'All-in' Arizona State takes national title

By Ryan LavnerMay 25, 2017, 2:28 am

SUGAR GROVE, Ill. – Tucked in the back of Missy Farr-Kaye’s yardage book, right behind the collage of her team, is a laminated card with the Arizona State logo and the team motto. 

All-in Until May 24.

That was today, when the finals of the NCAA Women’s Championship were held at Rich Harvest Farms.

Outside of Tempe, perhaps, there was little reason to believe the Sun Devils could extend their season this long, but all spring they believed it and they talked about it and they even acted like it. A month ago, after a blowout victory at their home tournament, they gathered in a teammate’s apartment and stroked 3-foot putts into a cardboard hole. With each make, they pumped their fist and pretended that they’d won the national title, even using faux announcer voices.

“And so we had it in our minds,” senior Monica Vaughn said, “that we had won the national championship five times.”

Make that six, after Arizona State cruised to a 3-1-1 victory over Northwestern to capture their NCAA-best eighth national title.

These were no late-night shenanigans. The Sun Devils sang Queen’s “We are the Champions” as they took a cart ride back to the clubhouse. They bounced around in a group circle and chanted their fight song. They threw on gray championship T-shirts and hugged their parents and, yes, snapped a few selfies on Snapchat.

“It’s incredible to me how many people say, ‘It’s unbelievable! I can’t believe it!’” Vaughn said. “But I can believe it. I can totally believe it. I’ve believed it since Day 1. We have worked so far for this and dreamed about this and worked for this every single day. And look us now – national champions.”

Two days ago, after Vaughn won the rain-shortened individual title, Farr-Kaye told the team that they were not done celebrating. That there was still more to accomplish. That they were All-In Until May 24th, remember, not the 22nd.

It’s a mantra that began in January, during the first team meeting with new assistant coach Michelle Estill. Farr-Kaye asked her players to write in their notebooks who they wanted to be. Resilient, mentally tough, positive, committed, fearless – they’re among the 30 phrases that now appear on the locker-room door.

“We didn’t ever lose sight of that,” Vaughn said.

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The Sun Devils pulled closer to that goal when they dismantled Florida during the morning quarterfinals on Tuesday, but their magical run appeared over when play was suspended that night because of darkness.

The outlook was grim: Stanford was one point from advancing, and Vaughn had made the curious decision not to warm up after a two-hour weather delay, which caused her to surrender a 2-up lead with six holes to play. One down in the 18th fairway, she decided that she wanted to return on Wednesday morning.

This time, she didn’t make the same mistake.

Vaughn warmed up with only 3-woods and hybrids, then headed to the short-game area for 30-yard pitches (the distance she would have on 18, a shot she nearly holed) and uphill 15-footers (which she would have on the first extra hole). She won both holes to stun Stanford and win the match, then watched as teammate Linnea Strom’s par on the 19th hole was enough to push the team into the finals.

“We’ve been saying all year that this is our chance right now,” Vaughn said. “This is one of the greatest teams to ever come through ASU, and I truly believe that.”

A bold statement, of course, since the Sun Devils are the most decorated program in women’s college golf history.

No one knows that better than Farr-Kaye, who was a part of the school’s first national title, in 1990.

Ever since, it seems, she has overcome adversity. Her older sister, Heather, one of the most well-known players on the LPGA, died after a four-year battle with breast cancer. She was only 28. Four years later, Missy, a mother of three boys, had her own cancer scare, and then beat it, only for the disease to return in 2008. The Sun Devils won the NCAA title the following year.

Her backstory is now both inspirational and instructive to her team.

On more than one occasion, she has told her players: “There are things to cry about in this world, because I can share with you a few things, but golf is never something to cry about. There are days of joy and sadness, but it’s golf. You have to keep your perspective.

“Part of my purpose is to help teach them so they can say, ‘I can fight this head-on, because Coach showed me I can pick myself up and hang in there and handle different things.’”

Born and raised in Phoenix, Missy grew up about 10 minutes from campus and still lives close by. Her three boys, who range from age 13 to 23, have attended Sun Devils football and basketball games since they were babies. “They’ve been brainwashed properly,” she said.

Farr-Kaye spent 13 years as an ASU assistant coach, content to teach in the shadows, until she finally earned the promotion (and her dream job) when Melissa Luellen left in ’15. The honeymoon didn’t last long, as the Sun Devils failed to qualify for nationals each of the past two years – unthinkable for such a glittering program.

“I took it really hard,” she said. “I didn’t sleep for three weeks.”

But Arizona State returned to prominence this season behind first-team All-Americans Vaughn and Strom, as well as standout freshman Olivia Mehaffey. They captured four team titles and rolled into NCAAs after a dominant performance at regionals.

“I knew the team was ready,” Liti said.

In match play, Farr-Kaye asked each of her players to write down both where they wanted to play in the lineup and where they didn’t. She wanted them comfortable, and she didn’t change that order during any of the three matches.

The Sun Devils looked at ease as they jumped all over local favorite Northwestern in the championship match. All week the Wildcats, competing only 60 miles from campus, enjoyed an advantage with the home crowds and conditions. The temperature never rose above 70 degrees, and most of the time it hovered in the mid-50s, accompanied by either a steady breeze or sideways rain. All of the Midwest nastiness seemed to work in their favor … at least until they ran into the hottest team in the country.

“I think we needed another 10 mph more wind to have a go at ASU,” said Northwestern coach Emily Fletcher.

Mehaffey, a former Curtis Cupper, improved to 3-0 this week with a tone-setting 4-and-3 victory in the opening match. The Sun Devils poured it on from there, with Liti scoring a 5-and-4 victory and Vaughn overcoming a back-nine deficit to take Northwestern’s best player, Hannah Kim, to the 18th hole.

Back on 15, Strom, who asked to be in the anchor match, who wanted the pressure and the spotlight, earned the clinching point with a 5-foot birdie.

Spread out over Rich Harvest Farms, it took a few minutes before all five team members finally celebrated as a group.

They put their right hands together, they looked each other in the eye, and they shouted a line they had rehearsed for the past five months.

“One, two, three … all-in!”

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Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.