Trahan Has Unfinished Business at Clemson
D.J. Trahan returned to Clemson for his senior year with a purpose...win a national championship. It really is that simple.
Trahan's list of accomplishments during his first three years with the Clemson golf program already qualify him for the Clemson Hall of Fame. He has already won the Jack Nicklaus and Ben Hogan Awards, honors presented to the National Player of the Year. He has represented the United States in the Walker Cup and the Palmer Cup matches, high profile international team competitions that signify the pinnacle of amateur golf.
He is already Clemson's career leader in stroke average (71.58 entering the spring of 2003), has been a first-team All-American and ACC Player of the Year. He was won the United States Public Links Championship. In the summer he was even named one of the 50 greatest golfers in the history of the ACC, the only active golfer to make the list.
There is just one item missing from his resume. 'D.J. Trahan has some unfinished business,' said coach Larry Penley. 'He wants to win a national championship for Clemson University. He certainly has the maturity and the leadership qualities to take us there. He's as talented a leader as you will find.'
Penley knows what he is talking about. He is now in his 20th year as Clemson's head coach. During that time he has taken Clemson to the NCAA national tournament every year and has finished in the top 10 each of the last six years, including a No. 2 final ranking in 2001 and a No. 3 rating in 2002 last year. He has come close to a team title on many occasions, but has never won the top prize.
'This team is certainly capable of winning the national championship and that is our goal. That is our goal every year for this program. But, this year in particular we have the talent, the leadership, the ball striking ability, and the motivation to win a national championship,' said Penley.
So far this year Clemson has shown it has the mettle to compete for the top honor. The Tigers won three tournament championships in the fall, a first in the program's history, and finished second in two others, including the Ping Preview at Karsten Creek in Stillwater, Okla., the site of this year's NCAA Tournament.
The Tigers are ranked No. 1 in the nation as a team in all three polls entering the spring season. 'We have gotten off to a good start,' continued Penley. 'We knew we would be tested in Japan at the Topy Cup in the very first tournament. The Japanese teams were outstanding competition, as were the United States teams. That was an important tournament because it showed we could win without D.J. being our low man.'
That has been the key for Clemson through the first half of the schedule. The Tigers are more than just four guys and D.J. Trahan. Through two tournaments Clemson already had five different players record an individual top-10 finish. Clemson finished second in the 16-team Collegiate Match Play Championship in November while Trahan was recovering from leading the United States team to the World Amateur Championship.
'And, we have some outstanding players who have not gotten into a tournament yet,' said Penley. 'The top five spots on this team are competitive. The sixth, seventh and eighth players could just as well be our third, fourth and five players. If the NCAA counted eight players in a tournament I would really be confident about our chances.'
Clemson concluded the fall schedule with a 70.95 team stroke average, best ever for a fall season. The five players combined for nine individual top-10 finishes. All five players had at least one round in the 60s and four players had at least three. Thirty-two of the 55 individual rounds were at par or better.
Clemson has a different motivation this year as compared to this time a year ago. Clemson was ranked ninth in the preseason poll for 2001-02. You could not blame that poll for that rating because Clemson had just lost two first-team All-Americans in Lucas Glover and John Engler, a pair of four-year starters who are now playing professionally on the Nationwide Tour. Penley's team was allowed to sneak up on the other teams, something it did when it won the Preview in the fall of 2001 at Ohio State.
But, this year Clemson won't sneak up on anyone. 'We can't use that motivation in 2003. We are ranked number-one and we won't let that consume us. We are just going to concentrate on getting better every tournament. That sounds simple, but that is our approach. Every player will examine their game week to week, find the weakness and improve on it. That consistent work ethic will be a key for us this year,' said Penley.
Trahan provides that example to the younger players with his long hours on the range at the Robinson Practice Facility or at the Walker Course. The hard work has paid off for the senior, who was an Academic as well as on the course All-American last year.
Trahan enters the fall as Clemson's career stroke average leader. That is quite a statement considering 12 Clemson golfers were on the 50-player All-Time ACC team (no school had more). He already owns the Clemson record for rounds in the 60s and should establish the mark for under-par rounds. The sky is the limit for this player, who was the No. 1-ranked amateur and the No. 1 college player when the season began.
Gregg Jones is a returning second-team All-American from a year ago. Jones has a career average of 72.44, now fourth in Clemson history. A year ago the junior had four top-10 finishes in his 12 tournaments and had a 71.81 stroke average. His season included a ninth place finish at the Ping Preview and a second-place finish at Augusta State. His 17th place finish at the NCAAs, a 1-under 283 score, was a key to Clemson's top three finish. He finished the fall strong by recording a 3-0-1 record at the Match Play Championship.
Ben Duncan is the early favorite for the team's most improved award. The senior played in nine tournaments last year and posted a 73.54 stroke average, third best on the team. But, his final season has gotten off to a quick start with a 70.83 stroke average through his first two events, including the first two top-10 finishes of his career. He was Clemson's top golfer at the Carpet Classic with a 211 score. That victory was the 50th of Penley's Clemson career.
Matt Hendrix was a reliable performer last year as a sophomore with a 73.70 stroke average as a competitor in all 12 events. He got his junior year off to a great start with a 65 in the first round at the Topy Cup, the low round by a Clemson golfer in two years. His 207 54-hole total in Japan was a key to Clemson's team victory. He had a 71.09 stroke average for the fall of 2003, tied for second on the team.
Jack Ferguson had perhaps the best summer of any Clemson golfer. He won an amateur event in Birmingham, Ala., then had top-10 finishes at the Rice Planters (6th), Southern Am (3rd), South Carolina amateur (2nd) and The Cardinal (2nd). To begin his sophomore year at Clemson he finished second among collegians at the Topy Cup with a 204 score, one of the top five 54-hole scores in Clemson history. He also had a 71.09 stroke average for the fall and enters the spring ranked in the top 15 in the nation, according to the Sagarin rankings.
Martin Catalioto was a starter in eight events as a freshman last year and posted a 74.6 stroke average. His NCAA Tournament performance included a 293 total, third best among Tigers and his score counted all four rounds, a solid performance for a first-year freshman. However, Catalioto will red-shirt the season, giving him three more years to lead the Clemson program starting in 2004.
Brian Duncan, a red-shirt freshman, and Nick Biershenk, a true freshman, were semifinalists at the South Carolina Amateur Match Play Championships this past summer. Both are brothers with ties to the Clemson golf program. Brian, brother of Clemson senior Ben Duncan, got his first action at the Match Play Championship and defeated his opponent from Arizona and registered a tie against Oklahoma State. Both could see action this season.
Biershenk is the brother of Nationwide Tour veteran Tommy Biershenk, a starter for Clemson in the mid-1990s. Nick will likely red-shirt this season. Michael Sims and Stephen Poole are two other veterans who could break into the lineup at any time.
What pleases Penley the most about his team is its mental approach to this season. 'After last year's finish (third) they didn't pat each other on the back. They worked hard over the summer to get better. They know there are strong challengers out there, a lot of great teams. They all want the same goal and they understand the work it will take to get there.'
Day (68) just one back at Australian Open
Jason Day posted a second-round 68 to move himself just one off the lead held by Lucas Herbert through two rounds at the Emirates Australian Open. Here’s where things stand after 36 holes in Sydney.
Leaderboard: Herbert (-9), Day (-8), Cameron Davis (-7), Anthony Quayle (-6), Matt Jones (-4), Cameron Smith (-4), Nick Cullen (-4), Richard Green (-4)
What it means: Day is in search of his first worldwide victory of 2017. The former world No. 1 last visited the winner’s circle in May 2016, when he won The Players at TPC Sawgrass. A win this week would close out a difficult year for the Aussie who struggled with his game while also helping his mother in her battle with cancer. Day’s last victory on his native soil came in 2013, when he partnered with Adam Scott to win the World Cup of Golf for Australia at Royal Melbourne.
Round of the day: Herbert followed an opening 67 with a round of 66 to vault himself into the lead at The Australian Golf Club. He made six birdies, including four on his second nine, against a lone bogey to take the outright lead. The 22-year-old, who held the lead at this event last year and captured low-amateur honors in 2014, is coming off a runner-up finish at the NSW Open Championship, which boosted him from 714th to 429th in the Official World Golf Ranking. His 5-under score was matched by Dale Brandt-Richards and Josh Cabban.
Best of the rest: Matt Jones, who won this event over Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott two years ago, turned in 4-under 67. Jones is best known to American audiences for his playoff victory at the 2014 Shell Houston Open and for holding the 36-hole lead at the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, which was eventually won by Day. Jones will start the weekend five shots off the lead, at 4 under par.
Biggest disappointment: Spieth has a lot of work to do this weekend if he expects to be in the title picture for the fourth year in a row. Rounds of 70-71 have him eight shots behind the lead held by Herbert. Spieth made a birdie and a bogey on each side Friday to turn in level par. The reigning champion golfer of the year has finished first, second and first at this event over the last three years.
Storyline to watch this weekend: The Australian Open is the first event of the 2018 Open Qualifying Series. The leading three players who finish in the top 10 and who are not otherwise exempt will receive invites into next summer’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.
Ogilvy urges distance rollback of ball
Add Geoff Ogilvy to the chorus of voices calling for a distance rollback of the golf ball.
In an interview before the start of the Emirates Australian Open, Ogilvy said a "time-out" is needed for governing bodies to deal with the issue.
"It's complete nonsense," he said, according to an Australian website. "In my career, it’s gone from 300 yards was a massive hit to you’re a shorter hitter on tour now, legitimately short. It’s changed the way we play great golf courses and that is the crime. It isn’t that the ball goes 400, that’s neither here nor there. It’s the fact the ball going 400 doesn’t makes Augusta work properly, it functions completely wrong.’’
Ogilvy used an example from American baseball to help get his point across to an Australian audience.
“Major League Baseball in America, they use wooden bats, and everywhere else in baseball they use aluminium bats,’’ he said. “And when the major leaguers use aluminium bats they don’t even have to touch it and it completely destroys their stadiums. It’s just comedy.
“That’s kind of what’s happened to us at least with the drivers of these big hitters; We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums. So do you rebuild every stadium in the world? That’s expensive. Or make the ball go shorter? It seems relatively simple from that perspective.’’
Ogilvy, an Australian who won the 2006 U.S. Open, said he believes there will be a rollback, but admitted it would be a "challenge" for manufacturers to produce a ball that flies shorter for pros but does not lose distance when struck by recreational players.
The golf world celebrates Thanksgiving
Here's a look, through social media, at how the golf world celebrates Thanksgiving.
The major championships I'm certainly proud of, but Barbara, the kids and my grandkids are the best things to ever happen to me. From our family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving! pic.twitter.com/wkma1Q9LlK— Jack Nicklaus (@jacknicklaus) November 23, 2017
GC Tiger Tracker:
Mixing Thanksgiving and waiting for a week from today. pic.twitter.com/u9m9WxQNYx— GC Tiger Tracker (@GCTigerTracker) November 23, 2017
Happy thanksgiving to everyone! Hope you have a wonderful day with family and friends. #Thankful— Steve Stricker (@stevestricker) November 23, 2017
Was reading about Thanksgiving. Originally they ate waterfowl, venison, ham, lobster, clams, berries, fruit, pumpkin, and squash. Seems a bit tastier than Turkey!— Frank Nobilo (@FrankNobiloGC) November 23, 2017
Literally food for thought.
Tyrone Van Aswegen:
Happy Thanksgiving: Biggest turkeys of 2017
Thanksgiving brings us golf's biggest turkeys of the year. Donald Trump, Grayson Murray and a certain (now-former) tournament director headline the list. Click here or on the image below to check out all the turkeys.