Its Masters Time

By Tom AbbottApril 1, 2008, 4:00 pm
This is my final column before the Masters so Ill have to focus in on who I think will make a name for themselves from the European contingent. Im going to pick three names to watch at Augusta so here goes:
  • Padraig Harrington: Last years Open Champion is now a serious contender at every major. I like Paddy for the Masters - hes played the tournament eight times in the past and has two top 10 finishes. The WGC-CA Championship came at just the right time, as it proved to all those players in the top echelons of the game that Tiger is beatable at a time when some may have been wondering whether he wasnt. Paddy is a smart chap - hes a qualified accountant - and he knows he can down Tiger, as he did at Carnoustie, which is a tough thinking mans course. Augusta requires that same strategy and patience, and I think hes got it.
  • Lee Westwood: 2007 was a huge year for Lee, marking his return to the world stage as he won twice on the European Tour. Hes been to the states this season and played well, returned to defend in Spain last week and will now rest before heading to Augusta. I think the key for Westwood is that unlike recent years he knows next week if he finds his form hell be in the hunt on Sunday afternoon.
  • Henrik Stenson: 2008 marks the Swedes third appearance at Augusta National, he missed the cut in 2006 and finished T-17 last year. Hes at the top of the European Tour Order of Merit, despite having played only six tournaments on the tour since the beginning of November. Stenson's major time will come, and theres no reason I can see why it shouldnt be the 2008 Masters.
    One European wholl be playing but wont attract much attention at the bookies is Sandy Lyle. I recently sat down with Sandy for an interview which will air during our Live From the Masters show. We talked a lot about the 1988 tournament and his 7-iron from the bunker on 18. It was very interesting to hear his take on the happenings, we all have a picture in our mind of the shot, but of course being that we saw it through a television set at completely different angles than the player, his views and memories are quite different.
    He also talks about the struggles hes had to endure since his victory. Hard to believe he only captured four further wins after the Masters - he tells me why he thinks the problems occurred and why it took so long to fix. The Ryder Cup is also high on Lyles agenda, might he be the next European Ryder Cup captain?

    Dont Forget the Kraft Nabisco
    Having spent two years hosting GOLF CHANNEL UKs coverage of the LPGA Tour, I am a big fan of the ladies game and Im excited about this weeks first major. The Kraft Nabisco comes in for quite a bit of criticism though from the players - two pro-ams, and one of which is on another course, doesnt help the cause. I must add to it by saying Im very disappointed with the exemptions offered to players from the LET. Only the top two players from the LET qualify, compared to 70 from the LPGA, is that fair? Surely the balance of power is not that skewed.
    Despite the uphill battle the field does contain 20 Europeans, one of whom is my favorite, Ill tip Annika to do the business. I think shes ready to win a major once again (2006 US Womens Open was her last). Having won on tour this year and captured the Dubai Ladies Masters at the end of the 2007 LET schedule, I think the timing is perfect for Annika to resume her race with Tiger.

    Email your thoughts to Tom Abbott
    Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - The Masters
  • Full Coverage - Kraft Nabisco
  • 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.