 2009. For 11 of his first 13 seasons Woods led the Tour in par-5 scoring average, but has slipped to 35th and 121st, respectively, the last two years and his 4.59 average this season is his highest.

Through 15 par 5s this week at Sherwood he’s posted a 4.6 scoring average, and that includes two eagles on Friday. Fields no longer spot him a stroke a side like they once did.

As is custom, Woods eschewed the potential significance of Sunday victory, instead staking his claim to the competitive high ground and leaving the exaggerated expectations to fans and media.

“I like (wins), that’s why I play the game,” Woods said simply following his third-round 73 that left him at 7 under.

Johnson watched much of last month’s Presidents Cup and was, like most who braved the early morning telecast, impressed with Woods’ play at Royal Melbourne.

“To me it looked like all facets of his game were on. Cups bring out any weaknesses you may have and it didn’t look like he had many,” Johnson said. “He’s obviously really, really close again . . . I hope so.”

Most do because comeback stories are universal. But like most things Tiger a potential Chevron victory has been mutated into something greater than the sum of its parts. If he wins on Sunday it will be a refreshing step, not a final solution.

It is, after all, December.

Follow the Chevron World Challenge on Golf Channel and NBC. Airtimes: Golf Channel, 1-3 PM ET Sunday. NBC, 3-6 PM and 8:30-11:30 PM ET Sunday.

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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.