Tiger vs. Rory: Exhibition, but more

By Ryan LavnerOctober 28, 2012, 5:21 pm

Whatever happens Monday in China won’t alter the career trajectories of Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods.  

But intrigue nonetheless will be high when the top two players in the world, the biggest draws in the sport and the game’s most marketable players compete in an 18-hole exhibition – promoted as the Duel at Lake Jinsha – on Monday afternoon in the northern Chinese city of Zhenghou.  

McIlroy has done his part to hype the match-up, telling European reporters this week, “Tiger was a hero of mine growing up, and having watched him on TV doing all these incredible things, it’s now pretty cool to get to know him personally and play against him.”  

But does this 18-hole round mean anything? What can we glean from the end result? Since the budding rivals have squared off so much recently, has the showdown lost any of its appeal?

For context in this match-up, remember the initial reactions to the duo’s last encounter, two weeks ago at the Turkish Airlines World Golf Final. It was an eight-man exhibition. Half the field wore shorts. Last place received $300,000. Motivation was low, if not non-existent.

Yet in their Round 3 match, Woods waxed the world No. 1, 64-70, a round that was either momentous or utterly meaningless, depending on your rooting interest. Tiger continued in the competition, though he was bounced in the next round. Rory repaired to the resort pool with his tennis-star girlfriend. Both significantly padded their bank accounts.

“Recently we’ve played a lot together and it’s been fun,” Woods said, “but nothing like this.”

Statistically speaking, at least, Woods has owned McIlroy in head-to-head play. In the 10 rounds they have faced off, dating to the 2010 World Challenge, Woods owns an 8-2 record. His only losses came this season, during the opening rounds of both the Abu Dhabi Championship and BMW Championship, the latter of which McIlroy went on to win.  

The 23-year-old Northern Irishman is the undisputed No. 1 in golf, the most dominant player in golf (and potentially for the foreseeable future), yet he’s been unable to topple his “hero” with any regularity when the two have been paired together. Could that oddity change Monday?  

Both he and Woods are coming off sterling performances in their respective tournaments over the weekend, though both came away trophyless. On Sunday at the BMW Masters in Shanghai, McIlroy was edged by Ryder Cup teammate Peter Hanson, despite firing all four rounds in the 60s. Though deflated by the runner-up finish, McIlroy strengthened his lead in the yearlong Race to Dubai, as he inches closer to becoming the second player in two years to capture the money title on both sides of the Atlantic.  

Woods, meanwhile, matched a personal best by carding 28 birdies during the CIMB Classic in steamy Malaysia, but it still wasn’t enough to overcome a five-shot deficit entering the final round. He eventually finished joint fourth, three shots behind Nick Watney, whose course-record 61 in the final round sealed a one-shot victory.  

Afterward, Woods attempted to downplay expectations for golf’s version of playground 1-on-1, saying, “We will both probably be a little bit tired, but we’re going to try and put on a good show, shoot a low round and have a little bit of fun.”  

Added McIlroy, “I treat these exhibition matches as a bit of fun and it will be good to get bragging rights, but I will be trying hard to win here in Shanghai, so it will be hard to get myself up for Monday against Tiger.”

Hard to get myself up? Sorry, not buying it.  

Sure, this could be construed as merely a four-hour hit-and-giggle, a global version of the “Showdown at Sherwood,” an exhibition apparently not even worthy of being broadcast to fans in the U.S.

But, no, this is Rory vs. Tiger, world No. 1 vs. world No. 2, golf’s new king vs. the most dominant player of his generation.

The outcome won’t alter the career trajectory of either player, but that doesn’t mean it’s inconsequential.

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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.