U.S. Amateur champ Fox heading to Augusta

By Ryan LavnerApril 7, 2013, 1:39 pm

A 14-year-old will tee it up at the Masters, which figures to obscure every other amateur achievement next week. Surprisingly, that sits well with Steven Fox, the reigning U.S. Amateur champion, who most years would assume a starring role among the Crow’s Nest contingent. Instead, he likely will be relegated to chaperone duty.

“Getting rid of that added pressure, it could help me,” Fox said recently. “I mean, wow, 14 and playing in the Masters. I wouldn’t be able to stand on the first tee. Heck, I probably won’t be able to stand at 22, either.”

Last week, the senior at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga finished second in his last regular-season start, held at Reunion Golf and Country Club in Madison, Miss. (The hallowed grounds of Augusta National, it is not.) But a few weeks from graduation, Fox is primed to begin a crash course in major-championship golf, and only the world will be watching.

That’s a scary proposition for any amateur, but especially for a player undergoing a swing change. After eight years Fox changed instructors this winter, moving to Brad Rose, the swing coach to PGA Tour winner Scott Stallings. Fox said he was “perfectly fine making the switch,” which has helped lower his hands at impact, and that now he has “complete trust with Brad.”

Still, it hasn’t been a seamless transition for Fox, who for the first time arrives at college events as the man to beat. But with expectations mounting, and his game suffering, he recently tapped out a note on his iPhone and saved it to his background.

The message reads: Believe in yourself. Have faith in your abilities. Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers, you cannot be successful or happy.

“I wrote it to show that I belong out here,” he said. “I get a little nervous at times. So I want to make sure I know that I belong here and to calm the nerves a little bit.”

Each start is scrutinized now, his name essentially boldfaced on any entry list.

Such is life for the reigning U.S. Amateur champion – especially one who triumphed in such dramatic fashion. 

At the beginning of that magical week in August, Fox merely hoped to reach the match-play portion at Cherry Hills. That itself proved a challenge, as he needed to survive a 17-for-14 playoff after stroke play.

But Fox, of Hendersonville, Tenn., grew more confident and comfortable as the week wore on, defeating the top-ranked amateur in the world, Chris Williams, as well as Cal standout Brandon Hagy.

Then, in the 36-hole final, against Hagy’s teammate, Michael Weaver, Fox erased a 2-down deficit with two holes to play, then made birdie on the first extra hole to win.

So, yes, you can forgive his teammates for keeping the U.S. Amateur in the daily conversation. They have nicknamed Fox “champ.”

“I don’t think they even know my first or last name,” he joked. “It is just ‘champ’ to them.”

In February, at the Bayou City Collegiate Championship, the starter glanced at the pairings sheet, asked another volunteer why one name sounded so familiar, and then, right there on the first tee, gave Fox the only introduction of the week: The reigning U.S. Amateur champion, Steven Fox! He eventually tied for 18th. 

“The players want to beat you so bad, and you obviously don’t want to see that,” said Fox, who had just three top 10s in eight starts this season. “There’s just a feeling that you have to play well all the time. I tried to deny it but there definitely is. I have to get rid of that.”

Fox’s expectations for the Masters are modest, at best. In fact, he’s more looking forward to the Par 3 Contest than the tournament proper. The strongest part of his game is his wedges.

“People say that if you win the Par 3, you won’t win the big one,” he said. “But I’m perfectly fine with winning the Par 3, trust me.”

Already he has lined up practice rounds with Brian Gay and Phil Mickelson, whom he met at Torrey Pines. He’s been working feverishly to set up a round with Brandt Snedeker, another Tennessee kid.

This will mark Fox’s first trip to Augusta since 2010, when as a Chattanooga freshman he received a Monday practice-round badge. Fox watched Tiger Woods hit a few shots, and he toured the grounds, and he snapped dozens of pictures.

Back then, a return visit seemed unlikely for Fox, but so, too, did the prospect of a 14-year-old between the ropes. No matter what happens next week, Fox relishes his role in a historic amateur class.

“All junior players, that’s their dream to play there,” he said. “I get to live it now. That’s pretty cool.”

Rose (65) leads Rahm, Frittelli in Dubai

By Associated PressNovember 18, 2017, 3:24 pm

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Justin Rose shot a 7-under 65 Saturday to take a one-shot lead into the final round of the European Tour's season-ending Tour Championship.

The 37-year-old Rose made a gutsy par save on the final hole after a bogey-free round for an overall 15-under 201. The Englishman leads South African Dylan Frittelli, who produced the day's best score of 63, and Spain's Jon Rahm, who played in the same group as Rose and matched his 65.

Rose is chasing his second Race to Dubai title but leading rival Tommy Fleetwood is only two shots behind here after a second straight 65 on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estates.

Fleetwood did his chances no harm by overcoming a stuttering start before making eight birdies in his final 11 holes to also post a 65. The 26-year-old Englishman was tied for fourth place at 13 under, alongside South African Dean Burmester (65) and Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat (67), who closed with five birdies in a row.

U.S. Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Order of Merit crown, is tied for 13th on 10 under.

Fleetwood needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.

Rose is hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey

If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

You don’t believe it, though.

She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

“I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.

“He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”