Lady Longhorns Win Big 12 Championships
The No. 13 Texas womens golf team claimed its second Big 12 Conference title on Sunday after the final round of the annual league tournament was cancelled because of rain. The Longhorns, who held the lead after both the first and second rounds, won the event by seven strokes over Texas A&M. The championship was hosted by the Aggies at the Pebble Creek Country Club (6,242 yards, par 72) over the weekend.
I am so proud of our team and The University of Texas for winning the tournament title, Texas head coach Susan Watkins said after learning the third round was cancelled. We had a totally different mindset coming into this event. We exuded confidence and I think all five women knew we could win this tournament if they all played to the best of their abilities.
Texas 36-hole total of 16-over 592 (292-300) was a tournament record, as was the teams first-round score. Texas A&M finished at 23-over with a 599, while No. 9 Oklahoma State was third with a 30-over 606. No. 20 Oklahoma (31-over, 607) and Baylor (32-over 608) rounded out the top 5 teams.
Two-time All-American and 2004 First Team All-Big 12 honoree Janice Olivencia (Gurabo, Puerto Rico) scored her career-best finish at the Big 12 Championship, finishing second to Oklahoma States Annie Thurman who claimed medalist honors. Olivencia shot back-to-back even par rounds and had a 36-hole total of 144 (72-72). The senior was seven strokes back of Thurman, who was the only player under par for the tournament with a 7-under 137 (69-68).
Junior Perry Swenson (Charlotte, N.C.) earned her career-best tournament showing with a third-place effort at the league championship. She was 1 over through 36 holes with a 145 (69-76).
Sophomore Devan Andersen (Guadalajara, Mexico) finished tied for 11th with a 6-over 150 (76-74) and was one stroke off a top-10 effort.
Junior Mariana Salazar (Torreon, Mexico) continued her strong play of late, earning a tie for 22nd with a 9-over 153 (75-78). Junior Lisa Ferrero (Lodi, Calif.) rounded out the teams lineup with a tie for 36th with a 13-over 157 (76-81) showing.
I think the turning point was several weeks ago at our own event (the Betsy Rawls Longhorn Invitational) because we accomplished two things. First, we got out of the gates strong at the event and had the first and second round leads, which is something weve been trying to work on all season. And second, we came within two strokes of winnings against a sensationally strong field. That tournament gave us a lot of confidence and weve been playing differently - more confident and with a better purpose - ever since.
I think the win we have here at the Big 12s is hugely relevant for us for the rest of the season. Were heading into a part of the season where we traditionally play well. Now we just have to keep the momentum up for (the NCAA) Regional and the NCAA Championship, Watkins continued.
'I'm pretty overwhelmed right now,' Olivencia said after the round. 'I wasn't looking for any individual honors at this tournament. I was concentrated on our performance as a team because we really needed this win. It's been a long four years for me waiting for a Big 12 title. Finally winning one today feels amazing and I'm happy we finally were able to win one.'
'This win was in everyone's hearts before we even came out to College Station,' Swenson added. 'It's been an up-and-down year and it's finally started coming together for us in the last few tournaments. Everyone has been able to work through all of their issues, both on the course and off the course, and collectively, we knew our only goal this weekend was coming home with a Big 12 title.'
Andersen added, 'We knew this was our event to lose as soon as we stepped on the course for our practice round. We had one goal and after we had the lead, we were very tranquil with our position. I don't think anyone was scared or nervous today. We expected to play and we were all confident in what the outcome would be. We're just extremely excited now that we have the trophy!'
The womens golf teams victory at the Big 12 Championship was the squads second Big 12 title. The team also won the inaugural event in 1997, and has placed no lower than fourth in any of the Big 12 Championships.
Texas team title was the squads second of the season after claiming the Lady Northern at Ohio States Scarlet Course in Columbus, Ga., in October.
With the win, Texas dethroned Oklahoma State, which was three-time defending champion of the event. Also with the victory, the Longhorns will have the opportunity to defend its league championship when it hosts the 2005 Big 12 Championship at the University of Texas Golf Club.
Rahm (62) fires career low round
The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:
Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)
What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.
Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.
Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.
Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.
Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.
Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.
Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm
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."