Lady Blue Devils Going After Another ACC Title
DURHAM, N.C. - Head Coach Dan Brooks and the Duke women's golf team will head to Clemmons, N.C. this weekend to compete in the 16th annual ACC Championship. The championship will take place from April 16-18 at the Par 71, 6,348-Yard Salem Glen Country Club.
The Blue Devils are the eight-time defending ACC Champions and a Duke golfer has been the ACC Individual Champion in four of the past five years. Duke has one ACC Champion on its current roster as Virada Nirapathpongporn won in 2001, but Liz Janangelo finished tied for second last year as a freshman.
Duke is currently ranked first nationally in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index, while Wake Forest (14), North Carolina (20) and Florida State (30) are also ranked in the top 30. Duke boasts five golfers ranked in the top-12 nationally-- Janangelo (1), Brittany Lang (3), Nirapathpongporn (6), Anna Grzebien (10) and Leigh Anne Hardin (12).
The Blue Devils have been the team to beat in 2003-04 as Duke has registered one of the most impressive seasons in collegiate golf history. On the year, Duke has won eight of nine tournaments and the one tournament the Blue Devils lost, they had only four golfers competing due to Nirapathpongporn and Janangelo playing in the LPGA Kraft Nabisco Championship.
In 2003-04, Duke has won its seven stroke-play tournaments by an average margin of 22.3 strokes, which includes a school-record 49 strokes at the Tar Heel Invitational in the fall.
Janangelo, a sophomore from West Hartford, Conn., has posted two outright individual titles and has shared the title on two other occasions this season. Overall, Janangelo has notched a 70.65 stroke average on the season with seven top-five finishes in her seven tournaments played. She leads the squad with 14 rounds of even or under par. The Duke single season record for stroke average is 72.88 by Candy Hannemann in 2000-01.
Lang, a freshman product of McKinney, Texas, has collected five top-five finishes in all five tournaments in the spring, including two victories at the Lady Gator and Liz Murphey. The leading candidate for National Rookie of the Year, Lang has posted a 71.42 stroke average in the spring with six rounds of even or under par. Overall, Lang has registered a 72.35 stroke average this season, which would be a new Duke record for a freshman.
Having another solid season for the Blue Devils is Nirapathpongporn, the 2003 U.S. Amateur Champion. A senior from Bangkok, Thailand, Nirapathpongporn owns a 72.35 stroke average with four top-five and six top-10 finishes this season.
One of the other top freshmen in the nation is Grzebien, a native of Narragansett, R.I. Grzebien has registered a 73.48 stroke average to go along with three top-five, four top-10 and six top-20 finishes. She has played some of her best golf in the final round as she collected her career-best round of 68 in the final round of the Lady Puerto Rico Classic and the Stanford/Pepsi Intercollegiate.
In her three years of playing in the ACC Championship, Hardin has finished no lower than ninth. On the season, Hardin has posted a 73.74 stroke average with three top-five and four top-10 finishes. Her best finish of the year came at the Tar Heel Invitational, where she tied for first with a three-day total of 209.
Last season, the Blue Devils won their eighth ACC title winning by 16 strokes over Wake Forest. Duke posted rounds of 310-290-277 to finish with a three-day total of 877. In three ACC Championships played at Salem Glen, Duke was won by a margin of 26.3 strokes. The Blue Devils won by 34 strokes in 2000 and 29 strokes in the 2003 championships. Overall, Duke has won the ACC Championship in 1984, '85, '93, '96, '97, '98, '99, 2000, '01, '02 and '03.
Eight different Blue Devils have claimed individual honors at the ACC Championship- Mary Anne Widman (1984), Evelyn Orley (1985), Kathi Poppmeier (1994), Jenny Chuasiriporn (19996, '97), Beth Bauer (1999), Maria Garcia-Estrada (2000), Nirapathpongporn (2001) and Candy Hannemann (2002).
Brooks is in his 20th season with the Blue Devils. He is an eight-time ACC Coach of the Year selection and has led Duke to 52 event titles, two NCAA Championships, five ACC Championships and 26 individual medalist honors, over the last six years.
Play will start on Friday at 8:00 a.m. and will go through Sunday with 18 holes each day. In the first round, Virginia and Maryland will tee off first followed by Florida State and N.C. State in the second grouping and Duke, Wake Forest and North Carolina in the final grouping. The Blue Devils will begin teeing off at approximately 9:40 a.m. on Friday.
Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder
Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.
Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.
"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."
Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.
Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.
"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."
Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn
There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.
Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.
Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.
Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.
The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.
Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta
Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.
The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.
It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.
"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."
Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.
Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.
"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."
Rahm (62) shoots career low round at CareerBuilder
After a banner year in 2017, Jon Rahm found a way to add yet another accolade to his growing list of accomplishments during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge.
Rahm got off to a fast start at La Quinta Country Club, playing his first seven holes in 6 under en route to a 10-under 62. The score marked his career low on the PGA Tour by two shots and gave him an early lead in an event that utilizes a three-course rotation.
La Quinta was the site of Adam Hadwin's 59 during last year's event, and Rahm knew full well that a quick start opened the door to a memorably low score.
"Any time you have that going for you, you get thoughts come in your head, 60, maybe 59," Rahm told reporters. "I knew that if I kept playing good I was going to have more birdie opportunities, and I tried not to get ahead of myself and I was able to do it."
Rahm birdied his first two holes before an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole sparked him to an outward 30. He added four more birdies on the inward half without dropping a shot.
The Spaniard is the highest-ranked player in the field this week, and while many players opted for a two-week stint in Hawaii he instead came home for some practice after opening the new year with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. That decision appears to have paid some early dividends as Rahm gets set to defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.
Low scores were plentiful on all three courses during the opening round, and Rahm remained pleased with his effort even though he fell short of matching Hadwin's sub-60 score from a year ago.
"That's golf. You're not going to make every single putt, you're not going to hit every shot perfect," he said. "Overall, you've got to look at the bigger picture. I birdied the last hole, had a couple of great sand saves coming in, shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for."