'Bama! Tide rolls to first NCAA national championship

By Associated PressJune 2, 2013, 8:08 pm

MILTON, Ga. – With Alabama getting set to play in the final of the NCAA men's golf championship for the second year in a row, coach Jay Seawell got a good-natured call from Nick Saban.

Obviously, the Crimson Tide's football coach knows a thing or two about winning national titles.

''He asked, 'Do you want me to come over and coach your team?''' Seawell said Sunday, breaking into a big smile. ''I was like, 'Sure. You've got a better record in championships than I do.'''

No need. The Tide did just fine without Saban's help.

Showing again it's more than just a football school, Alabama won its first national title in men's golf with a dominating 4-1 victory over Illinois in match play Sunday.

This championship was especially sweet for a team that lost to Texas in last year's final.

''It's been a long 365 days,'' Seawell said. ''But that just makes it more special. It makes you appreciate it more.''

Bobby Wyatt got the Tide off to a rousing start in the first match at Capital City Club's Crabapple Course north of Atlanta, winning the first seven holes on the way to a 6-and-5 blowout of Thomas Detry. Alabama didn't have to sweat it in the final match, either, as Cory Whitsett went 5-up by the turn and cruised to a 4-and-3 victory over Alex Burge.

The middle three matches were much tighter – each of them all-square at one point coming down the stretch, giving Illinois a glimmer of hope at improbably pulling out its first national title.

But Trey Mullinax, after squandering chances to pull ahead with three-putts at the 14th and 16th, two-putted from 60 feet for a par at the 18th for a 1-up victory over Charlie Danielson. The Illinois player missed the green with his approach, chipped up to about 10 feet, but rolled the putt past the right lip of the cup for a bogey.

When Mullinax knocked down his 3-footer, a huge roar went up from the predominantly Alabama crowd that could be heard by the other groups still on the course.

After that, it ended quickly.

When Burge missed a 15-foot par putt at the 15th, he conceded Whitsett's short bogey attempt to end that match. Up ahead on the 16th green, at essentially the same time, Scott Strohmeyer rolled in a 3-footer for par to beat Brian Campbell 3-and-2.

''Roll Tide!'' someone in the gallery shouted.

Wyatt's strong start helped calm his teammates. They knew the Tide already had one point in the bag, which meant the other four players merely had to split their matches.

''He's a really streaky player,'' Whitsett said. ''When he gets hot, he's really hot. No one can beat him when he's firing on all cylinders.''

Even so, Wyatt never envisioned being 7-up as he walked off the seventh green.

''It doesn't get any better than that,'' he said. ''I just had to keep my head down, keep plugging along. I wanted to get to the finish as early as possible.''

Thomas Pieters, the 2012 individual champion, earned the Fighting Illini's lone point with a 1-up victory over Alabama's top-ranked player, Justin Thomas. That wasn't nearly enough to halt the Tide, which had been on a mission ever since the bitter loss to Texas a year ago.

Alabama lost to the Longhorns 3-2 when, on the final hole, Whitsett came up short of the green and missed a birdie chip, then watched helplessly while Dylan Frittelli rolled in a 20-foot birdie putt to give Texas the crown.

''I remember kneeling beside my bag,'' Whitsett said. ''It's the worst I've ever felt on a golf course.''

This was the best.

''Pure joy,'' Whitsett said.

The victory came nearly five months after Alabama routed Notre Dame in college football's championship game, giving the school its third national title in four years in the sport that dominates most of the attention on campus.

But the Tide's athletic success goes far beyond the gridiron. Over the last two academic years, Alabama has also captured national championships in women's golf, softball and gymnastics.

''We are a football school. No doubt. We don't have a problem with that,'' Mullinax said. ''But I know the coaches on campus don't feel we're just a football school. We've got a lot of great athletes at Alabama. We're a great athletic school.''

The start of the match was moved up two hours because of the threat of an approaching storm, which was expected to hit the Atlanta area around mid-afternoon.

There was no rain during the match, which ended just before noon under partly sunny skies.

While Alabama was the nation's second-ranked team, the Fighting Illini was a surprising finalist. They stunned top-seeded California 3-2 in the semifinals when Pieters defeated individual champion Max Homa on the second extra hole of their match.

But Illinois couldn't pull off another upset.

''Alabama had an edge to it today,'' coach Mike Small said. ''We were up against a buzz saw.''

While the Fighting Illini has a bright future after sending out a lineup that included two freshmen and two sophomores, they'll have to make do next season without their top player.

Pieters, a native of Belgium, had already announced his junior season would be his last before he turns professional. He broke down in tears after coming so close to adding a team title to the individual championship he won in 2012.

''I don't think a lot of people expected us to be in the national championship,'' Pieters said. ''We thought we could do it. We worked so hard to get to this moment. It's a shame we didn't get it done today. But Alabama played really, really well.''

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Winning on Kerr's mind this week and beyond

By Randall MellMarch 24, 2018, 2:11 am

Cristie Kerr moved into position Friday to do more than win the 21st LPGA title of her career.

She moved into position to claim an LPGA Hall of Fame point this week.

Yes, winning is foremost on her mind at the Kia Classic, where she took the lead with an 8-under-par 64 in the second round, she’s on a larger quest, too.

After turning 40 last fall, Kerr was asked what her goals are.

“The Hall of Fame is attainable, if I stick with it,” she said.

Kerr is five shots ahead of Lizette Salas (67), In-Kyung Kim (69), Hee Young Park (70) and Caroline Hedwall (70).

It’s a good time for Kerr to get on a hot streak, with the year’s first major championship, the ANA Inspiration, next week. She has long been one of the best putters in the women’s game, but her ball-striking is impressive this week. She hit 17 greens in regulation Thursday, and she hit 16 on Friday.

“I like winning,” Kerr said. “I like challenging myself. Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older, with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, `Man, why does my hamstring hurt?’ From working around this hilly golf course.”

Kerr acknowledged Friday that her body is more vulnerable to time’s realities, but her mind isn’t.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

“The golf ball doesn't know an age,” Kerr said. “I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.”

Kerr won two weeks after her 40th birthday last fall, boosting her LPGA Hall of Fame point total to 22. She is five points short of eligibility for induction. A player earns one point for an LPGA victory and two points for a major championship title. So there’s a lot of Hall of Fame ground to gain this week and next.

It’s a long-term goal that motivates Kerr to take care of her body.

“I don't think the golf changes,” Kerr said. “I think, physically, it gets harder as you get older. Like I said, I've got tape on my hamstring. I strained it, just a little bit yesterday, walking around this golf course. It's tough as you get older, just being fresh and rested. I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.”

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Big names chasing Kerr into the weekend at Kia Classic

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 1:55 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr shot an 8-under 64 on Friday in the Kia Classic to take a five-stroke lead into the weekend.

The 40-year-old Kerr had eight birdies in her second straight bogey-free round to reach 13-under 131 at rain-softened Aviara.

''I like winning. I like challenging myself,'' Kerr said. ''Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, 'Man, why does my hamstring hurt?' From working around this hilly golf course. The golf ball doesn't know an age. I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.''

She has 20 LPGA victories, winning at Aviara in 2015. She won twice last year and helped the U.S. beat Europe in her ninth Solheim Cup appearance.

''It's tough as you get older just being fresh and rested,'' Kerr said. ''I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.''

Lizette Salas, In-Kyung Kim, Hee Young Park and Caroline Hedwall were tied for second. Salas shot 67, Kim 69, and Park and Hedwall 70.

''I really like this golf course. I really like the environment,'' said Salas, the former University of Southern California player from Azusa. ''My family gets to come out. So much confidence at the beginning of the week, and definitely showed the first two days.

Jeong Eun Lee was 7 under after a 69, and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu had a 70 to get to 6 under.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Ariya Jutanugarn (72), Brooke Henderson (70) and 2016 winner Lydia Ko (71) were 5 under. Shanshan Feng (68) was another stroke back, and Singapore winner Michelle Wie (72) was 1 under.

Lexi Thompson was 2 over after a 74, making the cut on the number in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills.

Kerr opened with birdies on the par-5 10th and par-3 11th, added birdies on the par-4 16th, 18th and second, and ran off three in a row on the par-3 sixth, par-4 seventh and par-5 eighth.

''I don't think you can fall asleep on one shot,'' Kerr said. ''It's a really good golf course. I think I play better on courses that demand the focus, so I think that's why I've played well here in the past. ... I'm trying not to put limits on myself right now. I've got some good things going on with my swing.''

She has long been one best putters and green-readers in the world.

''I can see the subtleties that a lot of people can't,'' Kerr said. ''It's a gift from God being able to do that. I've always had that, so I'm lucky.''

Laura Davies withdrew after an opening 82. The 54-year-old Davies tied for second last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix, playing through painful left Achilles and calf problems.

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DJ hits 489-yard drive, but it doesn't count for history

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 12:22 am

AUSTIN, Texas – Dustin Johnson is no stranger to big drives, but even for DJ this one was impressive.

Trailing in his Day 3 match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Johnson launched a drive at the par-5 12th hole that traveled 489 yards, but that number comes with an asterisk.

“He got lucky it hit the road,” smiled Kevin Kisner, who was leading the world No. 1, 3 up, at the time. “I thought he would make an eagle for sure, he only had 80 yards [to the hole]. He didn’t hit a very good putt.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

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Johnson’s drive, which was 139 yards past Kisner’s tee shot, is the longest recorded on the PGA Tour in the ShotLink era, surpassing Davis Love III’s drive of 476 yards in 2004 at the Tournament of Champions.

The drive will not go into the record books, however, because the Tour doesn’t count statistics from the Match Play.

It should also be noted, Kisner halved the 12th hole with a birdie and won the match, 4 and 3, to advance to the round of 16.

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Durant leads Champions event in Mississippi

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 12:21 am

BILOXI, Miss. - Joe Durant had three straight birdies in a back-nine burst and a shot 6-under 66 on Friday to take the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' Rapiscan Systems Classic.

Durant birdied the par-4 11th and 12th and par-5 13th in the bogey-free round at breezy and rain-softened Fallen Oak. Because of the wet conditions, players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairway.

''It just sets up nice to my eye,'' Durant said. ''It's a beautiful golf course and it's very challenging. The tee shots seem to set up well for me, but the greens are maybe as quick as I've ever seen them here. You really have to put the ball in the right spots. I played very nice today. With the wind swirling like it was, I'm really happy.''

He won the Chubb Classic last month in Naples, Florida, for his third victory on the 50-and-over tour.

Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

''Done this long enough, Friday's just one day,'' Durant said. ''Especially in a three-day tournament, you've got to go out and shoot three good numbers. Fortunate to put one on the board, but I know I have to back it up with a couple of good days because you can get passed very quickly out here.''

Mark Calcavecchia was a stroke back. He won last month in Boca Raton, Florida

''It's probably my best round I've ever had here and it was a tough day to play,'' Calcavecchia said. ''The greens are just lightning fast. They're pretty slopey greens, so very difficult to putt.''

Steve Stricker was third at 68. He took the Tucson, Arizona, event three weeks ago for his first senior victory.

''Just getting it around and managing my game I think like I always do,'' Stricker said. ''You get in the wrong position here with the greens being so fast and you're going to be in trouble. I did that a couple times today.''

Billy Mayfair, Billy Andrade and David McKenzie shot 69. Jerry Kelly, the winner of the season-opening event in Hawaii, was at 70 with Wes Short Jr., Glen Day, Gene Sauers and Jesper Parnevik.

Bernhard Langer opened with a 71, and two-time defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez had a 72.

Vijay Singh, coming off his first senior victory two weeks ago in Newport Beach, California, had a 73.