Slow-play penalty costs Texas A&M shot at title

By Ryan LavnerMay 31, 2013, 2:04 am

MILTON, Ga. – The NCAA picked a heck of a time to finally take a stand on slow play.

Texas A&M sophomore Ty Dunlap was slapped with a one-stroke penalty Thursday in the third and final round of stroke-play qualifying at the NCAA men's Championship.

That added stroke – assessed after more than a half-hour deliberation in the clubhouse at Capital City Club – dropped the Aggies from sixth place into a four-way tie for eighth at 2-over 842. The top eight teams after Thursday advanced to the match-play portion of the championship, which begins Friday.

Less than an hour later, Texas A&M was the lone team eliminated in a 4-for-3 team playoff with New Mexico, UNLV and Arizona State.

“I feel like they earned a spot in match play,” Aggies coach J.T. Higgins said afterward, “and they got it taken away from them.”

For the first three rounds, the NCAA set up four pace-of-play checkpoints on the Crabapple Course – Nos. 4, 9, 13 and 18. Players had 14 minutes to complete each hole, and 40 seconds to hit a shot when it is their turn to play.

Starting on the back nine, Dunlap and his fellow playing competitors – Arizona State’s Jon Rahm and Central Florida’s Greg Eason – missed their checkpoint on No. 18. They scrambled back into position by the third hole.

They fell behind again, however, after playing the drivable, 320-yard fifth and never recovered. They missed their checkpoint on their last hole, the par-4 ninth, by six minutes.

The NCAA rules committee then had to determine whether all three players would receive a one-stroke penalty or only the players with bad personal times.

Arizona State’s Rahm was absolved of any wrongdoing, keeping the Sun Devils in the playoff (and they ultimately advanced as the No. 8 seed).

Dunlap and Eason, however, were deemed to have not made a sufficient effort to catch up and were docked a stroke. Both players tied for eighth in the individual race, at 5-under 205.

“I think that’s hogwash,” Higgins said. “Yeah, they had some bad times; I’m not arguing with that at all. But I think they made a lot of effort to get back into position.”

Forgotten now will be the late-round heroics from Dunlap, who made bogey on No. 7, holed a 50-footer for birdie on 8, and sank a 40-foot par putt on the final green. Had he missed that putt, the Aggies would have missed the playoff by a shot.

Instead, they still had an opportunity to make match play. The four-team playoff was a shotgun start, with one team member per hole, stretched out over five holes. The three teams with the low four scores advanced, and Texas A&M was the lone team eliminated at 1 over.

In the parking lot after the round, Dunlap said: “We could have made time par, yes, and we didn’t, and that’s all that matters. It just kind of hurts right now. We’re just going to deal with it and come back better next year and make sure we don’t have to rely on being inside the bubble by one or two. It was fully in our control today to shoot a good round and be the No. 2 or 3 seed, and we didn’t do it. Because we didn’t, we’re not going to be in match play.”

It was a crushing disappointment for the Aggies, who have now come within four shots of making match play each of the past four years. Afterward, Cameron Peck, one of the team’s seniors, wrote on Twitter: “Glad I never have to deal with the @NCAA again. Worst organization in sports. Hope you got what you wanted.”

“I don’t think a team has come away more empty-handed than we have,” Higgins said. “It takes a little time after the fact, before it really sets in, the disappointment.”

On Wednesday, UCLA’s Jonathan Garrick was docked a stroke for slow play. It was the first slow-play penalty at NCAAs since 2011.

Asked if he felt like the NCAA was trying to make a statement this week, Higgins replied: “I think so. We need to play faster, there’s no doubt about it. But to not have it enforced all year, and then at your national championship all of a sudden it becomes a major issue? I don’t know what to say.”

Said Dunlap: “Whether they were trying to make a point or not, I don’t think they are. They’re trying to be fair, and the ruling is that the second checkpoint missed, you get penalized. They made a decision and that’s the way it went, and that’s the way we have to live with it.”

Watch: Fleetwood gets emotional with family after Race to Dubai win

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 19, 2017, 5:30 pm

Tommy Fleetwood took home the season-long Race to Dubai title on Sunday after a T-21 finish at the DP World Tour Championship.

He was, understandably, emotional after learning his fate while sitting with his wife and baby following a career year in which he won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship and the French Open and finished fourth at the U.S. Open.

Luckily for us, cameras were rolling:

Matsuyama after Koepka rout: 'Huge gap between us'

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 4:22 pm

Hideki Matsuyama offered a blunt assessment after finishing 10 shots behind Brooks Koepka at the Japan Tour's Dunlop Phoenix event.

Koepka waxed the field en route to successfully defending his title in Japan, shooting a 20-under par total that left him nine shots clear of a runner-up group that included PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele. Koepka's score was one shot off the tournament record, and his margin for victory eclipsed Tiger Woods' eight-shot romp in 2004.

Matsuyama appeared set to make a final-round charge after a birdie on No. 2 was followed by an ace on the par-3 third hole. But he played the next eight holes in 3 over and eventually finished alone in fifth place following a 2-under 69. Afterwards, he stacked his game up against that of Koepka in a telling comment to the Japan Times.

"I feel there's a huge gap between us," Matsuyama said.

The Japanese phenom entered the week ranked No. 4 in the world, though he will be passed in the next rankings by Jon Rahm following the Spaniard's win in Dubai. Matsuyama won twice this year on the PGA Tour, including the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, but he has largely struggled since missing out on a maiden major title at the PGA Championship, where he tied for fifth.

Matsuyama was a runner-up to Koepka at the U.S. Open earlier this summer, and the 25-year-old seems headed back to the drawing board before defending his title at the Hero World Challenge in two weeks.

"I don't know whether it's a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well," Matsuyama said. "It seems there are many issues to address."

McCormick to caddie for Spieth at Aussie Open

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 2:21 pm

When Jordan Spieth returns next week to defend his title at the Australian Open, he will do so without his regular caddie on the bag.

Spieth and Michael Greller have combined to win 14 tournaments and three majors, including three events in 2017. But Greller's wife, Ellie, gave birth to the couple's first child on Oct. 13, and according to a report from the Australian Herald Sun he will not make the intercontinental trip to Sydney, where Spieth will look to win for the third time in the last four years.

Instead, Spieth will have longtime swing coach and native Aussie Cameron McCormick on the bag at The Australian Golf Club. McCormick, who won PGA Teacher of the Year in 2015, is originally from Melbourne but now lives in Texas and has taught Spieth since he was a rising star among the junior golf ranks in Dallas.

While Greller has missed rounds before, this will be the first time as a pro that Spieth has used a different caddie for an entire event. Greller was sidelined with an injury last year in Singapore when Spieth's agent, Jay Danzi, took the bag, and trainer Damon Goddard has subbed in twice when Greller was sick, including this year at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational.

Spieth's torrid 2015 season traced back to his win at The Australian in 2014, and he returned to Oz last year where he won a playoff at Royal Sydney over Cameron Smith and Ashley Hall.

Rahm wins finale, Fleetwood takes Race to Dubai

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 1:42 pm

Jon Rahm captured the final tournament on the European Tour calendar, a result that helped Tommy Fleetwood take home the season-long Race to Dubai title.

Rahm shot a final-round 67 to finish two shots clear of Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Shane Lowry at the DP World Tour Championship. It's the second European Tour win of the year for the Spaniard, who also captured the Irish Open and won on the PGA Tour in January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

"I could not be more proud of what I've done this week," Rahm told reporters. "Having the weekend that I've had, actually shooting 12 under on the last 36 holes, bogey-free round today, it's really special."

But the key finish came from Justin Rose, who held the 54-hole lead in Dubai but dropped back into a tie for fourth after closing with a 70. Rose entered the week as one of only three players who could win the Race to Dubai, along with Sergio Garcia and Fleetwood, who started with a lead of around 250,000 Euros.

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With Fleetwood in the middle of the tournament pack, ultimately tying for 21st after a final-round 74, the door was open for Rose to capture the title thanks to a late charge despite playing in half the events that Fleetwood did. Rose captured both the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open, and was one round away from a two-trophy photo shoot in Dubai.

Instead, his T-4 finish meant he came up just short, as Fleetwood won the season-long race by 58,821 Euros.

The title caps a remarkable season for Fleetwood, who won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship as well as the French Open to go along with a pair of runner-up finishes and a fourth-place showing at the U.S. Open.

"I find it amazing, the season starts in November, December and you get to here and you're watching the last shot of the season to decide who wins the Race to Dubai," Fleetwood said at the trophy ceremony. "But yeah, very special and something we didn't really aim for at the start of the year, but it's happened."