Texas, Oregon set to face off for NCAA title

By Jay CoffinJune 1, 2016, 3:20 am

Following the first round of stroke play at the NCAA Championship, Oregon was in 19th place. Forty-eight hours later, this became a cute story when the Ducks made the 15-team cut. A day later, they found a way into the top-eight and the quarterfinals of match play. On Wednesday, Oregon plays for the NCAA title on its home course.

In the immortal words of Ron Burgundy, “boy, that escalated quickly.”

Oregon ousted 2015 champion LSU, then clipped perennial powerhouse Illinois in the semifinals to march on at Eugene Country Club. The Ducks will square off against top-seed Texas and are looking to become the second men’s team in history to win the individual and team title as host of the event. Sophomore Aaron Wise collected medalist hardware a day earlier.

“Our work is not done,” Oregon coach Casey Martin said, “but this really feels great.”

That’s just one side of the equation.

Texas has a load of drama on its side as well. And it’s not the kind anyone wearing burnt orange would ever think could happen.

Beau Hossler, the Longhorn’s best player all year and five-time tournament winner, struggled to finish his semifinal match against USC’s Andrew Levitt when he injured his shoulder hitting a 4-iron from 228 yards into the 15th green.

The junior was in extreme pain over the next couple holes and nearly forfeited his match. But he gutted out the par-5 17th hole, dumped his second shot into the greenside bunker, putted (yes, putted!) out of the bunker, then made an incredible, downhill, sliding 30 footer for par to win the match 2 and 1.

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That’s the good news. The bad news is that, even though Hossler wasn’t too forthcoming with information, his coach John Fields made it seem like it’d be a minor miracle if Hossler could tee it up for the championship match. (Later, Hossler tweeted: “Thank you for all the love and support. I will be fine. Looking forward to tomorrow.”) 

“Our kids will regroup, they’re tough kids,” Fields said. “We’ll give Oregon everything they want tomorrow if it’s four guys or five guys.”

Texas, in search of its fourth national title, is looking to make a little history itself, as the No. 1 seed hasn’t won this championship since the format changed to match play in 2009.

In any other scenario, Texas would be the overwhelming favorite in this championship match. The Longhorns, who beat Oklahoma and USC to get to the championship match, have won seven times this year and have more talent than Oregon from top to bottom. However, the Ducks, only a winner of one tournament this year, is on this spectacular role on its home course with top-Duck, Wise, seemingly unbeatable.

Common belief was that Fields would try his best to get Hossler into a match against Wise. It makes sense for so many reasons. Most think that Wise would win his match against any opponent so put the injured man against him and try to win three of the remaining four matches.

It didn’t work out that way. After Fields put sophomore Scottie Scheffler out in the second position, Martin countered with Wise. Instead, Hossler is in the third match against senior Zach Foushee, an Oregon native.

Wise and Hossler have been the two biggest headlines all week and it seems like both will factor heavily in the final outcome, for better or worse.

“Certainly it’s a fairytale,” Martin said. “It’s going to be a lot of nerves.

“Hopefully we finish this in style, but regardless, whatever happens tomorrow it’s been an amazing week.”

Amazing indeed.

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Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x