Washington in Stanford's way of back-to-back titles

By Jay CoffinMay 25, 2016, 3:50 am

EUGENE, Ore. – Stanford coach Anne Walker contends her team is not defending its 2015 NCAA title, it’s only looking forward to the challenge ahead.

“The reality is we’re not defending anything, we’re literally trying to chase something,” Walker said just prior to her team’s afternoon semifinal matches against Duke. “We won last year but this tournament is not ours. All year we’ve been careful about using the word ‘defend’ and making sure we’re using the word ‘pursue.’”

Whatever works.

Either way you slice it, only Pac-12 foe Washington stands in the way of Stanford winning its second consecutive NCAA Division I Women’s Championship. The Cardinal ousted perennial powerhouse Duke, 3-2, in the semifinals Tuesday at Eugene Country Club. Washington toppled top-seed UCLA 3-1-1.

Only Florida, Arizona State (twice) and Duke have won consecutive titles. Arizona State won three consecutive from 1993-95 and Duke won three consecutive from 2005-07.

“Wow, I hadn’t thought of that,” Walker said when told her team would be in heady company if it wins on Wednesday. “It’s funny because we got to this point and I actually haven’t even thought about what it would mean to win a title again.”

Said Washington’s Mary Lou Mulflur of her Huskies: “You have to earn everything that you get in life. I feel like they’ve earned this opportunity.”

Stanford should be considered the flight favorite, whether it likes it or not. The Cardinal played brilliantly last year at the NCAA Championship en route to a victory over Baylor that went extra holes. Four of the five from last year’s championship team make up this year’s squad, freshman Sierra Kersten being the lone difference. Still, Kersten won a key semifinal match against Duke’s Celine Boutier to propel the Cardinal.

Point is, Stanford is tested and has the edge. Even if you throw last year’s performance aside – and I don’t know why you would, but if you did – the Cardinal have looked like the best team again this week.

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They shot a tournament-low score 9-under 279 in the fourth round of stroke play Monday and that precision has carried into Tuesday’s 36-hole marathon where they beat South Carolina in the morning before ousting Duke in the afternoon.

Junior Casey Danielson (5-0) and senior Mariah Stackhouse (4-1) are a combined 9-1 in NCAA match play the last two years. Those two happen to be nicely placed in positions two and three, respectively, in Stanford's championship lineup. Danielson will face senior Ying Luo and Stackhouse will go against freshman Sarah Rhee, who won four consecutive holes to close out her semifinal match against UCLA’s Louise Ridderstrom.

Washington’s lineup approach seems curious from afar but it’s probably the right way to handle it. Mulflur opted to go with seniors Charlotte Thomas and Luo in the first two positions and closed with freshmen Rhee, Wenyung Keh and Julianne Alvarez. Those three freshmen, after all, won all three points for Washington in the semifinals against UCLA.

Stanford has won four times this year, Washington has won three. Stanford is ranked 12th in the country, Washington is ranked 13th. Stanford was seeded second after stroke play, Washington was seeded fourth. That’s the tale of the tape, which means nothing now.

No matter what happens, however, you can expect a friendly match, even though each team fiercely wants to claim victory. Stanford and Washington play against each other often – the Cardinal have finished better than the Huskies in four of the six tournaments they've played together. They know each other well and have a deep respect for each other.

“I couldn’t be happier with our opponent,” said Mulflur in her 33rd year as coach. “I respect the heck out of Anne. For them to be back here again, that’s huge. Just a statement about the Pac-12. It’ll be fun. It’ll be like playing our best friends tomorrow.”

Said Walker: “Honored TO play the Huskies, to represent the Pac-12, but also Mary Lou Mulflur is a legendary coach and I’ve always looked up to Mary Lou. I have a close friendship with her and just to see her be able to lead her team to this point, it’s really neat to watch.

“Of course we’re going to go out and we hope we win, but I think it’s nice that we get to compete against a woman such as Mary Lou.”

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

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The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

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''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

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The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.

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Defending champ Gana co-leads Latin America Amateur

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 11:20 pm

Toto Gana moved into early position to try to win a return trip to the Masters Saturday by grabbing a share of the first-round lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship.

The defending champ posted a 3-under-par 68 at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Chile, equaling the rounds of Argentina’s Mark Montenegro and Colombia’s Pablo Torres.

They are one shot ahead of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz and Mario Carmona, Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti and Jaime Lopez Rivarola and the Dominican Republic’s Rhadames Pena.

It’s a bunched leaderboard, with 19 players within three shots of each at the top of the board in the 72-hole event.

“I think I have my game under control,” said Gana, 20, a freshman at Lynn University. “I hit the ball very well, and I also putted very well. So, I am confident about tomorrow.”

The LAAC’s champion will get more than a Masters invitation. He also will be exempt into the The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event he is eligible to play this year. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.