College Review: Florida State takes next step

By Ryan LavnerOctober 22, 2014, 3:28 pm

Each week on, we’ll review the main storylines in college golf.

Biggest takeaway: Florida State has taken the next step

There’s a new No. 1 on the men’s side after the Seminoles made four birdies in the last two holes and beat seven top-30 programs – including former No. 1 Illinois – at the Tavistock Collegiate. After runner-up finishes in each of its first two starts – both times losing to the host school, Illinois (Olympia Fields) and Alabama (Jerry Pate) – FSU finally got in the win column after four Seminoles finished inside the top 13 individually, including T-3s from both 2014 ACC Freshman of the Year Jack Maguire and junior Rowin Caron. Florida State reached the NCAA finals a year ago, but flamed out in the stroke-play portion. Expect a deeper run this year, with a strong, well-balanced lineup that features three sophomores and two juniors. This mightn’t be the Seminoles’ last week atop the rankings. 

Team of the week: Texas 

Ah, now that’s more like it for the preseason No. 2. Locked in a compelling duel with Virginia, the Longhorns eked out a one-shot victory at the U.S. Collegiate to take home its first team title of the season. Top-10s by Gavin Hall and Scottie Scheffler were welcome signs in the best tournament on the fall schedule, but the key for the No. 5-ranked Longhorns might have been the addition of Kramer Hickok. To underscore just how deep and talented this roster is, consider this: Hickok is a two-time All-Big 12 selection, but he couldn’t even crack the starting five coming out of team qualifying. He squeaked through for the U.S. Collegiate, then finished 15th in his season debut. One of only two seniors on the team, Hickok is the glue that holds this squad together. 

Player of the week: Derek Bard, Virginia

The sophomore (pictured above), ranked No. 34 by Golfstat, dusted the field with a closing 64 at the U.S. Collegiate to capture medalist honors by six shots. Bard’s 15-under 201 was the third-lowest 54-hole total in school history (behind only PGA Tour players Ben Kohles and Steve Marino). In just 14 career starts, Bard has already amassed six top 10s, though this was the first victory of his career. His win, along with teammate Denny McCarthy’s runner-up finish, nearly helped Virginia pull off a big upset in Georgia. The Cavs, now ranked No. 8, ultimately finished one shot behind Texas. 

Biggest disappointment: Oklahoma State 

Things went from bad to worse for the Cowboys, a team we had ranked No. 1 entering the season. After placing no better than fifth in its first two starts, Oklahoma State finished 14th in the 15-team field at the U.S. Collegiate and now has tumbled all the way to No. 41 in Golfstat’s latest rankings. Three OK State players finished outside the top 60 individually, including junior Jordan Niebrugge (73rd), who was making his first start of the season after being sidelined with a wrist injury. Sophomore Wyndham Clark, one of the nation’s best a year ago, has yet to record a top 10 this season. The Cowboys will look to salvage what has been a disappointing fall at their final event, the Oct. 28-29 Royal Oaks Intercollegiate.

Keep an eye on: USC

Sophomore Rico Hoey and freshman Jonah Texeira finished second and third, respectively, at the Bill Cullum Invitational in helping lead the Trojans to an 11-shot win over Arizona State and their second first-place finish of the season (lost in a team playoff at the Itani Quality Homes Collegiate). Losing Anthony Paolucci (Q-School) definitely hurts, but Hoey has stepped up to record a pair of top 3s this season. Last year, he had eight top 10s and earned first-team Pac-12 honors. Freshman Sean Crocker also looks like one of the country’s brightest newcomers, twice finishing in the top 4 in four starts.

What you may have missed: Vanderbilt’s Hunter Stewart and Carson Jacobs comprise the best 1-2 punch in the country. That much was clear after they held down the top two individual spots at the Tavistock, where Stewart’s closing 66 was enough to steal the title from his teammate. Stewart now has two wins this season, while Jacobs has finished inside the top 12 in all four starts. (Vanderbilt is the only team with two players ranked in Golfstat’s top 10.) With Matthias Schwab on the mend, Vandy will be a top-5 program come March. … Two-time defending NCAA champion Alabama took a huge hit when sophomore Gavin Moynihan, a 2013 GB&I Walker Cupper, left the team because of homesickness. I wrote about the impact of that decision here. … Arizona State’s Jon Rahm won for the fourth time in his career Tuesday at the Bill Cullum Invite. Whenever he decides to turn pro – he’s only a junior – he won’t need to wait long for his first pro title. This kid is immensely talented. …  Stanford, USC and UCLA, three of the top women’s programs, were separated by only one shot at this week’s Stanford Intercollegiate. Cardinal sophomore Mariah Stackhouse sank a 33-footer on the last to secure a share of the team title with USC, while UCLA finished one behind.

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.