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Stanford, USC (Women) & Vanderbilt, Illinois (Men) Advance to Championship Matches at East Lake Cup; Each Avenge Semifinal Loss at NCAAs

By Golf Channel Public RelationsNovember 1, 2017, 12:26 am

All Four Semifinal Matches Featured Rematch from NCAAs Earlier This Year, and All Four Saw Team that Lost at NCAAs Earn Revenge with Victory Today

 Wednesday’s Championship Matches (Live, 3-6 p.m. ET on Golf Channel): Stanford vs. USC (Women’s); Vanderbilt vs. Illinois (Men’s)

 Consolation Matches: Northwestern vs. Arizona State; Oklahoma vs. Oregon

 

ATLANTA, Oct. 31, 2017 – Revenge was the unanimous theme on Tuesday at the 2017 East Lake Cup presented by Hewlett Packard Enterprise, as all four teams that collectively fell in the men’s and women’s semifinals at the NCAA Championships earlier this year avenged those losses by taking down the very team responsible for ending their national championship hopes. Stanford and USC (women), along with Vanderbilt and Illinois (men) each will advance to tomorrow’s championship match for an opportunity to close out their fall season on a high note. 

WOMEN: (1) Stanford def. (4) Arizona State, 3-2; (2) USC def. (3) Northwestern, 4-1

MEN: (1) Vanderbilt def. (4) Oregon, 4-1; (3) Illinois def. (2) Oklahoma, 3-2

WOMEN’S SEMFINALS

The USC Trojans won its first three matches against Northwestern to clinch a spot in Wednesday’s championship match, with Alyaa Abdulghany (freshman), Robynn Ree (junior) and Allisen Corpuz (sophomore) each winning their match by a 3&2 result. Divya Manthena (sophomore) also won her match (2&1) to earn a fourth point for the 2015 East Lake Cup champions.

“I was definitely happy to see the girls come out [today],” said USC head coach, Andrea Gaston. “They felt a little flat yesterday, and didn’t feel like they played their best. Golf in general, it’s always the ‘what I missed, what I didn’t do well.’ We just said, ‘focus on what you did do well.’ There was a chance to learn a lot about this golf course, go out [today], take that information and use it to our advantage.”

Stanford overcame an 8&7 loss in its first match of the day at the hands of Arizona State’s Olivia Mehaffey thanks to victorious efforts from Shannon Aubert (senior), Albane Valenzuela (sophomore) and Ziyi Wang (sophomore) to defeat the Sun Devils 3-2. Competing in the East Lake Cup for the third consecutive year, the Cardinal on Wednesday will be looking to win the event for the first time.

“It stung a lot in May, so to come out and get a little revenge was good,” Stanford head coach Anne Walker told Golf Channel’s Kay Cockerill during the live telecast. “We haven’t faced USC for a long time. I think we’ll just reassess what we did well today. If we can do that tomorrow, I’ll be really happy win or lose.”

 MEN’S SEMIFINALS

Despite Norman Xiong’s (sophomore, Oregon) emphatic 6&4 victory over freshman Harrison Ott, the Vanderbilt Commodores swept the remaining matches to defeat the Ducks 4-1. Will Gordon – Day 1 individual stroke play champion at the East Lake Cup on Monday – led the way with a 4&3 victory in Tuesday’s opening match, while Patrick Martin (junior), John Augenstein (sophomore) and Theo Humphrey (senior) propelled Vanderbilt to Wednesday’s championship match courtesy of victories in each of their respective semifinal matches.

“It certainly feels good,” Vanderbilt head coach Scott Limbaugh told Golf Channel’s Chantel McCabe during the live telecast. “We respect Oregon and Coach Martin. Our guys were focused today. I just kind of challenged them last night. I didn’t think I needed to give some huge pep talk. We respect that team because we’ve been in a lot of battles with them. And we knew our best was going to be required.”

On the other side of the bracket, the Illinois Fighting Illini fended off Oklahoma, winning 3-2 to advance to the championship match for the third consecutive year at the East Lake Cup. The two-time champions of the event leaned on its senior tandem of Dylan Meyer – who won the team’s first match of the day – and Nick Hardy, who avenged his loss to Oklahoma’s Grant Hirschman earlier this year at the NCAA Championship. Michael Feagles (sophomore) clinched Illinois’ semifinal victory with the deciding point, beating Brad Dalke 2&1.

“Oklahoma is a great team, we all know that,” Illinois head coach Mike Small told Golf Channel’s Steve Burkowski on Tuesday night. “And Vanderbilt is just as strong or stronger, so we’ve got a big day tomorrow.”

WEDNESDAY’S CHAMPIONSHIP & CONSOLATION MATCHES SCHEDULE:

Women’s Championship Match: (1) Stanford vs. (2) USC

Men’s Championship Match: (1) Vanderbilt vs. (3) Illinois

Women’s Consolation Match: (3) Northwestern vs. (4) Arizona State

Men’s Consolation Match: (2) Oklahoma vs. (4) Oregon

Golf Channel’s live coverage of Wednesday’s championship and consolation matches will air from 3-6 p.m. ET. Golf Central Pre-Game (2-3 p.m. ET) will preview each match and provide updates on matches already in progress.

SEMIFINAL RESULTS:

Women’s Division

(1) Stanford def. (4) Arizona State, 3-2

(2) USC def. (3) Northwestern, 4-1

Stanford (1)                            vs.                               Arizona State (4)

Madie Chou                                                                Olivia Mehaffey (8&7)

Shannon Aubert (1up)                                              Sophia Zeeb

Andrea Lee                                                                 Linnea Strom (1up)

Albane Valenzuela (1up)                                          Roberta Liti

Ziyi Wang (4&3)                                                        Madison Kerley

 

USC (2)                                    vs.                              Northwestern (3)

Alyaa Abdulghany (3&2)                                         Sarah Cho

Robynn Ree (3&2)                                                    Stephanie Lau

Allisen Corpuz (3&2)                                                Brooke Riley

Muni He                                                                      Hannah Kim (3&2)

Divya Manthena (2&1)                                             Janet Mao                   

Men’s Division

(1) Vanderbilt def. (4) Oregon, 4-1

(3) Illinois def. (2) Oklahoma, 3-2

Vanderbilt (1)                         vs.                               Oregon (4)

Will Gordon (4&3)                                                    Edwin Yi

Patrick Martin (2&1)                                                Ryan Gronlund

Harrison Ott                                                             Norman Xiong (6&4)

John Augenstein (1up)                                             Donald Kay

Theo Humphrey (3&2)                                             Thomas Mulligan

 

Oklahoma (2)                          vs.                              Illinois (3)

Blaine Hale                                                                 Dylan Meyer (3&2)

Garett Reband (3&2)                                                Giovanni Tadiotto

Riley Casey (1up)                                                      Brendan O’Reilly

Grant Hirschman                                                         Nick Hardy (6&4)

Brad Dalke                                                                  Michael Feagles (2&1)

Presented by Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), the East Lake Cup Collegiate Match Play Championship is a three-day competition that features the eight semifinalists – including reigning NCAA national champion Oklahoma (men) and Arizona State (women) – reconvening at historic East Lake Golf Club.

For more information about the East Lake Cup, please visit the tournament website www.golfchannel.com/eastlakecup. Stay connected with the championship using the hashtag #EastLakeCup.

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Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 8:31 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.

Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.

Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.

So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.

How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:

1. Stay healthy

So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.

Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.

Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.

2. Figure out his driver

Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.


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That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.

In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.

Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron. 

Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”

That won’t be the case at Augusta.

3. Clean up his iron play

As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.

At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.

Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.

That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.

Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”

4. Get into contention somewhere

As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.

In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.

“I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”

Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.

And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go. 

“It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”

Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.

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Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA

By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 8:01 pm

Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.

The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.

According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.

Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.

The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.

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Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:52 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.

Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.

“Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.

Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.

Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”

With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.


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Thomas was asked about that.

“I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.

“I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”

Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.

“It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.

“I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”

Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.

“That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”

Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.

“Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.

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Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:21 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.

McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.

“Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said.  “That's what he said.”

The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.


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The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.

“He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”