Stanford, Baylor to square off for women's title

By Jay CoffinMay 27, 2015, 2:25 am

BRADENTON, Fla. – Baylor coach Jay Goble has said repeatedly this week that his Bears are on a dream run. After defeating defending champion Duke in an epic semifinal match Tuesday at Concession Golf Club, he said it was “a dream come true” and that there are a lot of “dreams realized” on his team.

Goble better wake his team up. There’s something important on the line.

Baylor will face a hungry Stanford team Wednesday for the NCAA Women’s Championship, the first decided by a match-play format. The Cardinal defeated Southern Cal in the semifinals to advance. It will be the first NCAA title for either team, and if Baylor wins, it’ll be the first championship for a Big 12 team.

“We’ve had a very simple mantra all year that we control what we can control and we’ve come out every single day this semester not focusing on outside things that we can’t take care of,” a tired Goble said after an emotional day where his squad downed Tennessee 3-1-1 in the quarterfinals before dispatching of Duke 3-2 in the afternoon.

“If they play their golf game, we’re going to be in good shape.”

Stanford wiped out two Pac-12 foes with a 4-1 victory over Arizona in the quarterfinals that was much closer than the score indicates and a 3-2 triumph over USC that, frankly, was closer than it should’ve been.

Full coverage: NCAA Division I Women’s National Championship

“We’re not going to do anything different,” Stanford coach Anne Walker said. “We’ve had a really great plan, a great game plan for this course. We have that experience, we have it under our belt and we know if we stick with our plan, that’s the best we can do.”

Baylor vs. Stanford may not be a matchup many predicted, but it’s a matchup of teams that have been consistently in the hunt all year.

Stanford is ranked 13th by Golfstat; Baylor is 18th. The Bears collected four victories this season, including their last two starts at both the Big 12 Championship and the NCAA Regional, while the Cardinal only won once. This is the 30th time that Stanford has qualified for the NCAA Championship. It’s only the third time that Baylor has been here. Better put, Duke has won twice as many NCAA titles as the Bears have appearances.

Sure, it’s not Duke vs. USC  perennial heavyweights who have won nine titles in the past 16 years  but Baylor and Stanford both bring their own brand of power and precision.

Baylor relies heavily on three freshmen, but most on Dylan Kim, who joined the squad earlier this year and defeated the world’s top-ranked amateur Leona Maguire 1 up in a topsy-turvy semifinal match. She’s a bomber who wails away with reckless abandon. When you watch her swing, you think consistent 15-year LPGA pro.

Fellow freshman Lauren Whyte struggled mightily for 72 holes of stroke play  she finished 84th out of 84 who made the cut  but managed to edge Lisa Maguire in 24 holes, the match that pushed the Bears to the finale. The pressure on her was immense.

“Having everyone watching me actually kind of spurred me on,” Whyte said. “It was great motivation having everybody there.”

Leading Stanford is junior Lauren Kim, a first-team All-American who won both crucial matches on Tuesday and never trailed in her semifinal match against Gabriella Then. Freshman Shannon Aubert came up big against USC’s Annie Park in the semifinals, but Park appeared tired and did not have her best in the scorching Florida heat.

Now, ironically, the difficulty begins. After playing 126 holes, including a practice round, over the past six days, both teams must somehow muster their best in order to deliver what they cherish most.

“We’re not even close to the finish line,” Walker said. “We’re looking at it just the same as we have every other day and it will sober them up pretty quickly.”

And at the end of the day, someone’s dreams truly will be realized.

Getty Images

Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

Getty Images

Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

Getty Images

Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

Getty Images

Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."