SMU gets postseason ban; DeChambeau can't defend

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 29, 2015, 4:47 pm

The SMU men’s golf program will be ineligible for postseason play this season after the NCAA found multiple violations involving recruiting and unethical conduct under former head coach Josh Gregory.

Mustangs senior Bryson DeChambeau, who last month became only the fifth player to win the individual NCAA Championship and U.S. Amateur in the same year, will be unable to defend his title next year in Eugene, Ore.

The school said DeChambeau can't compete at NCAAs even as an individual. SMU officials said they have 15 days to decide whether to appeal the penalties, per NCAA guidelines. 

The Division I Committee on Infractions panel found that Gregory, who helped lead Augusta State to back-to-back national titles in 2010-11, committed multiple recruiting infractions, including 64 impermissible contacts with 10 prospects and seven parents of prospects over a 10-month period. Gregory also offered university merchandise and golf equipment at a significantly reduced price in 2013, and the NCAA found that Gregory was aware of a university booster who contacted nine recruits and facilitated contact between the coach and their families.

As a result, SMU, now coached by Jason Enloe, will be banned from postseason play in 2015-16. The Mustangs, who can award four-and-a-half scholarships each year, also will receive a 25-percent reduction in scholarships (1 1/8) for the next three years, beginning in 2016-17.

The university imposed its own sanctions for this season, including the reduction of 12 percent of available scholarships (.54). SMU also limited the number of official and unofficial visits by prospective student-athletes and restricted the number of communications between coaches and athletes. 

“Shocked, disappointed, very sad,” Gregory told on Tuesday. “I’ve admitted my mistake since Day 1, but I’ve never hidden from it. I know I made a mistake, but I don’t understand this. It doesn’t fit the crime.” 

In a statement, SMU said that it “strongly disagrees with the postseason ban for men’s golf as the discipline is punitive for every student-athlete and coach, none of whom were involved in the infractions.”

It’s a crushing blow for SMU’s program, which has risen to national prominence in recent years. Two years ago, Gregory helped lead his alma mater to the NCAA quarterfinals for the first time, and last year DeChambeau became the first NCAA champion in school history. 

DeChambeau did not respond to a message seeking comment. Enloe told that he spoke with DeChambeau for more than an hour Tuesday and said that he has no intention to turn pro this fall. It is not yet known, however, whether DeChambeau will play out the season with the Mustangs. If he were to turn pro before April, he would forfeit his exemptions into the 2016 Masters, U.S. Open and Open Championship. 

“I’m disappointed by the news for the kids that are on this year’s team,” Enloe said. “They’re a great group of kids and they’ve had two nice runs in the NCAAs the past two years. I’m heartbroken they won’t get the chance to do that again this year.

“It’s an unfortunate situation, and it’s disappointing that the kids are suffering the consequences of one person’s actions.” 

Gregory, who is currently coaching and working with junior golfers in the Dallas area, said he has “no desire” to work with the NCAA again. He cannot coach in college until September 2019.

“I’m embarrassed about what happened,” said Gregory, who resigned in August 2014. “I feel terrible for the kids – those are the ones I feel worst about. It just makes no sense whatsoever. Throw the book at me and give all the penalties to me, but the kids are the ones who suffer. It’s simply garbage.” 

The SMU men’s basketball program was also hit with severe sanctions, which included a one-year postseason ban, scholarship reductions, vacation of wins and a nine-game suspension for head coach Larry Brown.

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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.