USC hopes to end national championship drought

By Jay CoffinJune 3, 2015, 1:51 am

BRADENTON, Fla. – Southern Cal coach Chris Zambri sat down at the end of a 15-hour day, one that saw his Trojans defeat two of the best teams in the country to advance to the final matches of the NCAA Championship, and he still couldn’t believe the facts.

USC has won three NCAA women’s titles. The men have appeared in 57 NCAA Championships and haven’t won once. Their best finish is third place, something they’ve done seven times.

“It doesn’t make sense to me that we haven’t won,” Zambri confided.

He then rattled off mind-boggling stats that his alma mater has collected over the last half century that included the number of touring professionals, major-championship winners, All-Americans and Pac-12 Conference Championships.

After playing 126 holes the past six days – including a practice round – USC is staring at its best chance at its first national title. The Trojans will play LSU in the championship matches Wednesday at Concession Golf Club. The action will be live on Golf Channel at 11:30 a.m. ET.

Zambri referred to his playing time (1989-93) at USC as the “darkest years” although he was taking a jab at himself more than he was the performance of the team. He took over the helm in 2006 and has had decent success during his tenure. Last year though was a kick in the pants when USC finished dead last (30th) at the NCAA Championship.

Asked if he thought last year that his team would be strong enough to be in its current position, Zambri, simply said, “I don’t know.”

Since that depressing week in America’s Heartland, the Trojans have won three tournaments, are ranked No. 13 in the Golfstat rankings and are the first Pac-12 team to reach the championship matches since the tournament moved to a match-play format in 2009.

“It’s amazing where we are now,” Zambri said.

USC toppled second-ranked Texas in the quarterfinals Tuesday then took down fourth-ranked Illinois in the afternoon semifinals. Sophomore Rico Hoey and junior Bobby Gojuangco each won both of their matches.

On the other side will be LSU. The Tigers are looking for their fifth NCAA title, but first since 1955. Or as LSU coach Chuck Winstead says, since the days of black and white TV.

LSU, ranked ninth, has won four times this year including the SEC Championship. They took down conference rivals Vanderbilt and Georgia on the way to the final and got over a hurdle they were not able climb a year ago when they lost to Alabama in the semifinals.

Junior Zach Wright won both matches Tuesday for the Tigers and sophomore Eric Ricard never trailed in a key momentum match in the semifinals against Georgia’s Greyson Sigg.

This marks the fifth year in a row, and the sixth time in the last seven years that an SEC team has advanced to the championship match. Alabama won the last two years but failed to advance to the NCAA Championship this year.

It’s been a long, grueling year for both teams and an even longer, taxing week here at Concession. But now, somehow, USC and LSU must find a way to summon their respective bests one last time.

“When you’re playing for a national championship tired doesn’t work,” Winstead said bluntly. “I’m comfortable that tomorrow will be decided by the guys one way or another.”

Said Zambri: “It’s high pressure because we care. We’re dealing with it.

“The program is in good shape, but this would be a real big shot in the arm.”


10:30AM ET: Rico Hoey (USC) vs. Brandon Pierce
10:40AM ET: Bobby Gojuangco (USC) vs. Benjamin Taylor
10:50AM ET: Sean Crocker (USC) vs. Zach Wright
11:00AM ET: Jonah Texeira (USC) vs. Eric Ricard
11:10AM ET: Eric Sugimoto (USC) vs. Stewart Jolly

Getty Images

After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

Getty Images

Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

Getty Images

Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

Getty Images

Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry