Stanford betters Baylor again to reach semifinals

By Ryan LavnerMay 23, 2017, 6:05 pm

SUGAR GROVE, Ill. – Stanford and Baylor were locked in another tight match at the NCAA Women’s Championship.

Sound familiar?

Just like two years ago, when Stanford prevailed in a championship match that became an instant classic, the Cardinal held on for a 3-2 victory Tuesday that propelled them into the NCAA semifinals for the third consecutive year.

The decisive point was secured by future star Albane Valenzuela. The Stanford freshman took advantage of late mistakes by Baylor’s Dylan Kim, who lost three holes in a four-hole span late in the match.

“I wish I could have gotten back there to walk with her,” Baylor coach Jay Goble lamented afterward.

After all, that’s what he did Monday, when the Big 12 champion blew up on the front nine and was in danger of keeping her team out of match play. For the first time in three years, Goble walked with Kim during the round and guided her into the clubhouse, salvaging an 81 and helping secure the No. 7 seed.


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Kim was shaken up after one of the worst rounds of her career. Goble told her: “You’ve got to regroup. We have a chance to win the national championship, and we can’t do it without you.”

Tied at two points apiece, Kim couldn’t get up and down on 14, mis-hit her tee shot on 16 for another bogey and then, 1 down and running out of holes, hit her approach shot in the water on 17 to lose the match, 2 and 1.

It was a calming victory for Valenzuela, one of the most talented prospects ever to come to Stanford. The NCAA rookie has plenty of match-play experience overseas, but that didn’t ease the nerves before the quarterfinals.

“It was really good for her to get battle-tested,” Stanford coach Anne Walker said.

Stanford will now have a difficult semifinal match against red-hot Arizona State, which seems to be riding the momentum of Monica Vaughn’s surprising NCAA individual title. Coming off the second-best round of the day Monday, the Sun Devils continued to roll Tuesday, jumping all over Florida, 5-0, to reach the semifinals.

“It’s going to be really, really tough,” Walker said. “They’re very strong 1 through 5.”

On the other side of the bracket, top-seeded Northwestern survived an early scare from Kent State to win, 3-2. The Wildcats, whose campus is only about 60 miles from Rich Harvest Farms, got an early point from Sarah Cho, then rode back-nine comebacks from Kacie Komoto and Hannah Kim to advance past upstart Kent State, which had backdoored its way into the match-play bracket after posting the worst score of any team Monday.

Northwestern, which came within a shot of advancing to match play a year ago, will now face Southern Cal in the afternoon.

Said head coach Emily Fletcher: “We had a little bit of heartbreak these last few years, we didn’t play our best coming down the stretch, but to see our kids pull through today and not only get here in the fashion that we did, but to get that first win this morning, is really spectacular.”

The Trojans were tied at a point apiece with Ohio State when Robynn Ree two-putted from 60 feet for par on the final hole to win her match, then Tiffany Chan lagged her putt from a similar distance to hold on for a 1-up win. They won the match, 3-1-1.

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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon. 

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Stock Watch: Spieth searching for putting form

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:50 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Patton Kizzire (+8%): By today’s accelerated standards, he’s a late bloomer, having reached the Tour at age 29. Well, he seems right at home now, with two wins in his last four starts.

Rory (+7%): Coming off the longest break of his career, McIlroy should have no excuses this year. He’s healthy. Focused. Motivated. It’s go time.

Chris Paisley (+5%): The best part about his breakthrough European Tour title that netted him $192,000? With his wife, Keri, on the bag, he doesn’t have to cut 10 percent to his caddie – she gets the whole thing.

Brooke Henderson (+3%): A seventh-place finish at the Diamond Resorts Invitational doesn’t sound like much for a five-time winner, but this came against the men – on a cold, wet, windy, 6,700-yard track. She might be the most fun player to watch on the LPGA. 

New European Ryder Cuppers (+2%): In something of a Ryder Cup dress rehearsal, newcomers Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton each went undefeated in leading Europe to a come-from-behind victory at the EurAsia Cup. The competition come September will be, um, a bit stiffer.



FALLING

Jordan’s putting (-1%): You can sense his frustration in interviews, and why not? In two starts he leads the Tour in greens in regulation … and ranks 201st (!) in putting. Here’s guessing he doesn’t finish the year there.

Brian Harman’s 2018 Sundays (-2%): The diminutive left-hander now has five consecutive top-10s, and he’s rocketing up the Ryder Cup standings, but you can’t help but wonder how much better the start to his year might have been. In the final pairing each of the past two weeks, he’s a combined 1 under in those rounds and wasn’t much of a factor.

Tom Hoge (-3%): Leading by one and on the brink of a life-changing victory – he hadn’t been able to keep his card each of the past three years – Hoge made an absolute mess of the 16th, taking double bogey despite having just 156 yards for his approach. At least now he’s on track to make the playoffs for the first time.

Predicting James Hahn’s form (-4%): OK, we give up: He’d gone 17 events without a top-15 before his win at Riviera; 12 before his win at Quail Hollow; and seven before he lost on the sixth playoff hole at Waialae. The margins between mediocre play and winning apparently are THAT small.

Barnrat (-5%): Coming in hot with four consecutive top-10s, and one of only two team members ranked inside the top 50 in the world, Kiradech Aphibarnrat didn’t show up at the EurAsia Cup, going 0-3 for the week. In hindsight, the Asian team had no chance without his contributions. 

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Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might

By Tim RosaforteJanuary 16, 2018, 1:40 pm

Bernhard Langer goes back out on tour this week to chase down more than Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record of 45 career victories. His chase is against himself.

“I’m not playing to beat Hale Irwin’s record,” Langer told me before heading to Hawaii to defend his title at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. “I play golf to play the best I can, to be a good role model, and to enjoy a few more years that are left.”

Langer turned 60 on Aug. 27 and was presented a massage chair by his family as a birthday gift. Instead of reclining (which he does to watch golf and football), he won three more times to close out a seven-win campaign that included three major championships. A year prior, coming off a four-victory season, Langer told me after winning his fourth Charles Schwab Cup that surpassing Irwin’s record was possible but not probable. With 36 career victories and 11 in his last two years, he has changed his tone to making up the nine-tournament difference as “probable.”

“If I could continue a few more years on that ratio, I could get close or pass him,” Langer told me from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “It will get harder. I’m 60 now. It’s a big challenge but I don’t shy away from challenges.”


Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin at the 1991 Ryder Cup (Getty Images)


Langer spent his off-season playing the PNC Father/Son, taking his family on a ski vacation at Big Sky in Yellowstone, Montana, and to New York for New Year’s. He ranks himself as a scratch skier, having skied since he was four years old in Germany. The risk of injury is worth it, considering how much he loves “the scenery, the gravity and the speed.”

Since returning from New York, Langer has immersed himself into preparing for the 2018 season. Swing coach Willy Hoffman, who he has worked with since his boyhood days as an as assistant pro in Germany, flew to Florida for their 43rd year of training.

“He’s a straight shooter,” Hoffman told me. “He says, 'Willy, every hour is an hour off my life and we have 24 hours every day.'"

As for Irwin, they have maintained a respectful relationship that goes back to their deciding singles match in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Last year they were brought back to Kiawah Island for a corporate appearance where they reminisced and shared the thought that nobody should ever have to bear what Langer went through, missing a 6-footer on the 18th green. That was 27 years ago. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

"I enjoy hanging out with Hale," Langer says.

Langer’s chase of Irwin’s record is not going to change their legacies. As Hoffman pointed out, “Yes, (Bernhard) is a rich man compared to his younger days. He had no money, no nothing. But today you don’t feel a difference when you talk to him. He’s always on the ground.”