Ole Miss' Thornberry wins NCAA title by four

By Ryan LavnerMay 30, 2017, 2:52 am

SUGAR GROVE, Ill. – It took all of 30 minutes for the NCAA Championship to be turned upside down Monday.

Texas junior Scottie Scheffler lost his tee shot on his second hole of the day (the 11th) to hand Braden Thornberry a lead he wouldn’t relinquish.

The Ole Miss sophomore with the funky swing and admirable pace of play continued his meteoric rise by capturing the NCAA individual title by four shots at Rich Harvest Farms.

Thornberry finished at 11-under 277 following a final-round 71, one of just four sub-par scores on Monday, when the wind gusted to 40 mph. Scheffler, who led by two shots heading into the final round, shot 78 to tie for third.

“It was a really special week,” said Thornberry, who played the final round as an individual after his team missed the 54-hole NCAA cut.

It was the 20-year-old’s seventh victory over the past two years, and his fifth this season. He also had 10 top-5s, putting him in line to sweep the season-ending awards.

“The only thing he’s ever struggled with is realizing he belongs,” Ole Miss coach Chris Malloy said. “I think that trophy will help prove that to himself.”

NCAA Division I National Championships: Articles and videos

Thornberry mopped up on the local junior circuit in Mississippi but wasn’t heavily recruited, partly because of his unorthodox swing. It was his father, Les, a scratch golfer who works for UPS, who taught him that move.

“Everyone when they’re younger comes over the top,” Thornberry said, “so he gave me the little loop move to get that away, and I just liked the feel of it and went from there.”

Braden committed to Ole Miss as a high-school freshman.

“Some of us as coaches saw that funky swing and crazy grip and said, ‘Oh, that won’t last,’” said Alabama coach Jay Seawell, who has watched Thornberry play since he was 12. “But he plays golf his way, and it’s a good way. He isn’t scared, and I love that.”

Even with two victories during his freshman season, Thornberry wasn’t considered a top-tier player until his victory this February at the Jones Cup. In typically brutal conditions at Ocean Forest, one of the most difficult layouts in amateur golf, Thornberry won wire-to-wire to beat a top field by five shots.

This was much more stressful than that cakewalk.

Thornberry drove the par-4 sixth and made eagle to open up a four-shot lead, but he played the next 11 holes in 2 over.

Fortunately for him, all of his pursuers faded on their final nine holes.

Scheffler held steady after his 4-over start, but he twice hit a tree on his final hole of the day and made double.

Vanderbilt’s Matthias Schwab rinsed two shots on the 15th hole to make triple and fall five back.

Arkansas’ Mason Overstreet, playing in the same group as Thornberry, bogeyed the 16th and 17th holes to take some of the pressure off.

“Today is probably when I was most proud of him,” Malloy said. “He faced a lot of adversity.”

It’s the first NCAA golf title for the Rebels, the type of signature victory that can change a program.

“It validates everything that we’ve said since I got the job three years ago,” Malloy said. “All I heard was that if you go to Ole Miss you couldn’t win a national championship. He’s proven you can do that.”

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.