Getty Images

USC (Women), Vanderbilt (Men) Win Third Annual East Lake Cup

By Golf Channel Public RelationsNovember 2, 2017, 12:12 am

Trojans Rally to Overcome 2-0 Deficit in Championship Match to Win Title

Vanderbilt Defeats Two-Time Defending East Lake Cup Champions, Illinois

Arizona State (Women), Oklahoma (Men) Win Consolation Matches

ATLANTA, Nov. 1, 2017 – The University of Southern California (women) and Vanderbilt University (men) claimed the 2017 East Lake Cup presented by Hewlett Packard Enterprise on Wednesday, closing out their 2017 fall season schedule with a victory to carry momentum into next spring. The Trojans (No. 2 seed) defeated (No. 1) Stanford 3-2 in the championship match, while (No. 1) Vanderbilt defeated two-time defending East Lake Cup champion (No. 3) Illinois.

Despite Stanford jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the championship match, USC rallied to win the final three matches to claim the victory over its Pac-12 counterpart. Robynn Ree (junior) began the charge with a 1up victory over Stanford’s Shannon Aubert, and USC’s Muni He (sophomore) tied up the match, 2-2, with a 3&2 win over Stanford’s Andrea Lee. Divya Manthena (sophomore) – a walk-on – earned the championship-clinching point for the Trojans, taking down Stanford’s Madie Chou 4&2 to give USC its second victory at the East Lake Cup after winning the inaugural event in 2015.

“I knew we were really the underdogs coming in,” USC head coach Andrea Gaston said. “We stepped up at the right moment. I think this was truly a team effort over the past couple days. It means a lot to bring the cup home. It is special to be here. You know, all we can do is continue to shoot for the stars and try to come back again next year.”

In the men’s championship match, Vanderbilt’s Will Gordon (junior) punctuated his superb week with a 2&1 victory in the opening match to get the Commodores on the board. Harrison Ott (freshman) won his match 1up, which allowed sophomore John Augenstein to earn the clinching point with a 4&3 victory over Illinois’ Giovanni Tadiotto.

“This was a thrilling week for our program,” Vanderbilt head coach Scott Limbaugh said. “We had a lot of people who got to watch us on national television, and that is what you dream of. We talked about just finishing the fall out the right way. It’s always fun if you finish on a positive note and take some good energy into the offseason.”


Women’s: (2) Southern California def. (1) Stanford, 3-2

Men’s: (1) Vanderbilt def. (3) Illinois, 4-1

Stanford (1)                            vs.                   Southern California (2)

Albane Valenzuela (4&2)                             Alyaa Abdulghany

Shannon Aubert                                              Robynn Ree (1up)

Ziyi Wang (5&4)                                            Allisen Corpuz

Andrea Lee                                                     Muni He (3&2)

Madie Chou                                                    Divya Manthena (4&2)


(1)                        vs.                    Illinois (3)

Will Gordon (2&1)                                        Michael Feagles

Harrison Ott (1up)                                        Brendan O’Reilly

Patrick Martin                         Halved            Nick Hardy

John Augenstein (4&3)                                 Giovanni Tadiotto

Theo Humphrey                      Halved            Dylan Meyer              

In the men’s consolation match, Oklahoma took down Oregon in a repeat of the NCAA Championship finals earlier this year. The Sooners took four of the five matches, with convincing victories from its pair of juniors, Blane Hale (6&5) and Brad Dalke (5&4).

“I’m proud of all our guys,” Oklahoma head coach Ryan Hybl said. “You know, it’s not just this fall… This has been a phenomenal year. They will continue to grow and develop. Hopefully we can get after it in the spring.”

 On the women’s side, Arizona State earned two outright victories from Olivia Mehaffey (sophomore) and Sophia Zeeb (senior) in the first two matches out to earn two of the necessary three points to win the overall match. Roberta Liti (senior) and Linnea Strom (junior) both halved their respective matches to earn a half point each to get the Sun Devils to the necessary three point total to outlast Northwestern.

“It didn’t matter what we were playing for,” Arizona State head coach Missy Farr-Kaye said. “We were going to go out there and play really hard. This is the last day of [our fall season]. We are trying to stave off being a little tired and a little bit burnt out. [We wanted to] give it everything we’ve got and go out on a really good note to end our fall season.”


Women’s: (4) Arizona State def. (3) Northwestern, 3-2

Men’s: (2) Oklahoma def. (4) Oregon, 4-1


Northwestern (3)                   vs.                   Arizona State (4)

Stephanie Lau                                                 Olivia Mehaffey (3&2)

Sarah Cho                                                       Sophia Zeeb (1up)

Janet Mao                                Halved            Roberta Liti

Hannah Kim (3&1)                                       Madison Kerley

Brooke Riley                           Halved            Linnea Strom


Oklahoma (2)                        vs.                    Oregon (4)

Garett Reband (2&1)                                    Ryan Gronlund

Riley Casey (3&2)                                         Edwin Yi

Blaine Hale (6&5)                                          Norman Xiong

Brad Dalke (5&4)                                          Donald Kay

Grant Hirschman                                          Thomas Mulligan (5&4)                  

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 Stay connected with the championship using the hashtag #EastLakeCup.

Getty Images

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.

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

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.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

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.

Getty Images

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.

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

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.”