Fighting Illini Out Front in Central Regional
MANHATTAN, Kan. - The Fighting Illini men's golf team stormed out of the gate today with a fantastic performance to take the lead during the first round of the 2003 NCAA Central Regional Championships, held at the par 72, 7,228-yard Colbert Hills golf course in Manhattan, Kan. The Illini blistered the course with the second-lowest team score in school history, an amazing 13-under par tally of 275, to take over first place in the 27-team Regional, which features four of the Top 10-ranked teams in the country. Illinois, ranked No. 21 in the latest Golfweek/Sagarin ratings, owns a two-shot lead over Southern Methodist (277). Kentucky is in third place, five strokes behind the Illini at 280.
Illinois' 275 score is just two strokes shy of the school record 273 that the Illini shot earlier this spring at the Marshall Invitational. However, Illinois' score today is actually more impressive than the record 273, since that score was recorded on a par-71 course where the team finished 11 strokes below par for the round, compared to today's score of 13 shots under par.
Leading the way for the Illini were Big Ten Player of the Year James Lepp and Big Ten Freshman of the Year Patrick Nagle. The UI teammates each recorded 5-under par rounds of 67 and are tied for second place out of the field of 141 golfers. Lepp and Nagle are just one stroke behind tournament leader Jason Moon of North Carolina State, who shot a 6-under 66.
Lepp carded three birdies on the front nine at holes 1, 6 and 7. He tallied his only bogey of the round on No. 11 but quickly bounced back with a birdie at 12. The sophomore finished the day with consecutive birdies on holes 16 and 17 for his round of 67. This marks Lepp's 16th round under par and his 13th round in the 60s this season.
Nagle was 4-under par through 10 holes but fell to -2 after bogeys at No. 11 and 13. He rallied however, making three straight birdies at holes 14-through-16 to get to -5 and finish with a 67. This is Nagle's 12th round under par and his eighth round in the 60s this year.
Illinois also received a big lift from its lone senior, Geoff Lound. Lound carded a 3-under par score of 69, his lowest round of the spring. He played steady all day, tallying five birdies and just two bogeys. Lound is tied for 14th individually.
The Illini's fourth scorer was sophomore Garrett Chaussard, who shot even-par 72 and is tied for 44th place. Rounding out the action for Illinois, junior Ryan Tendall shot a 3-over 75.
'We played fantastic golf today, as our scores indicate,' said Illini Head Coach Mike Small. 'This is what our guys have been preparing for, and they were focused and on their game today. The intensity and pressure goes up another level during the postseason, and I was impressed with how well they responded. But this was just the first round. They know that the challenge now is to keep the momentum going into this weekend. There is still a lot of golf left to play, but this is a great start.'
The second round of the 54-hole NCAA Central Regional will be held tomorrow, with Illinois players scheduled to tee-off beginning at 8 a.m. The third and final round is set for Saturday. Fans can follow the action via the internet with live scoring at: www.golfstat.com The top 10 finishing teams and top two individuals not among the top 10 teams will qualify for the NCAA Championships, to be held May 27-30 at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.
NCAA Central Regional Team Standings (after first of three rounds)
1. ILLINOIS 275 -13
2. Southern Methodist 277 -11
3. Kentucky 280 -8
T4. North Carolina 283 -5
T4. North Carolina State 283 -5
T6. Oklahoma State 285 -3
T6. North Texas 285 -3
T6. Texas 285 -3
T6. Lamar 285 -3
10. Arkansas 286 -2
T11. Minnesota 287 -1
T11. Kansas State 287 -1
T11. Texas Christian 287 -1
T11. Northwestern 287 -1
T15. Baylor 289 +1
T15. Michigan State 289 +1
17. Wichita State 290 +2
T18. Tulsa 291 +3
T18. Kent State 291 +3
20. Oklahoma 292 +4
21. Ohio State 293 +5
T22. Toledo 295 +7
T22. Kansas 295 +7
T24. Texas A&M 296 +8
T24. Texas Tech 296 +8
26. Wright State 297 +9
27. Missouri 298 +10
Illinois Results (after first of three rounds)
Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational
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.”
Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews
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.
Stock Watch: Spieth searching for putting form
Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.
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.
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.
Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might
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.”