An emotion-filled day for champion Alabama

By Ryan LavnerMay 29, 2014, 4:01 am

HUTCHINSON, Kan. – At 11:45 a.m. Wednesday, in room 212 of the Fairfield Inn, Jay Seawell called an impromptu team meeting.

“I don’t know whether I’m trying to hold on to y’all or what,” the Alabama coach said, “but I can’t wait to go do this one more time.”

This meeting wasn’t about yardage books or strategy, shot selection or mind games. This was about legacies, about seizing an opportunity, about reminding this trio of seniors why they turned away potential riches for the chance to win another national title.

The meeting turned out to be just part of a typically emotional day for Seawell. He cried three times Wednesday … before the first ball was even in the air at Prairie Dunes

He cried as he played “One Shining Moment” in his hotel room, because he loves the song.

He cried during the team meeting, because, well, he loves these kids.

And he cried on the first tee, because he loves these moments and knows these opportunities are precious. He couldn’t fathom that Alabama was on this stage again, for the third consecutive year, after losing a final-hole heartbreaker to Texas in 2012 and routing Illinois in 2013.

The team meeting may initially have had a calming influence, but the pressure of solidifying a legacy weighed heavily on the minds of the team’s seniors.

“I wanted to go out on top,” Cory Whitsett says. “I felt like we were winners while we were here, and I wanted to be remembered for that.”

Fellow senior Bobby Wyatt assured a memorable ending to his college career, relaxing the rest of the team – and his teary-eyed coach – by making an ace on the second hole of this NCAA Championship final against Oklahoma State.

In his traditional leadoff spot, Wyatt set the tone with a 3-and-2 victory, sensational freshman Robby Shelton birdied nine of his last 13 holes to defeat Zachary Olsen, and senior Trey Mullinax poured in a 15-foot eagle putt on the 17th hole to secure the clinching point for top-ranked Alabama in its 4-and-1 victory over the No. 2 Cowboys.

The Tide became the second team in the past three decades to win back-to-back national titles, ensuring their place as one of the best squads of all time.

The seniors’ legacy? All three recorded a point in their last-ever college match.

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“What more could you have asked for?” said Whitsett, but the finality of the moment had already set in by the time Seawell sprinted down the 17th fairway to embrace his senior leader.

“We’ll never have this again, with these guys,” he said. “You don’t get to share your life with many people like this.”

This, after all, was the end of a four-year run that turned Alabama into a national powerhouse, three seniors into tantalizing pro prospects, and two men into better coaches.

Seawell is in his 22nd season as a college coach, and times haven’t always been this sweet. For six years he made $7,500 a year as a JUCO coach in Anderson, S.C. He brought his first child home to a dorm room. To make space, he and his wife, Stephanie, removed a door in the kitchen and converted it into a nursery.

He spent a few years at tiny Augusta State before landing the head-coaching gig in Tuscaloosa. A lot of hard work, some good fortune and a few stellar recruiting classes later, Alabama was a national superpower.

“These guys have changed my life,” he said. “I’m thankful that I was wise enough to learn from their greatness.”

Assistant Mike McGraw’s history, of course, is a little more complicated. Last June, he was fired by Oklahoma State after two sub-par seasons. Seawell called him within 24 hours of that surprising decision; McGraw committed almost immediately.

It was reasonable to wonder how they would coexist, Seawell and McGraw, one man ADD and the other OCD. Alabama didn’t need two head coaches. The Tide already had one, a good one, and he was fresh off an NCAA title with a roster equipped to do it again.

What Seawell and this team needed was not the hard-nosed, straight-edged coach from Oklahoma State. They needed the seventh-grade social studies teacher, the high school golf coach, the junior golf director that McGraw was years ago.

This group made the transition easy for McGraw. They joked with him, quizzed him, prodded him, sang rap songs in front of him. They called him “Google,” because he knew just about anything about everything.

“I was in transition,” McGraw said, “and I think Jay saved my career. I needed a change in my life.”

A few weeks ago, McGraw gave Seawell a signed copy of Ben Hogan’s famous LIFE magazine cover, but also a handwritten note.

“He thanked me for breathing enthusiasm back into his heart,” Seawell said.

The day the 54-year-old coach signed to become the assistant at Alabama, Whitsett told his father that he was going to win a national championship – for McGraw. That they did so Wednesday against Oklahoma State – with a five-man roster that McGraw recruited himself – only made the past 50 weeks all the more remarkable.

In the hallway of Prairie Dunes’ clubhouse, two coaches ended the day the way it had began – in tears, thankful for each other and this team.

“I got to go along for this ride,” McGraw said, “and I’ll never forget this day as long as I live."

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

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Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.