All Roads Lead to Vegas

By Rich LernerApril 25, 2003, 4:00 pm
Hooks and Cuts on Golfs Winding Trail, Part Three
Editor's Note: This is the final installment of a three-part Lerner's Journal, as Rich recounts his recent road trip covering the Masters, the Hootie & the Blowfish tournament and the LPGA in Las Vegas.
  • Part One, 'The King and His Scribes'
  • Part Two, 'A Cruel and Beautiful Game'
    Monday after the Masters found me back in Myrtle Beach, where Id started the journey eight days prior at the GWAA banquet.
    I was a bit groggy. After finishing our work at Augusta at nearly midnight Sunday, Kelly Tilghman and I drove 3 1/2 hours to her hometown of North Myrtle Beach.
    By mid-morning we were about to embark on a much different assignment'the annual Hootie and The Blowfish Celebrity Pro-Am, which will air as a one-hour special May 12th on The Golf Channel.
    Former Baltimore Raven lineman Tony Siragusa played, swinging the club, according to an amateur whod seen him, like a caveman killing his dinner.
    Super Bowl bad boy Jim McMahon couldnt think of a reason not to relieve himself just off the 13th hole. Someone suggested it be roped off as casual water. Looked more like a case of rub and tug of the green.
    John Daly entertained as usual. Before a sizable gallery on the first tee, he smashed his ball off the top of a coke can about 320 yards. He wore untied shoes, Bermuda shorts and an un-tucked shirt. John says in his home state of Arkansas that qualifies as a three piece suit.
    The day rolled like this for hours, the soothing sun and loose atmosphere the perfect way to begin to restore my tired mind and body.
    Then I hopped the 7:20 out of Myrtle Beach that night to Atlanta, and then another bird to take me to another kind of madness.
    Las Vegas.
    Talk about the powers of rejuvenation. What time was it anyway? Not far from sun up in the East, but Vegas loans you those three hours. I was more than happy to take em back, along with some hope and a little more cash than I usually withdraw from the ATM.
    Gambling at one time in my life held some excitement, back in college when Atlantic City was rising and wed make the trip from Philadelphia. But I dont have the patience for it any more.
    Either you have to commit to sitting for the long haul, diligently playing the percentages, hoping to outlast the house. Or, you have to throw caution to the wind and take a few chances, stepping up the bet, trying to hit a home run.
    As I said, I dont have the patience and most of the dealers I ran into in the brief 90 minutes I sat at the blackjack jack table at the Bellagio werent of the mind to give up any home runs to big swinging players. Matter of fact, they were a bit like Roger Clemens in that respect - hard to hit.
    Easier to read would be the LPGA Takefuji Classic, the reason my ticket said Las Vegas.
    The LPGA Tours getting better pub these days. Annikas been on Leno, The Today Show, 60 Minutes. Sports Illustrated even likes the buzz surrounding the circuit.
    But long term, after Annikas Colonial experiment is past, theyll need to keep the momentum alive.
    Most observers agree that the tour would get a giant boost if a young American could step forward in a significant and consistent manner. Laura Diaz has shown flashes, but shes not yet elite. Hopefuls like Natalie Gulbis and Beth Bauer are promising and look the part, but they havent even won yet.
    All the while, the Asians continue to assert themselves. Their names are everywhere in a single days telecast of an LPGA event. Their junior golf programs deliver, and the players on the whole are highly skilled, focused and determined.
    What they generally are not is overly emotional or outwardly ebullient. The language barrier makes interviews somewhat difficult. So ultimately, those two factors conspire, on occasion, to overshadow the brilliant golf. This is a form of television entertainment, after all.
    This is not in any way to be construed as a knock against the Asian players. This is not their issue. This is simply to say that this is the current state of affairs. This is to say that the powers that be at the tour would dearly love to see a fresh American player with the personality to match the game.
    I seem to recall it happened 25 years ago. Remember Nancy?
    Finally, the week at an end, Id begin my journey back to real life with simple goals. The first was to give up those three hours Id found on the way out.
    One way or the other, you always pay in Vegas.
  • Getty Images

    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.

    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.