Washington stuns Stanford to reach finals

By Ryan LavnerNovember 1, 2016, 11:31 pm

ATLANTA – Washington was the last team to leave East Lake Golf Club on Monday night.

There was a lot to discuss.

A few hours earlier, the defending NCAA women’s champions had finished last in the stroke-play qualifier at the East Lake Cup. No, not just last – counting all five scores, the Huskies were a combined 42 over par, losing to Stanford by 44 strokes.

In one round.

“We were embarrassed,” Washington coach Mary Lou Mulflur said. “We know we’re better than that. Everybody felt horrible. I don’t think I’ve ever been so down. You’re thinking it’s going to be a blood bath (Tuesday).”

Mulflur had wrapped up her media obligations and was about to summon her team from the range. Then volunteer assistant coach David Elaimy stepped in. It was time to talk.

And so for 45 minutes Monday night, Mulflur opened up and cried on the back steps of the clubhouse.

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“I didn’t realize how much pressure I was feeling,” she said. “I was really trying to help them be comfortable with being the reigning champions and focusing on the team. But I didn’t realize how much stress I was putting on myself as the defending-champion coach. I don’t mean that in an ego way. It’s just so much different.

“It’s been this nonstop whirlwind of feel good, but inside, it’s been really hard. I’m not complaining – you’d get 260 teams that would change places with us in a heartbeat. But it’s about learning to manage it.

“And it’s new for me. You feel that responsibility that you’re supposed to know how to do everything, and I don’t. I’ve never done it before.”

And this is an entirely new Washington team to coach. The two senior leaders are gone, off to the pro ranks. In their place are three sophomores – who were the breakout stars of last year’s NCAA finals – and two freshmen.

Washington won its season opener, but it has been a struggle ever since. In the past few weeks, the Huskies were 16th in an 18-team field and then 10th at the Pac-12 Preview. Then came Monday’s round at the East Lake Cup, where three of their starters, including top player Julianne Alvarez, carded a round in the 80s.

“Being a sophomore but having to step into a leadership role for the freshmen and coming off a national championship, you don’t mean to think about it,” Alvarez said, “but you have these subconscious pressures of performing well and living up to the expectations.”

And the problems started at the top, as Mulflur, in her 33rd season, tried to navigate her new normal.

Elaimy sensed the inner struggle. When the Huskies won the title over Stanford last May, their normally high-energy coach was the picture of calm, comfortable and confident in who she was, where her team was heading.

“I want that back,” she said.

Turns out it took an open and honest evaluation from her own players to regain the feeling.

“They called me out,” Mulflur said. “In some ways, I was showing my vulnerability, that I was just as vulnerable as they were. A coach is supposed to be stoic and project an image. But to have players that I felt like I could let my guard down with, and for them to realize, hey, she’s just like us ... that helped them, but it helped me more.”

Said Alvarez: “That open channel of communication allowed us to progress as a team.”

When Washington left for the course Tuesday morning, Mulflur said, the “energy was off-the-charts good.” Another match with Stanford loomed, but the attitude was wildly different after their emotional pow wow.

“We were free from those pressures and expectations,” Alvarez said.

They played like it, too.

Eun Won Park, who shot 81 Monday, birdied the first two holes against Stanford freshman Andrea Lee, the individual champion here and one of the best players in the country. “I showed that score to everybody on my team,” Mulflur said. Park eventually lost that match, but the tone was set.

A day after losing to Stanford’s Casey Danielson by 16 shots, Ellen Takada chipped in on the 17th to win, 2 and 1.

Sarah Rhee and Wenyung Keh each clobbered their opponent, 5 and 4.

And Alvarez, less than 24 hours after posting a field-worst 86, poured it on late for a 3-and-1 victory.

Washington 4, Stanford 1.

The Huskies will face Duke on Wednesday in the championship match.

“Winning was just gravy, honestly,” Mulflur said.

“That’s match play,” Stanford coach Anne Walker said. “They came in as the underdogs with nothing to lose. They were in a terrific spot.”

Even though it sure didn’t seem like it Monday night.

“It wasn’t so much the win, but the way it felt, even before the round,” Mulflur said. “To be relaxed and calm and to know that no matter what, we were going to be fine. I was going to be fine. That was comforting.

“The result didn’t matter. It’s just learning.”

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.