Texas' Scheffler on another big stage at NCAAs

By Ryan LavnerMay 29, 2017, 12:46 am

SUGAR GROVE, Ill. – This big stage doesn’t faze Scottie Scheffler, and why should it?

He has contended (early) at a U.S. Open. He has played in a PGA Tour event. He has captured a U.S. Junior and won three consecutive Texas high school championships and gone 3-1 in NCAA match play.

“He certainly has a belief in himself that he can compete at a really high level,” Texas coach John Fields said.

And so now Scheffler has found himself in another position with all of the attention and the TV cameras. On Monday, the junior will take a two-shot lead into the final round of the NCAA Championship.

The Longhorns are currently four shots back of the top 8, but their best chance for a title this year might ride on the occasionally problematic back of Scheffler.

The 20-year-old was one of the most-hyped junior players of the past decade, a can’t-miss kid who seemed destined to follow Jordan Spieth and lead Texas to another national title. But his past three years have been filled with both promise and patience.

It’s hard to imagine it now, looking at his 6-foot-4-inch, 210-pound frame, but just seven years ago he was 5-foot-2 and 100 pounds. He grew at an alarming rate – not just his overall height, but his arm length and hands and shoulders – and all of that growth put an immense strain on his body. He suffered a back injury two years ago and has since needed a maintenance program to keep him upright and in the lineup.

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“Growing as much as I did, you’re not going to feel awesome every single day,” Scheffler said. “Just some growing pains.”

Fields credited Scheffler’s longtime swing coach, Randy Smith, for keeping him competitive through all of the tweaks that his growing body necessitated.

“He never lost any confidence in me,” Scheffler said of Smith, with whom he has worked since he was 7 or 8.

Scheffler’s game has been trending heading into nationals, with top-3 finishes in each of his past three starts. Here at Rich Harvest Farms, he has recorded three consecutive rounds of 68 to take the lead heading into the final round of stroke play.

“I’m riding a little bit of confidence right now,” he said.

Chasing Scheffler is an eclectic cast of characters who rank among the best in college golf.

USC’s Rico Hoey (runner-up in 2016) and Vanderbilt’s Matthias Schwab (T-3) each are in position to avenge last year’s disappointment, when they came up a few shots shy of Oregon’s Aaron Wise for the individual title.

Also three shots back is Illinois junior Dylan Meyer, who has had a whirlwind few weeks. At last month’s Big Ten Championship, he thought he had a stomach virus but was later diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, which required a three-day stay in the hospital. Not the most patient 21-year-old anyway, Meyer was “climbing up the walls” of his room while watching re-runs of “Law and Order.”

Meyer was released from the hospital the day before the Illini left for regionals, and he played early the next day to show coach Mike Small that he could handle one of the most important tournaments of the year.

“The time of year inspired him to be ready,” Small said.

Meyer had joined the player-of-the-year discussion after posting three wins in a row, but he had played only once between Big Tens and regionals, and he lost 10 pounds and 10 yards of distance after his illness.

Illinois was six shots off the top-5 cut line with seven holes to play, but the team played the finishing stretch in 2 under to finish third. Meyer tied for 28th individually, his worst showing of the season.

“Not exactly what I wanted,” he said, “but adversity hits everywhere and you just have to deal with it.”

Even though he takes medication three times a day, Meyer is still figuring out what he can and cannot eat, and will require an infusion every eight weeks for the rest of his life. Meyer says he is competing this week at “100 percent.” He looks like it, too, shooting weekend rounds of 67-69 to sit in a tie for second heading into the final round.

To win, he’ll have to overcome a slew of other seasoned players, but mostly Scheffler, who has a two-shot head start.

Scheffler arrived on campus and immediately drew comparisons to some of the Texas legends – Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite, Justin Leonard and Spieth. With a victory Monday, he’d vault into a new stratosphere as one of the world’s best amateurs.

“The greatest thing that everyone involved with Scottie has done is just be patient with what had to transpire over the past three years to get him to this moment right now,” Fields said.

Another big stage? Don’t expect him to shy away from it.

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Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

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

Former Web.com 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 Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com 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.

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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.

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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?

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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."

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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