Hooks and Cuts: Woods No Longer Mr. Popular

By Rich LernerMarch 23, 2011, 11:20 pm
Arnold Palmer InvitationalORLANDO, Fla. – Among athlete endorsers, Tiger Woods' negativity rating is matched only by Michael Vick at 49 percent, according to CNBC’s Darren Rovell. That’s simply hard to reconcile, especially set against the images I saw recently – Tiger’s “better than most” putt at The Players and his mile long Saturday eagle at the ’08 U.S. Open. In both instances, and there were dozens of others, Tiger is hands down the most reliable deliverer of the greatest clutch moments you swore you’d ever seen in your life, and purely from a performance standpoint no amount of praise was too much.

Tiger crushed hyperbole, 7 and 6, and did it with a fist pump and a huge smile.  So thinking about how people felt then about Tiger, it’s absolutely mind boggling to fathom how we got to 49 percent. The awkward appearances on Jimmy Fallon's late night show and 'Morning Drive' don’t seem to be helping.  Winning will. Nothing says “he’s got his act together” quite like a victory, shallow as that sounds. The guy who won five times a year now needs one win, any win to pull away from Michael Vick or whoever the next wayward star turns out to be.

With Woods set to go for win No. 7 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, here are some more nuggets from Bay Hill:

  • Johnny Vegas recently played Augusta National in anticipation of his first Masters appearance next month. “Wow,” he said with that easy smile. “Everywhere I turned I kept saying, ‘wow.'”  Johnny’s hoping for a practice round in two weeks with Ben Crenshaw, who could conduct a clinic for first-timers on how to navigate those magnificent and complicated greens.
  • Rocco Mediate is fighting injury again. This time it’s the left elbow, having discovered small tears in the tendon, sustained, he says, during his rousing Fall Series win in San Jose last year. He’s undergone three platelet rich plasma injections over the last three months and feels better. Asked if the moment of impact is painful when he hits a shot, Rocco replied, “No, because I’m not a digger.”
  • Gary Woodland’s got Jack Nicklaus-like thighs, and like the Bear, he loves basketball. Jack averaged 18 points a game in high school and played industrial league hoops well into his 30s. I went to a Phoenix Suns game with Woodland the week of the Waste Management Phoenix Open and Suns executive Harvey Shank was nice enough to open the practice facility for us. Gary stroked NBA threes with ease, his range and touch impressive. When you see an athlete, you know it immediately. Gary’s an athlete, the kind Tiger said Wednesday that, with greater frequency, is choosing golf over other sports, just as Gary did when he walked away from college basketball at Division II Washburn to play golf at Kansas.
  • Andy Bean, 58, is in the field at Bay Hill. “I told Mr. Palmer that if I didn’t have a Champions Tour event, and I don’t this week, I’d come back,” the friendly big man with the biggest hands in the history of the sport said. Bean won here 30 years ago with scores of 68-62-67-69, beating Tom Watson by seven. How does he think he’ll fare now?  “If I drive it well, I’ll be OK,” he said. “But you better drive it well on this course.”
  • Palmer spoke powerfully Wednesday to the slow play issue: “The more people that watch pros take their time and fiddle and fuss around hitting golf shots, the more we are going to see play slowed in the normal ranks on golf courses around the country. And that is something that is of major importance to the future of the game.”
  • Lee Westwood, not at Bay Hill this week but mindful of what’s ahead, spoke powerfully on Tiger: “There’s an old saying that class is permanent and form is fickle. Tiger’s the classiest player I’ve ever played with and I’d be wise enough to know not to write him off.”
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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.