British Am Champ Honoring Va Tech

By Associated PressJuly 18, 2007, 4:00 pm
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland -- Drew Weaver was standing around in his socks, waiting to get his spikes repaired at the hotel that looms over Carnoustie's 18th hole, when Zach Johnson came strolling by.
'How was your day?' the Masters champion asked.
'It was great,' Weaver replied, breaking into a wide-eyed grin.
The smile only got bigger when Weaver's dad stepped forward with the next day's practice arrangements: Two more major champions, Davis Love III and Justin Leonard, had signed up to play with 20-year-old Drew in their last tuneup for the British Open.
'That's awesome,' the youngster said, a tinge of disbelief in his voice.
Strange how life works out.
Three months ago, Weaver was strolling away from a managerial accounting class at Virginia Tech when he noticed a horde of police officers gathered at the building next door. One of them darted toward Weaver with a look of panic, telling him to run away as quickly as possible.
At first, Weaver reacted with the expected nonchalance of a college student with the world at his feet. He headed the other way with his roommate, but there was no real sense of urgency in their steps. Then came that awful sound from inside Norris Hall.
Pop. Pop. Pop.
Pop. Pop. Pop.
Weaver fled across a field and took cover at the university library, wondering what in the world was going on. Then came the awful news: 32 people had been gunned down by a deranged student, who then took his own life.
It would go down as the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Weaver had a class scheduled in the very same building, at the very same time, the very next day.
Flash ahead to Thursday. Weaver will tee off in one of golf's premiere events, a college junior-to-be who earned his treasured spot in the field just 3 1/2 weeks ago by becoming the first American since 1979 to win the British Amateur title.
'It's something I'm really proud to be able to do,' Weaver said. 'I'm able to represent my country and my university overseas in such a great setting for golf. There's so much history over here. It really means a lot.'
More than one could ever imagine, unless you happened to be a college student who saw a madman turn his campus into a killing ground. Weaver is playing the Open with a bag carried by his father and adorned in those distinctive Hokie colors, maroon and burnt orange -- a poignant reminder that life does indeed go on, even if it's never going to be quite the same.
'It was one of those experiences,' Weaver said, 'that will stick with me forever.'
He still gets choked up, his eyes filling with potential tears, every time he talks about that awful day. But his father notices a new resolve in his only child, a previously untapped reservoir of strength that might just carry this youngster to even greater heights than were already expected.
Weaver has always been a fierce competitor and brilliant student, making nothing but A's until he got to college. When it became apparent his perfect mark would end at Virginia Tech, he sulked home to prepare his parents.
'He basically asked us permission to make a B,' his father, John Weaver, recalled, shaking his head at the thought of someone so young being so driven to succeed. 'He was like, 'Oh, I can't believe this, blah, blah, blah.' I had to say, 'But son, it's OK. It's a B. That's still good.''
The father wondered how the shooting would affect Drew, even though he didn't know any of the victims. Would his motivation waver? Would bitterness set in? Would be start searching for some deeper meaning to life?
'I still think it's deep inside of him,' John Weaver said. 'But I don't think it's eating him up. In a way, it's kind of a neat thing. I think he's turning it into a positive energy. He's lucky. He has some golf ability ... and he's used some of this to fuel his drive.'
After playing poorly in the early spring, Weaver suddenly turned things around. Just days after the shootings, he returned to the course to help the Hokies pull off a huge upset in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, where they shared the championship with heavily favored Georgia Tech.
Everyone on the Hokies team played over their heads that final day, teaming up to shoot 8 under on the back nine. Weaver did his part, sinking a 35-foot putt at the last hole, then joined his teammates for an emotional trophy presentation.
'It was really a special weekend,' he remembered. 'We had so many people pulling for us. We just went down there and had an incredible performance.'
The seasons changed, but Weaver didn't let up. After being turned down by a couple of major amateur tournaments in his own country, he was accepted into the British Amateur. He figured it would be a good experience, a chance to play true links golf for the first time in his life.
He never expected to become the first American to reach the final since 1983. He never expected to be the first to win it all since Jay Sigel in 1979.
'It's my style of golf,' Weaver said. 'I think a lot about different shots. The creativity demanded over here by these golf courses was something that just elevated my game. I don't normally hit shots that I can hit over here. There's so many different shots I have to figure out or maybe even try for the first time.
'It's really neat.'
And it's really neat to play with some of the game's most recognized pros. On Tuesday, Weaver joined Stewart Cink and J.J. Henry for a practice round, listening intently as the two PGA Tour regulars passed along some of their secrets. How to play different shots. How to prepare. How to avoid getting burned out on a game that requires countless hours of practice beyond the public eye.
'This is something he'll remember forever, he and his dad out here together,' Henry said. 'I call him the Dream Weaver.'
As the threesome strolled up to the 16th green, Cink blurted out, 'Did you ever hear what happened to Tom Weiskopf at Loch Lomond?'
Nope, Weaver replied. Well, here goes: While designing the course -- which Weaver played last weekend, missing the cut in the Scottish Open -- Weiskopf slipped into a quicksand bog. He was soon trapped up to his chest but managed to escape the scary predicament with help from a tree root.
'That was a pretty crazy story,' Weaver said.
He out-drove both pros on the final hole, finding a safe spot between the meandering Barry Burn, then wandered over to the ropes to sign a few autographs.
'You're making it look too easy,' one fan commented through a thick Scottish brogue. 'Keep it up.'
Weaver smiled again and said thanks. Then he kept going, a youngster who knows how good life can be when you've seen it at its worst.
'It's definitely changed the way I think about things. It's only so bad when you hit a bad shot or have a bad round,' he said. 'It's not the end of the world.'
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    Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile

    By Nick MentaJanuary 21, 2018, 8:44 pm

    Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.

    The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from what would be a return trip to Augusta National but his first Masters.

    "The truth is that I crossed off on my bucket list playing Augusta [National], because I happened to play there," Rivarola said. "I've played every year with my university. But playing in the Masters is a completely different thing. I have been to the Masters, and I've watched the players play during the practice rounds. But [competing would be] a completely different thing."

    He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquin Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).

    Click here for full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship

    Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Tour and is poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.

    “Today, I had a completely different mentality, and that's usually what happens in my case," Niemann said. "When I shoot a bad round, the following day I have extra motivation. I realize and I feel that I have to play my best golf. The key to being a good golfer is to find those thoughts and to transfer them into good golf."

    Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.

    Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.

    Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.

    The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.

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    McIlroy gets back on track

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

    There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

    He is well ahead of schedule.

    Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

    “Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

    To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

    And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

    Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

    “I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

    The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

    The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

    But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

    Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

    Everything in his life is lined up.

    Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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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.