Amateur Scheffler - and sister - post 69 at U.S. Open

By Ryan LavnerJune 16, 2016, 9:41 pm

OAKMONT, Pa. – Amateur Scottie Scheffler is the clubhouse leader at the 116th U.S. Open. OK, so only nine players have finished their opening round after a stop-and-start day at Oakmont, but the point remains: The rising junior at Texas has played some solid golf so far.

“I feel pretty good,” said Scheffler, who turns 20 next week. “It hasn’t really sunk in yet.”

Scheffler was a former U.S. Junior champion and can’t-miss prospect from Dallas – sound familiar? – who earned NCAA Freshman of the Year honors in 2015. He suffered a back injury last fall at the U.S. Amateur and had, by his lofty standards, a substandard sophomore campaign, with only one top-10 in 13 starts.

One of the reasons: His body has undergone a massive transformation in the past few years. In high school, at age 14, he was 5-foot-2, 100 pounds. Now, entering his junior year of college, he’s 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, and still growing.

The rapid growth has put tremendous stress on his joints – thus the back injury last year – and he and swing coach Randy Smith have tried to manage an ever-changing swing and body despite limited practice time.

Still, Scheffler has remained competitive because of his world-class short game. He appeared to turn a corner two weeks ago at the NCAA Championship, where he routed NCAA individual champion Aaron Wise of Oregon on his home course in the final match. Texas eventually lost the championship.

“This year in college golf was pretty tough on me,” he said, “and I’m glad that I was on a really good team because that helped me get through it.”

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Scheffler played practice rounds at Oakmont with fellow Texan Jordan Spieth (with whom he’s been compared for years) as well as reigning Open champion Zach Johnson. 

Conditions in the first round were nothing like the practice days, but Scheffler adjusted on the fly. Instead of trying to muster as much spin as possible to hold the rock-hard greens, he played wedge shots with less juice to avoid zipping his ball off the front. He made only two bogeys (on the difficult first and 18th holes) during his round of 69, which put him two shots behind Andrew Landry, who was lining up a 10-footer for birdie on his final hole when play was suspended for the third, and final, time Thursday.

After a 4 a.m. wakeup call, Scheffler was simply relieved to finish.

“I tapped in a 2 1/2-footer kind of quickly, which maybe wasn’t the smartest idea,” he said. “But I wanted our group to get done so we didn’t have to come back in the morning.”

After enduring three weather delays, Scheffler might not hit another competitive shot until Saturday, which would allow for even more family time. Once again, he has his older sister, Callie, on the bag. She’s already looped for him in several big-time events, including the 2013 U.S. Amateur and two cameos on the PGA Tour.

“The comfort level is huge,” Scottie said. “We both kind of knew the drill.”

Callie is interning this summer for WorldLink, a cloud solutions and technology company outside Dallas. To caddie here, she had to ask her boss for a week off work, even though she had spent only nine hours in the office during her internship in the marketing department.

“They were incredibly supportive of Scottie and I,” Callie said, “and they said, ‘Don’t even worry about it. Go caddie. This is an incredible opportunity for your entire family.’”

Callie has one year of eligibility remaining at Texas A&M, where she has improved from a redshirt freshman with a 79 scoring average to a member of the starting five. She is now pursuing a master’s degree in marketing.

“The chemistry is really good between us,” she said. “I know his game and he’s really comfortable with me here.”

Through one day, at least, Scottie appears even more at ease on the big stage.

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Ortiz takes Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x