NCAA alters national championship schedule for BYU women

By Ryan LavnerMay 11, 2016, 1:21 pm

The cheers in Baton Rouge, La., reverberated through NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis.

Last Saturday, when BYU’s women’s team clinched a spot in next week’s national championship, it created a series of obstacles for the NCAA.

As a Mormon-run school, BYU prohibits Sunday play for all of its sports teams. Problem is, the third round of stroke-play qualifying at Eugene Country Club is scheduled for Sunday, May 22.

The NCAA must provide an accommodation for any school that cannot compete on a particular day for a religious reason, and so they announced this week a revised, and unprecedented, schedule of events for the NCAA Women’s Championship:

Instead of playing its third round on Sunday, BYU will now compete on Thursday (May 19), which is the lone practice-round day for the 24-team field.

The practice round is a 9:30 a.m. shotgun start, with BYU scheduled to begin its preparations on the 14th hole. Once all teams complete their practice round, BYU will have 30 minutes before the start of its first round of play (which is technically Round 3, played to Sunday hole locations). All five Cougars players will be sent off individually, at seven-minute intervals, alongside a walking scorer and a rules official who will serve as a marker.

Most interesting, however, is that the other coaches and players will be allowed to watch BYU compete from outside the ropes. In fact, they’d be wise to do so – they’re getting a sneak peek at the hole locations for Sunday’s round.

“It’s definitely going to be unique,” BYU coach Carrie Roberts said by phone, “and hopefully we give them a good show.”

The BYU situation has created a stir in the college golf community. Not all 24 teams are competing on a level playing field, and so it’s possible, maybe even likely, that the conditions BYU plays in Thursday will be different than what the rest of the field faces on Sunday when the Cougars are back at the team hotel.

“We’ve never been in this situation before, so we don’t know if it’s going to be good or not,” Roberts said. “The talk is about if it’s an advantage for us, but what if it isn’t? If it’s a disadvantage for us, nobody says a thing. But if it’s an advantage, it’s a huge topic.

“That’s something out of our control. We don’t want an unfair advantage. We don’t want the weather to be good one day and to be bad on Sunday. That’s the last thing we’d want. Hopefully it’s the same for everybody.”

BYU must be among the top 15 teams after 54 holes to advance to Monday’s final round of stroke-play qualifying, which will determine the eight-team match-play bracket.

Of course, this scenario was bound to arise eventually: BYU’s golf programs have combined to compete in more than 35 NCAAs, and last year both the men’s and women’s competitions switched to a Friday-Wednesday championship format on the same venue.

What’s unfortunate is that the fair-play controversy threatens to overshadow what has been a resurgent season for the 26th-ranked Cougars, who won a school-record five events, including their first West Coast Conference title.

At the Baton Rouge regional, BYU was in line for the sixth and final qualifying spot before playing the short 15th hole in 6 over par. With three holes to play, the Cougars dropped behind Houston, which had already posted a three-round total of 21-over 885.

Then BYU’s Rose Huang shook off a triple bogey on 15 and recorded three consecutive pars to close. So did Alex White. Kendra Dalton added a birdie on the last. All of a sudden, they had tied Houston, with one group left on the course.

And so BYU’s postseason hopes came down to the team’s best player, senior Lea Garner, who was reeling after three straight bogeys on Nos. 15-17. After a perfect drive on 18, Garner stuck a 6-iron from 145 yards to about 8 feet.

“You know how sometimes you’re lined up perfectly and if you make a good stroke it’s going to go in?” Garner asked Roberts later. “That’s what it felt like.”

Garner, who tied for fourth individually, poured in the birdie putt to edge Houston by one and send the Cougars to their first NCAA finals since the 2006-07 season.

“College golf is the ultimate team sport, and everybody has to contribute,” Roberts said. “You can’t have a LeBron James that kind of carries you. You all have to have five No. 1s to compete, and everybody did their job.”

Whether the Cougars can extend their postseason will come down to their play, certainly, but also the luck of the draw.

“We’re just grateful,” Roberts said, “that the NCAA is going to accommodate us and give us a chance.” 

Getty Images

Ortiz takes Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

Getty Images

Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

Getty Images

McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

Getty Images

What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x