Els Makes It Look Easy in Ireland

By Sports NetworkOctober 1, 2004, 4:00 pm
KILKENNY, Ireland -- Ernie Els fired an 8-under 64 Friday to take the lead midway through the World Golf Championships - American Express Championship. He stands at 11-under-par 133 at Mount Juliet Conrad.
 
Overnight leader and reigning British Open champion Todd Hamilton shot a 3-under 69 and shares second place with Miguel Angel Jimenez, who carded a second-round 68. The duo is knotted at 9-under-par 135.
 
Heavy rain pelted the course for short intervals on Friday. Wind was up and play was contested under lift, clean and place for the second consecutive round.
 
Tiger Woods seemed to feel much better on Friday after back pain caused him to grimace and growl throughout his opening round on Thursday. In the second round, Woods did not show any outward signs of the injury he incurred while sleeping funny on a plane last week.
 
The two-time defending champion posted a 2-under 70 and is part of a group tied for ninth at minus-6.
 
'I feel much better today,' said Woods, who has three wins in four starts at this event. 'At least I could make somewhat of a turn and get the ball out there a little bit. Just still not quite right yet.'
 
Woods made two nice pars at the first two holes, then ran home a 15-footer for birdie at the fourth. He drained a 9-foot birdie putt at the seventh, and closed his front nine with a 32-foot birdie putt.
 
Woods three-putted the 12th green for his first bogey of the round. His second at the par-5 17th landed in a greenside bunker, but the No. 2 player in the world blasted out to 3 feet to set up birdie. Woods came up short with his approach at the closing hole and left with bogey to fall five behind Els.
 
'I had two three-putts and left two short ones there, so four putts right there, four shots. I could have been at 10 under par easily,' admitted Woods. 'If I would have putted better, I could have shot 66 no problem today. I just had four holes where I just spent a little more time on the greens than I should have.'
 
But Els' play was a bigger story than Woods' back on Friday.
 
The South African flew out of the gate in the second round. He rolled in a 4-footer for birdie at the first and made it back-to-back birdies with a 12-footer at the second. Els hit his tee ball to a foot to set up his third consecutive birdie at the par-3 third and made it four in a row with a 20-foot birdie putt at No. 4.
 
'I got off to a perfect start,' said Els. 'I knew it was going to be rough today. I actually took my time getting out to the range this morning. I normally take an hour to get out there, but today I waited and waited.'
 
The wait was worth it for Els.
 
He sank an 18-foot birdie putt at the ninth to go to minus-8 and take a two-shot lead. Els could not reach the green in two at the 10th because the rain was coming down hard. His second landed in a greenside bunker, where he blasted out to 7 feet and converted the birdie putt.
 
Els dropped his first shot of the round at 11. His 7-iron tee shot at the par-3 hole went through the green, but he chipped to 4 feet. Els missed the putt, but would atone for the mistake later in his round.
 
At the 14th, Els hit a 5-iron 10 feet behind the hole and made the putt. He added another birdie at 15 when his pitching-wedge second shot stopped 4 feet from the hole. Els failed to land on the green with a 3-wood at the par-5 17th, but he chipped to inches and tapped in the birdie try.
 
Els holed a clutch 10-footer for par at 18 to preserve his two-shot advantage.
 
'I'm leading at the moment, but leading right now doesn't mean much,' said Els, who has not won since the Memorial at the end of May. 'We've got a lot of golf to be played and I've got a lot of birdies to be made.'
 
Hamilton, who defeated Els in a playoff at Royal Troon to win the claret jug, hung with Els when the South African took the lead. Hamilton birdied the second and the par-5 eighth to make the turn at 2-under 34.
 
Hamilton never got anything going on the back nine after a 5-foot birdie putt at the 10th. He parred his final eight holes, including a tough 5-footer at the 15th, to stay within two of Els' lead.
 
'I've played well the last couple of days,' said Hamilton. 'It's easy to enjoy your golf when you're not making bogeys. I kept the round going. I had some good chips and made some good putts.'
 
Jimenez was even through 10 holes, but got going on the back nine. He birdied the par-3 11th and added another at 16. The Spaniard drained a 50-foot eagle putt at the 17th and hit a spectacular third shot to save par at the 18th.
 
Justin Leonard, the 1997 British Open champion, who lost in a playoff at the PGA Championship, carded his second 4-under 68 in as many days to take fourth at 8-under-par 136.
 
Lee Westwood, Thomas Bjorn, and current reigning U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen all posted rounds of 3-under 69 and are tied for fifth place with Steve Flesch, who shot a 70 on Friday. The group is knotted at 7-under-par 137.
 
Woods was joined in ninth by local favorite Padraig Harrington (69), his Ryder Cup teammates David Howell (69) and Luke Donald (71), Brad Faxon (68) and Angel Cabrera (69).
 
Sergio Garcia, who held the lead throughout much of Thursday's opening round until Hamilton went by him, only managed an even-par 72 on Friday and is part of a group tied for 15th at minus-5.
 
Related Links:
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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.