NCAA match play seeds set after uneventful Monday

By Ryan LavnerJune 2, 2015, 1:58 am

BRADENTON, Fla. – The Race to the Eight was more like a procession Monday. On the most stressful day on the college golf calendar, no team played its way inside the top-8 bubble.

The top seven seeds la-di-da’d their way through the final round of stroke play at the NCAA Championship. The only semblance of drama – if you can even call it that – was with UCLA and Georgia Tech, the two teams vying for the all-important eighth spot.

The Bruins, who shot a championship-best 8 under in the third round to make the initial cut, edged the Yellow Jackets by three shots. They will face top-seeded Illinois in Tuesday’s morning quarterfinals.

“This was a stepping stone for our bigger goals,” UCLA coach Derek Freeman said, “but it was a really hard step.”

Georgia Tech’s two seniors were in shock afterward.

Ollie Schniederjans, who began this season as the No. 1-ranked amateur in the world, shot 78 Monday and didn’t count toward the team total. All he would have needed was a 74 to send the Yellow Jackets on to match play.

Anders Albertson, the ACC champion, thought he had birdied the last two holes of his college career, but he was assessed the only slow-play penalty of the day after officials deemed that he didn’t make a concerted effort to speed up. It wound up being a moot point anyway, as Tech finished three shots back.

“Just in shock with how my final college day went down,” Schniederjans said. “It couldn’t have been more of a disaster, really.”

It was business as usual for the other top teams, though.

Illinois didn’t count worse than a bogey for the second time this week as it locked up the No. 1 overall seed. The Illini will look to break a recent trend, because the top seed has never gone on to win the national title since the switch to match play in 2009.

“Guess we’ll have to try and disprove that,” coach Mike Small said.

Georgia was the lone team outside the top 20 that advanced. The Bulldogs, even with a pedestrian effort from four-time winner Lee McCoy (T-33), earned the No. 3 seed and will face host South Florida in the quarterfinals.

Among those missing out were No. 1-ranked Florida State, which was nine shots off the cut line, and No. 6 South Carolina, another six behind.

Though there wasn’t the usual volatility during the final day of stroke-play qualifying, that didn’t make the round any less stressful.

“Every coach was grinding his way around this golf course,” Texas coach John Fields said. “Anything can happen out there. There are just catastrophic mistakes out there.”

But all of those big numbers will result in merely a lost hole beginning Tuesday morning. It’s on to match play at the NCAA Championship.

“You can throw the seeds out the window,” Small said. “All eight teams are dead equal now.”

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.