Arkansas Texas AM headed for NCAA showdown

By Associated PressMay 29, 2009, 4:00 pm
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TOLEDO, Ohio ' When the college coaches came up with the new format for the NCAA Division I mens golf championship, this is what they had in mind.
 
The first foray into match play provided wild finishes, overwhelming pressure, high drama and crucial swings of momentum. And the final match has yet to be played.
 
First Arkansas David Lingmerth aced the third hole on the way to winning his match in the semifinals, helping the fourth-seeded Razorbacks beat giant-killer Georgia to earn a berth in the final.
 
Then Matt Van Zandt clinched the decisive point for Texas A&M by chopping a make-or-break wedge out of the high rough from 96 yards out to 15 feet from the pin, capping a day of heart-stopping action at Inverness Club.
 
This format is great! Van Zandt said seconds after a large gallery which had followed every tension-filled shot of the final hole had applauded both teams. And its not just great because were doing so well. This is why they did this format.
 
Boy, did the coaches get it right.
 
The day began with top-seeded Oklahoma State being stunned by eighth-seeded Georgia, which had finished 30 shots behind the Cowboys during the 54 holes of medal play that determined the eight teams in match play.
 
It ended with Van Zandt ' whose scores hadnt even been counted in the three medal-play rounds ' slashing a shot out of the high rough that saved the day for his team.
 
Ive loved it since the minute we came up with it, A&M coach J.T. Higgins said. Im a huge fan, I have been since day one. Its proven to be really exciting and a fantastic way to play the championship.
 
The Razorbacks beat eighth-seeded Georgia 3 1/2 -1 1/2 , and seventh-seeded Texas A&M edged sixth-seeded Michigan by the same score. The Razorbacks and Aggies are both seeking their first golf title.
 
Arkansas and A&M will meet for the title with 18 holes of match play Saturday.
 
Lingmerth, a junior from Sweden, holed a 7-iron from 202 yards to build a 2-up lead. He ended up with a 3-and-2 victory over Georgias Hudson Swafford.
 
Of course theres work left, Lingmerth said. We know that. Were happy now but we know theres one more day. We finished second the last five tournaments we played, so we just came to the conclusion that now were going to get No. 1.
 
Other winners for the Razorbacks included Jamie Marshall, 1-up over Adam Mitchell, and Jason Cuthbertson, 2-and-1 over Harris English. Georgias Russell Henley defeated Arkansas Ethan Tracy 2-and-1. Brian Harman, who had led Georgia to the upset of Oklahoma State, halved his match with Andrew Landry.
 
That set the stage for the white-knuckle finish.
 
A&M had won two matches, Michigan had won one and a fourth was all square as Van Zandt carried a 1-up lead to the 17th green. After Van Zandt barely missed a 12-foot birdie putt, Michigans Bill Rankin calmly rolled in a 10-footer for birdie to square the match while a partisan Michigan crowd cheered.
 
Both hit driver on the par-4 18th, with Rankins ball coming to rest a couple of feet above a deep fairway bunker set in the side of a hill. He had an awkward stance, and the ball was settled down in the deep rough at Inverness Club.
 
Hitting first, he punched the ball out but it hit on the back of the green and took one bounce into a bunker.
 
I hadnt really had one come out of the rough all week that wasnt soft, he said. That one came out fast. It didnt have any spin on it.
 
Van Zandt was 20 yards in front of him, with a better lie but still in the deep rough. He popped out a wedge that landed in the middle of the green and ended up below the hole, which was located on a shelf on the back right portion of the green. He pumped his fist and yelled, WOOO! when the ball stayed on the putting surface.
 
I would consider wedges to be the strongest part of my game, the senior said. Thats why I hit driver off the tee because I knew that if I was in the rough Id feel really comfortable hitting a wedge in. It was a 96-yard shot and my number was 90 that I was trying to hit it. When I hit it I knew it came out perfect. What else can I say?
 
Rankin blasted out of the bunker but his shot rolled past the pin and rolled off the severe side of the green and into deep rough. From there, he took another mighty swing, the ball catching the edge of the hole before running several feet past.
 
Rankin then conceded Van Zandts putt, giving the Aggies the third point they needed to advance.
 
In addition to Van Zandts 1-up win, teammates Andrea Pavan beat Alexander Sitompul 8-and-7 and Bronson Burgoon topped Lion Kim 4-and-3. The Wolverines lone point came from Nick Pumfords 2-and-1 victory over Conrad Shindler, with A&Ms John Hurley and Michigans Matt Thompson fighting to a draw.
 
The head-to-head struggles sapped everyone.
 
It was just mentally draining, Arkansas coach Brad McMakin said. The kids are doing OK. Their emotions are running so high. they dont feel it yet. Theyll hit the wall tomorrow when its all over with. Were just going on pure adrenaline. But it was a great afternoon.
 
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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.

    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.