College Review: Illinois tops first Golfstat ranking

By Ryan LavnerOctober 15, 2014, 4:49 pm

Each week on, we’ll take a look back at the main storylines in college golf.

Biggest takeaway: Illinois is the clear-cut No. 1 team 

The first Golfstat ranking of the season was released Wednesday and – no surprise – the Illini are ranked No. 1. They cemented their place at the top with a rain-shortened victory over No. 8 Auburn at the Sagamore Fall Preview, the team’s third in a row to begin the fall. (Oregon is the only other team with three wins so far.)  Junior Thomas Detry finished first in the 36-hole event in Indiana, with Brian Campbell (T-2) and Charlie Danielson (T-5) also in the top 5. All three of those players are ranked inside the top 11 nationally. This years bunch will look to join the 1988-89 Illinois team – which featured both Steve Stricker and current head coach Mike Small – as the only squad in school history with four fall victories when it heads to Florida this weekend for the Tavistock Collegiate Invitational.

Team of the week: Cal

The Golden Bears erased a final-round deficit to win the Alister MacKenzie Invitational – the team’s home event – for the sixth consecutive season (and ninth time in the last 12 years). Playing in wind, cold and fog in Northern California, freshman Sebastian Crampton finished third to record his third consecutive top 10, while Keelan Kilpatrick closed with 69 to sit joint sixth. Cal has now twice and finished in the top 4 in all four starts this fall. 

Player of the week: Max Rottluff, Arizona State

The Sun Devils junior finished solo sixth in the team’s first event, then shot 9-under 204 (68-66-70) to earn medalist honors by two shots at the Alister MacKenzie. It was the German’s first career victory, after a trio of top 10s a year ago. Rottluff, now ranked No. 12 by Golfstat, was the only ASU player to finish in the top 10, helping the Sun Devils to a season-best runner-up finish.

Biggest disappointment: Rain wiping out 54-hole events

What a rough weather week in college golf, as the Sagamore Fall Preview, Bank of America at Blackthorn, Rod Myers Invitational and Collegiate Classic, among others, were reduced to 36 holes because of inclement weather. Heck, the final round of the AutoTrader was scrubbed because of a tornado watch!

Keep an eye on: U.S. Collegiate Championship 

This is the big daddy in the fall schedule: 11 top-30 teams, including four of the top 10. Oklahoma State and Texas – teams I had ranked Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, heading into this season but have gotten off to slow starts – are here, and so are the likes of UCLA, Stanford, Washington, Auburn and LSU. I’ve written often here that fall success isn’t always a predictor of postseason play, but the final leaderboard at the U.S. Collegiate should hint at where this season is headed.  

What you may have missed: Wake Forest freshman Will Zalatoris shot rounds of 66-68 to beat Virginia’s Denny McCarthy by two shots at the rain-shortened Bank of America event. Zalatoris, remember, is the reigning U.S. Junior champion. Seems some freshman transitions are shorter than others. … Just days after advancing to the final stage of LPGA Q-School, USC junior Annie Park returned to school to capture the school-record sixth victory of her career. … The new No. 1-ranked player in college golf is probably not who you’d think: Jacksonville’s Franck Medale, who earlier this week won the Donald Ross Intercollegiate. Stanford’s Maverick McNealy, Georgia Tech’s Ollie Schniederjans, Georgia’s Lee McCoy and Illinois’ Charlie Danielson are Nos. 2-5, respectively. That’s more like it. 

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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.