Hootie & the Blowfish golf event toasts the Masters in Grand Strand style

By Mike BaileyApril 10, 2012, 12:33 am

NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. – While this year's Masters was a tough act to follow, Hootie & the Blowfish had no problem holding its own Monday with its own little golf tournament.

Conducted at the Pete Dye Course at Barefoot Resort on the Grand Strand, the 18th edition of the Hootie & the Blowfish Monday after the Masters charity pro-am couldn't have been more perfect – unless of course they had found a way to convince 2012 Masters champion Bubba Watson to change his schedule for a surprise appearance.

The six-person scramble, featuring celebrities and pro players, took place under perfect sunny conditions and temperatures. The team of PGA Tour player Ken Duke and former NFL star Sterling Sharpe wound up winning with a 20-under par score of 52.

Duke's team won, but everyone was in a good mood, even as tournament emcee Charlie Rymer skewered the participants as they hit their tee shots on No. 1.

Nobody was safe from his barbs, not even tournament host Darius Rucker, front man for Hootie.

Rymer, a South Carolina native, made a loud whoopee cushion noise right in the middle of Rucker's backswing. The result was a block to the right as Rucker nearly fell over at impact, and a big laugh from the sizeable gallery.

Unlike the Masters, the golf Monday afternoon was about as non-serious as it gets. Rock and roll played on the tee boxes, there was live music in front of the clubhouse and fans didn't have to wait for the action to end to get autographs; players were generous on the tees and as they came off the greens.

For example, you can say what you want about John Daly, but the guy is still a rock star on the course. He signed golf balls, photos and programs by the dozens on each hole, posed for pictures in his now-signature Loudmouth Golf attire, and still hit the ball a mile off the tee to the delight of his followers and his teammates.

There were celebrities of every flavor. For NASCAR fans it was Kyle Petty and Michael Waltrip. Football fans got guys like former all-pro receiver Sterling Sharpe and quarterbacks Jim McMann and Tyler Thigpen. (Thigpen, by the way, won the morning long drive contest with a poke of some 350 yards – and it was mostly carry.) Former baseball players like Bret Saberhagen and Chuck Finley were there. Actors included Kevin Sorbo of 'Hercules' fame and scratch player Alfonso Ribeiro (Fresh Prince of Bel-Air). And there were plenty of musicians, of course, like Colt Ford, Johnny Lee and Hootie members Mark Bryan, Dean Felber and Jim Sonefield. A packed House of Blues got to hear from these guys later on Monday night as the fun continued.

Of course, some of the biggest names came from professional golf ranks, including Jim Furyk, fresh off his 10th-place finish at the Masters, and World Golf Hall of Famer and former No. 1 player in the world, Annika Sorenstam, who is a good friend of Rucker's.

For the seventh straight year, the event sold out with more than 6,000 fans in attendance, raising some $300,000 to $400,000 for South Carolina charities, much of it junior golf related.

'That kind of stuff of is really rewarding,' said Rucker, a University of South Carolina alum who was born and raised in Charleston. 'We're starting a scholarship program now. Helping somebody go to college -- that stuff is really cool.'

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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.

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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.