Kupcho's collapse hands Vaughn NCAA title

By Ryan LavnerMay 23, 2017, 1:43 am

SUGAR GROVE, Ill. – Jennifer Kupcho leaned down to swat away a bug over her ball and wondered where the wind had gone.

With a two-shot lead in the NCAA Women’s Championship, all the Wake Forest sophomore needed to do Monday afternoon was escape the 17th hole and head to the par-5 finisher.

Standing over the ball, with 127 yards to the flag, she hoped that her pitching wedge was enough club.

“I hit it perfect,” she said. “It looked so good, right at it.”

Until it hit short, on the bank.

Until it rolled back into the pond.

Until she pitched on and three-putted for a triple bogey.

Until her two-shot lead turned into a one-shot deficit, which she wasn’t able to overcome on the final hole when her drive sailed right, near the hazard, and she couldn’t go for the green. Her closing par left her one shot behind Arizona State senior Monica Vaughn, who was finishing on the front nine at Rich Harvest Farms and remained oblivious to the disaster on the other side of the property.

“I had no idea,” said Vaughn, who shot 1-over 217 to capture the NCAA individual title. “I got no feeling that I might be the champion.”

As she walked to the scoring tent, Vaughn was mobbed by her teammates and soaked in a water bath, never mind the 55-degree weather.

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As much as the day might be remembered for Kupcho’s collapse, Vaughn, ranked No. 18 in the country, was not a surprise winner.

Throw out a first-round 84 at the Pac-12 Championship, and she has been one of the hottest players in college golf. She had four top-3 finishes in her last five starts, including a victory at regionals.

It didn’t even hit her that Monday might be her last day as a Sun Devil until head coach Missy Farr-Kaye addressed the team in the morning.

“We all started crying,” Vaughn said. “But I was able to pull it together. It’s an amazing feeling.”

And yet it still was an awkward end to what was a blustery final round of stroke play, not least because Vaughn finished her round on the other side. The top two players in college golf this season, Kupcho and Duke’s Leona Maguire, both wiped away tears as they walked toward the clubhouse.

In a tight race for the season-ending Annika Award as the nation’s top player, Kupcho and Maguire stood next to each other at the trophy presentation, connected by their disappointment and their tie for second.

“It’s easy to focus on the last few holes,” Maguire said of Kupcho, “but it’s days like today that make the wins even sweeter.”

How would Wake Forest coach Dianne Dailey console her talented star? Not even she was sure the best approach, and she has 29 years of experience.

“I know it’s terribly disappointing,” Dailey said, “but she’s had such success and she will continue to have success.”

Wake Forest desperately could have used an individual title after a turbulent spring.

After all, this was supposed to be the year that the Demon Deacons finally won a national title for their longtime coach, but they didn’t even advance to nationals.

They battled injuries all season. Their two hotshot freshmen, Sierra Brooks and Mathilda, left school in the spring. In order to field a team for the ACC Championship, Dailey called up a player on the school’s club team.

Even Kupcho had her own share of drama, after she suffered a concussion during a freak accident and was shaken up for more than a month. She recovered to end the season with a flourish, finishing second at ACCs and winning regionals for her third title.

Here at NCAAs, Kupcho was unburdened, able to play freely and concentrate on her own game. She shot 74 in the most difficult conditions Friday, carded a 70 on Sunday to take a one-shot lead, and then built a four-shot lead with four holes to play in the final round.

“She looked so comfortable out there,” Dailey said.

And then it all came undone, first with a bogey on 14 and then the shocking mistake on 17.

The emotions were still so raw when she was asked what she would take from the day.

At last, a smile.

“Take the extra club over water, I guess.”

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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.