NAPLES, Fla. – Scores in the 50s aren’t unusual at the QBE Shootout at Tiburon Golf Club at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort.
Temperatures in the 50s are.
But they say there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing, and Steve Stricker, of wintry Madison, Wisconsin, and O’Hair, from outside Philadelphia, where his four kids went sledding over the weekend, weren’t bothered by the sweater weather. They shot a best-ball 64 at Tiburon on Sunday, good enough for a two-shot win over Ireland’s Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry.
“I was pretty cold,” O’Hair said with a laugh. “Today was tough. The wind was really cold, it was a heavy wind, and it made for difficult conditions. But it warmed up for us.”
The winners will split the $820,000 purse for the unofficial win. They fell two behind on the front nine but reeled off three straight birdies before making the turn. Stricker/O’Hair were still nursing a one-shot lead when O’Hair eagled the 17th hole, all but ending it. It was the second QBE Shootout title for each player, who had previously won the event with different partners.
Stricker, who hadn’t played much golf owing to his Presidents Cup captaincy, got to Naples a week early to bang the rust off. That was nothing unusual, as he’s such a frequent visitor to these parts he rents a house and belongs to Naples National Golf Club.
It was a family affair as Nicki Stricker caddied for her husband, while Jackie O’Hair (nickname: Jackie O) walked all 18 holes with Sean. Back in Pennsylvania, Jackie’s parents looked after the four kids, who are in seventh, fifth, second and first grades, and were delighted with the snowy weekend.
“They’re probably ready for us to come home,” Jackie said with a laugh.
Z.J. HOPES TO GET BORING IN 2018
Zach Johnson is trying to get back his usual fairways-and-greens game that made him a 12-time PGA TOUR winner. “I’m just really trying to get back to being boring,” said Johnson, who was hitting fairways at a greater than 71 percent clip in 2015, the year he won The Open, but has dipped to 66 percent over the past two seasons.
“Fairways, greens, make putts,” he said. “We study stats, and I’ve gotten off that a bit.”
DAD TEAM FINISHES T4
Keegan Bradley and Brendan Steele, who won the QBE in 2011, shot 67 and finished T4 with Finau/Thompson and Daniel Berger/Gary Woodland (64). More importantly, Bradley and Steele were each playing in their first tournament as new fathers.
Brendan’s daughter, Victoria, was born Oct. 26, while Keegan’s son, Logan, arrived Nov. 13.
“We’ve definitely been comparing notes, for sure,” said Bradley, who with his wife, Jillian, drove to Naples from Jupiter, Fla., with Logan tucked securely in the back seat. “It feels a little different, but they’re so young now, they’re just sleeping all day. I look forward to when he’s running around a little bit.” Reminded that the PNC Father Son Challenge is next week in Orlando, Bradley laughed. “I was just thinking about that,” he said. “Maybe in 15 years.”
Brendan’s wife, Anastasia, and Victoria did not make the flight from Irvine, Calif.
THOMPSON SUCCESSFUL IN RETURN
Lexi Thompson missed a two-foot putt to lose the LPGA’s season-ending CME Group Tour Championship at Tiburon Golf Club last month, but she was resilient and back for more at the QBE.
The field’s biggest draw, Thompson and partner Tony Finau shot a final-round 66 to finish T4 despite the course being nearly 7,400 yards long and Thompson playing from the men’s tees.
“Definitely tested my whole game overall,” she said. “The distance that these guys play, especially in this wind—I was hitting 4-irons, 6-irons, hybrids.”
“I had my sweater on for the first two holes today, and I made a couple bad swings and was like: sweater off.” – Graeme McDowell, one of the only players in the field who competed in shirtsleeves for most of the weekend.
“Her game held up. I mean, it’s long for us.” – Brendan Steele on Lexi Thompson playing from the men’s tees at 7,382-yard Tiburon.
Low round: Zach Johnson and Charley Hoffman shot a 9-under 63 to finish 8th.
Best Dressed (unofficial title): McDowell/Lowry, the only team who wore matching uniforms each day.
Low temperature: After strong winds and spitting rain Saturday, the temperature was 49 degrees when players teed off Sunday. The cold affected scoring; the winning total of 26-under was a far cry from the tournament record of 34-under, set by Fred Couples and Raymond Floyd in 1990.