College Review: 'Bama, Cal not completely rebuilding

By Ryan LavnerOctober 1, 2014, 4:48 pm

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

Biggest takeaway: Alabama still has a realistic shot at the three-peat

Keep in mind that hasn’t happened since Houston in the mid-1960s. At Graeme McDowell’s event in Alabama, the Crimson Tide held the 36-hole lead before a nine-shot swing on the final day with North Florida. Among the four counters, the Tide shot a combined 7 over on the back nine to squander an opportunity for its first title of the season – a finish that was a “disaster,” according to coach Jay Seawell

With the senior core no longer in Tuscaloosa, it was clear that this Alabama team wasn’t going to be as strong as in years’ past. But these mistakes are better made in October than May, and, diminished or not, this is still a top-5 program. Sophomore Robby Shelton remains one of the top two players in college golf, and senior Tom Lovelady, the team’s No. 5 man a year ago, earned his best career finish (2nd) at Shoal Creek. Bet on the Tide hitting its stride come springtime. 

Team of the week: Wake Forest 

Three Wake players finished in the top 10 as the Demon Deacons shot 38 under par – one shot off the school record – during the three-round event to edge Auburn by a shot. It was a stark departure to the team’s first outing, an eighth-place finish at the loaded Carpet Capital. Junior Davis Womble has opened his 2014-15 campaign with back-to-back top-10s, Paul McBride was a team-best T-3 at Primland and Will Zalatoris, the 2014 U.S. Junior champion, hasn’t finished worse than 21st in his first two college starts. This team’s arrow is pointed up, especially with Cameron Young, one of the top junior players in the country, committed to play for the Demon Deacons in fall 2015.


California sophomore Cameron Shaw (Cal athletic dept.)

Player of the week: Cameron Shaw, Cal

A week after finishing second at the Windon Memorial, the Golden Bears sophomore made the first albatross in school history en route to sharing medalist honors at the Itani Quality Homes Collegiate in Washington. Shaw, who tied with Washington State’s Sang Lee at 6-under 204, made a 2 on the par-5 10th hole at Palouse Ridge during a final-round 71. He used a 2-iron (!) from 258 yards. “The coaches talk about quantum leaps,” he said, “and this was by far the biggest one for me.” 

Honorable mention: Joey Petronio, North Florida. With a career-low, seven-birdie 66 in the final round at Shoal Creek, the Ospreys junior leapfrogged Alabama’s Tom Lovelady to win for the second time in his career.

Biggest disappointment: Virginia

In a weak, nine-team field, the Cavaliers could finish no better than sixth at the Primland Collegiate Invite, 19 shots behind winner Wake Forest. Senior Denny McCarthy, a U.S. Amateur semifinalist, World Amateur Team Championship representative and one of Golf Channel’s top 10 players to watch this season, failed to break par in any of the three rounds and finished 33rd. Last season he was outside the top 10 only three times in 12 starts. Virginia was also missing stud freshman Austin Truslow, who played the teams first two events.

Keep an eye on: Cal surprising early

Like Alabama, the Golden Bears were also thought to be in rebuilding mode this season. One of the most prolific winners in the match-play era, Cal returned to the winner’s circle last week but with a decidedly different look. Gone are Max Homa and Brandon Hagy, Michael Weaver and Joel Stalter. Enter three freshmen and two sophomores, and Cal finished as the only team under par during its 13-shot victory last week at the Windon Memorial. The Bears followed that performance with a solo third at the Itani Quality Homes Collegiate, where sophomore Cameron Shaw earned medalist honors. “It’s early,” Cal coach Steve Desimone said in an email, “but I have that instinct that tells me we’re onto something special again.”

What you may have missed: A week after the Golfweek Conference Challenge became the first women’s NCAA Division I event to put live scoring in the players’ hands, the same system was implemented once again at a men’s event in Pullman, Wash. (The majority of Division II and III tournaments have already implemented player live scoring, because of a lack of volunteers.) Besides the obvious concerns about distraction and receiving information, it’s clear that this is the future of the sport – the system is faster, easier and cuts out the third party (volunteers). 

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.