Rain delay, darkness add to bizarre week at NCAAs

By Ryan LavnerMay 24, 2017, 2:50 am

SUGAR GROVE, Ill. – To Arizona State coach Missy Farr-Kaye, there was no decision to make.

Her star player, Monica Vaughn, had been on her feet for 18 hours. Vaughn was emotionally and physically spent after winning the NCAA individual title a day earlier. She had squandered a 2-up lead and was now 1 down on the final hole. Her team was on the verge of being eliminated. The big hitter had about 230 yards to the hole, from a wet lie, and reading the green would have been a challenge.

“This is an important shot,” Farr-Kaye told Vaughn. “We’re not out of it. It’s not over. It may seem like a long shot, but we’re still in it.”

And so Vaughn marked her ball and called it a day, leaving the NCAA Women’s Championship with some unfinished business when play resumes at 10 a.m. ET Wednesday (coverage will be live on Golf Channel).

When play was suspended because of darkness at Rich Harvest Farms, players had an opportunity to finish the hole they were on if the decision was unanimous.

Vaughn’s opponent, Stanford’s Albane Valenzuela, wanted to continue. Of course she did. After a two-hour, 20-minute weather delay, the Swiss freshman birdied three of her next four holes to flip the match and head to the par-5 finishing hole with a 1-up lead and an opportunity to earn the decisive third point for Stanford.

NCAA Division I National Championships: Articles and videos

“It’s match play,” Valenzuela said. “I would have probably done the same thing. It doesn’t matter. I’ll come back tomorrow.”

If Valenzuela can halve the 18th hole, she will send the Cardinal to their third consecutive NCAA finals. If Vaughn completes the comeback and wins in extra holes, the match will come down to Stanford’s Madeline Chou and Arizona State’s Linnea Strom, who are now all square with two holes to play after Strom sank a 12-footer for par in near-darkness.

“This is a marathon,” Farr-Kaye said. “This is a grueling week.”

The other semifinal participants have even more work to do.

Southern Cal holds a 4-1 lead over top-seeded Northwestern as they move through the back nine. Northwestern’s Sarah Cho has a 1-up lead with three to play in the opening match, and the Wildcats trail by a one-hole margin in three of the other four matches.

“It looks like a lot of red on the board,” Northwestern coach Emily Fletcher said, “but one hole, in a matter of 15 minutes, it can flip. I’m excited to get back out and have a go at this.”

The NCAA has already needed to make some tough calls this week, starting with the cancellation of the second round because of weather. On Tuesday, officials decided to resume the semifinals after more than a two-hour delay, knowing that play would carry over into Wednesday morning.

Even more surprising to many coaches was the move to allow players only 10 minutes to warm up after sitting around for two hours and playing in cold, wet conditions. In many cases, players needed to choose whether to stretch, hit balls or stroke a few putts

That didn’t sit well with USC coach Andrea Gaston.

“They need to stretch. They need to warm up,” she said. “You’re not going to tell a tennis player who has been sitting for two hours, ‘Hey, you’ve got 10 minutes to warm up.’ They might pull a muscle.

“Our sport is a lot more athletic now. A certain amount of consideration needs to be given to our players so no one gets hurt.”

And so the question: Why not just push the action into Wednesday morning? After all, the championship match isn’t scheduled to begin until 3:10 p.m. ET, so there would have been ample time to finish the semifinals in the morning and still allow players to rest before the finals.

“We’re fairly certain we’re going to get rain again [Wednesday],” said NCAA women’s chair Jim Fee, “so we wanted to make sure we’re doing what we can to get the matches in.”

No coach argued with that, but there is the potential now for a slight competitive imbalance, with the Stanford-Arizona State winner likely to play fewer holes Wednesday than the winner of the USC-Northwestern match.

“Might be a small factor there,” Stanford coach Anne Walker said.

And looking ahead, coaches are already unsure how they will handle the three- or four-hour break in between matches, since it’s likely not enough time to head back to the team hotel about 25 minutes away.

“That could be kind of funny,” Walker said.

Funny, yes, but also a fitting end to a bizarre championship week.

Day (68) just one back at Australian Open

By Nick MentaNovember 24, 2017, 6:40 am

Jason Day posted a second-round 68 to move himself just one off the lead held by Lucas Herbert through two rounds at the Emirates Australian Open. Here’s where things stand after 36 holes in Sydney.

Leaderboard: Herbert (-9), Day (-8), Cameron Davis (-7), Anthony Quayle (-6), Matt Jones (-4), Cameron Smith (-4), Nick Cullen (-4), Richard Green (-4)

What it means: Day is in search of his first worldwide victory of 2017. The former world No. 1 last visited the winner’s circle in May 2016, when he won The Players at TPC Sawgrass. A win this week would close out a difficult year for the Aussie who struggled with his game while also helping his mother in her battle with cancer. Day’s last victory on his native soil came in 2013, when he partnered with Adam Scott to win the World Cup of Golf for Australia at Royal Melbourne.

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

Round of the day: Herbert followed an opening 67 with a round of 66 to vault himself into the lead at The Australian Golf Club. He made six birdies, including four on his second nine, against a lone bogey to take the outright lead. The 22-year-old, who held the lead at this event last year and captured low-amateur honors in 2014, is coming off a runner-up finish at the NSW Open Championship, which boosted him from 714th to 429th in the Official World Golf Ranking. His 5-under score was matched by Dale Brandt-Richards and Josh Cabban.

Best of the rest: Matt Jones, who won this event over Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott two years ago, turned in 4-under 67. Jones is best known to American audiences for his playoff victory at the 2014 Shell Houston Open and for holding the 36-hole lead at the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, which was eventually won by Day. Jones will start the weekend five shots off the lead, at 4 under par.

Biggest disappointment: Spieth has a lot of work to do this weekend if he expects to be in the title picture for the fourth year in a row. Rounds of 70-71 have him eight shots behind the lead held by Herbert. Spieth made a birdie and a bogey on each side Friday to turn in level par. The reigning champion golfer of the year has finished first, second and first at this event over the last three years.

Storyline to watch this weekend: The Australian Open is the first event of the 2018 Open Qualifying Series. The leading three players who finish in the top 10 and who are not otherwise exempt will receive invites into next summer’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.

Ogilvy urges distance rollback of ball

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 8:49 pm

Add Geoff Ogilvy to the chorus of voices calling for a distance rollback of the golf ball.

In an interview before the start of the Emirates Australian Open, Ogilvy said a "time-out" is needed for governing bodies to deal with the issue.

"It's complete nonsense," he said, according to an Australian website. "In my career, it’s gone from 300 yards was a massive hit to you’re a shorter hitter on tour now, legitimately short. It’s changed the way we play great golf courses and that is the crime. It isn’t that the ball goes 400, that’s neither here nor there. It’s the fact the ball going 400 doesn’t makes Augusta work properly, it functions completely wrong.’’

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

Ogilvy used an example from American baseball to help get his point across to an Australian audience.

“Major League Baseball in America, they use wooden bats, and everywhere else in baseball they use aluminium bats,’’ he said. “And when the major leaguers use aluminium bats they don’t even have to touch it and it completely destroys their stadiums. It’s just comedy.

“That’s kind of what’s happened to us at least with the drivers of these big hitters; We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums. So do you rebuild every stadium in the world? That’s expensive. Or make the ball go shorter? It seems relatively simple from that perspective.’’

Ogilvy, an Australian who won the 2006 U.S. Open, said he believes there will be a rollback, but admitted it would be a "challenge" for manufacturers to produce a ball that flies shorter for pros but does not lose distance when struck by recreational players.

The golf world celebrates Thanksgiving

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 6:01 pm

Here's a look, through social media, at how the golf world celebrates Thanksgiving.

Lexi Thompson:

Baking time!!

A post shared by Lexi Thompson (@lexi) on

David Feherty:

Jack Nicklaus:

GC Tiger Tracker:

Steve Stricker:

Golf Channel:

Frank Nobilo:

Ian Poulter:

Tyrone Van Aswegen:

Happy Thanksgiving: Biggest turkeys of 2017

By Grill Room TeamNovember 23, 2017, 3:00 pm

Thanksgiving brings us golf's biggest turkeys of the year. Donald Trump, Grayson Murray and a certain (now-former) tournament director headline the list. Click here or on the image below to check out all the turkeys.