Defending champ An Uihlein into US Amateur semifinals

By Associated PressAugust 28, 2010, 3:09 am

2010 U.S. AmateurUNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. – Peter Uihlein put his hands out with an almost apologetic look on his face after dropping a 5-foot putt to win his quarterfinal match at the U.S. Amateur on Friday.

Beating his college teammate, and one-time roommate, wasn’t very enjoyable for the top-ranked American amateur.

“It’s bittersweet. I just took out one of my best friends. It’s hard because seeing him after, he wasn’t happy,” Uihlein said of his 1-up win over Oklahoma State teammate Morgan Hoffmann. “It’s hard for me to be excited when I just played him.”

Uihlein’s victory over Hoffmann was one of four highly competitive matches in the quarterfinals of the 110th Amateur at Chambers Bay. A day after only a few of the 24 matches even reached the 17th or 18th holes, all the quarterfinals made it to at least No. 18, with Patrick Cantlay needing 20 holes to win his match.

Uihlein and Cantlay will meet in one semifinal on Saturday morning. The other will be a Cal-Stanford matchup, with defending champion Byeong-Hun An facing Stanford’s David Chung.

In another matchup of college teammates An beat Max Homa, 1 up, while Chung dropped an 8-foot putt on the 18th to take out reigning NCAA champ Scott Langley.

It’s a power trio with Uihlein, Chung and An, joined by a relative unknown in Cantlay, who finished tied for second during stroke play and has quietly advanced to the semifinals. Cantlay needed 20 holes in the quarters, taking advantage of Jed Dirksen’s three-putt on the 18th green when Dirksen held a 1-up lead.

An is the first defending champion to reach the semifinals since Tiger Woods in 1996. He’s also trying to become the first back-to-back champion since Woods won three straight titles between 1994 and 1996.

“I definitely passed my goal,” An said. “I’m really happy I’m here right now. I guess I’ll be more happy if I get to the finals and win.”

Uihlein and Hoffmann were the top two players on an Oklahoma State squad that lost in the NCAA team finals to Augusta State. They might be the top two players in the field, but fell into the same bracket after the first two days of stroke play.

Their match was as competitive as expected with neither holding more than a 1-up lead. Uihlein went in front for good with a birdie on the par-4 16th as a train roared by on the nearby tracks. They halved the final two holes, with Hoffmann missing his birdie attempt that could have sent the match to extra holes.

“I wasn’t as on as I have been. That’s the way it goes,” Hoffmann said. “We’re both Cowboys and hopefully he goes on and wins it for the team.”

After two days of routs in his first three matches, An was finally forced to see Nos. 17 and 18. He hadn’t played beyond No. 16 in reaching the quarterfinals, but was forced to the final two holes by Homa’s backside rally. Homa won the 17th to cut An’s lead to 1 up, but his third shot on the par-5 18th came up short and Homa wasn’t able to make the birdie that would have extended the match.

Cal coach Steve Desimone stood to the side of the 18th green, meeting both of his players as the match ended.

“We played great golf today,” An said. “That’s why I was very tired. We didn’t make that many mistakes.”

Chung might be the hottest amateur in the United States entering the Amateur having won the Western Amateur and Porter Cup leading up to the event. The Stanford junior finally pulled ahead of Langley with wins at the 14th and 15th holes, and had a chance to finish the match but missed his birdie attempt on 17. Langley forced one more hole by making a 25-foot birdie putt at No. 17 and reached the 18th in two, stinging a 3-wood from 260 yards to about 50 feet. Langley’s eagle putt raced past and Chung’s birdie ended Langley’s hopes.

“I think you can’t not think about the prize,” Chung said, noting that finalists receive an invitation to the Masters. “… But I think you have to stay grounded. It’s nice to think about how great Sunday could be if you get there, but just stay grounded and stay in the moment – try to at least.”

Dirksen was a favorite of many fans, going without a caddie and carrying his own bag during the tournament. He was 1 up headed to the 18th, but left his third shot at the bottom of a ridge and three-putted to give Cantlay another chance. They parred the first extra hole, before Cantlay won with a par at the second.

“There are a lot of things going through your head just standing there and waiting for whatever happens to happen,” Cantlay said.

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Azinger: 'Can't see anybody beating Tiger' at his best

By Will GrayOctober 22, 2018, 2:44 pm

There's a new world No. 1, and a fresh crop of young guns eager to make their mark on the PGA Tour in 2019. But according to Paul Azinger, the player with the highest ceiling is still the same as it was when he was walking inside the ropes.

Azinger was named Monday as lead golf analyst for NBC Sports, and on "Morning Drive" he was asked which player is the best when all are playing their best. The former PGA champion pondered new world No. 1 Brooks Koepka and former No. 1 Dustin Johnson, but he came back around to a familiar answer: Tiger Woods.

"I just can't see anybody beating Tiger when Tiger's at his best. I just can't see it," Azinger said. "He's not his best yet, but he's almost his best. And when Tiger's his best, there's more that comes with Tiger than just the score he shoots. That crowd comes with Tiger, and it's a whole 'nother dynamic when Tiger's at his best. And I'm just going to have to say that when Tiger's at his best, he's still the best."

Woods, 42, started this year ranked No. 656 in the world but had a resurgent season that included a pair of near-misses at The Open and PGA Championship and culminated with his win at the Tour Championship that ended a five-year victory drought. For Azinger, the question now becomes how he can follow up a breakthrough campaign as he looks to contend consistently against players from a younger generation.

"That's why we watch, to see if he can maintain that. To see what he's capable of," Azinger said. "Now longevity becomes the issue for Tiger Woods. In seven or eight years, he's going to be 50 years old. That goes fast. I'm telling you, that goes really fast."

When Woods returns to action, he'll do so with a focus on the upcoming Masters as he looks to capture the 15th major title that has eluded him for more than a decade. With bombers like Koepka and Johnson currently reigning on the PGA Tour, Azinger believes the key for Woods will be remaining accurate while relying on the world-class iron play that has been a strength throughout his career.

"I think he's going to have to recognize that he's not the beast out there when it comes to smacking that ball off the tee. But I'd like to see him try to hit a couple more fairways periodically. That'd be nice," he said. "If he can drive that ball in the fairway, with that putter, we've seen what his putter is capable of. The sky's the limit, boys."

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Spieth drops out of top 10 for first time since 2014

By Will GrayOctober 22, 2018, 2:08 pm

As Brooks Koepka ascended to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking, a former No. 1 continued a notable decline.

Jordan Spieth didn't play last week's CJ Cup, where Koepka won by four shots. But Jason Day did, and his T-5 finish in South Korea moved him up two spots from No. 12 to No. 10 in the latest rankings. Spieth dropped from 10th to 11th, marking the first time that he has been outside the top 10 in the world rankings since November 2014.

Since that time, he has won 12 times around the world, including three majors, while spending 26 weeks as world No. 1. But he hasn't won a tournament since The Open last July, and this year he missed the Tour Championship for the first time in his career. Spieth is expected to make his season debut next week in Las Vegas at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.


Updated Official World Golf Ranking


Koepka and Day were the only movers among the top 10 on a week that saw many top players remain in place. Sergio Garcia's rain-delayed win at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters moved him up four spots to No. 27, while Gary Woodland went from 38th to 30th after finishing second behind Koepka on Jeju Island.

Koepka will tee off as world No. 1 for the first time this week at the WGC-HSBC Champions, where new No. 2 Dustin Johnson will look to regain the top spot. Justin Rose is now third in the world, with Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Francesco Molinari, Bryson DeChambeau, Jon Rahm, Rickie Fowler and Day rounding out the top 10.

With his next competitive start unknown, Tiger Woods remained 13th in the world for the fifth straight week.

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Pavin's season nearly ends after slow-play penalty

By Will GrayOctober 22, 2018, 1:50 pm

Corey Pavin's season on the PGA Tour Champions nearly came to an end because of a slow-play penalty.

Penalties for pace are often discussed or threatened, but rarely doled out on either the PGA Tour or the over-50 circuit. But that changed Sunday during the final round of the Dominion Energy Charity Classic, where Pavin was told by a rules official after completing his round that he would receive a 1-stroke penalty for slow play.

The penalty was on the surface rather harmless, turning an even-par 72 into a 1-over 73 and dropping Pavin into a tie for 15th. But this was the first event of a three-tournament postseason for PGA Tour Champions players, and only the top 54 in points advanced to this week's Invesco QQQ Championship.


Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic


Pavin, who has two top-10 finishes in 20 starts this season, barely held on at 53rd place after the penalty was enforced.

Slow-play discussions came up earlier this season surrounding Bernhard Langer at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, but Golf Channel analyst Lanny Wadkins expressed his surprise on the telecast that it was Pavin who got a shot added to his score.

"Of all the things to happen with all the times I have played - I can't even count the number of rounds - I never thought Corey Pavin was a slow player," Wadkins said. "All the guys we know are slow players have never been penalized out here. Where has this been for the last 15 years?"

The subject of the penalty also raised an eyebrow from Stephen Ames, who finished alongside Pavin in 15th place while Langer finished second behind Woody Austin:

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Azinger 'lobbied' to captain Ryder Cup team a second time

By Rex HoggardOctober 22, 2018, 1:47 pm

In 2008, Paul Azinger became the first U.S. Ryder Cup captain in nearly a decade to lead a team to victory, doing so at Valhalla with his innovative “pod” system and a player-driven approach to leadership.

In the wake of that victory there were many, including the vast majority of his players, who said Azinger deserved a second chance to captain, but at the time the 12-time PGA Tour winner appeared to be undecided and the PGA of America named Corey Pavin the 2010 captain.

On Monday, Azinger was named NBC Sports/Golf Channel’s lead analyst starting next year and among many revelations during an extended interview on “Morning Drive” he explained how much he wanted a second chance to captain.

“I wanted to do it again, I lobbied to do it again after we won in ’08, but I think I waited a little too long and they had already made a decision,” Azinger said. “The excuse I got was that there are more captains than there are Ryder Cups and I thought that was fair, but then they asked [Tom] Watson to do it again shortly afterward and I was like, ‘What, huh?’”

Watson was named captain of the 2014 U.S. team, which lost by five points and led to the creation of the Ryder Cup task force, which adopted many of Azinger’s ideas including his use of four-player pods.

It’s even more curious that Azinger was never given a second chance considering that Davis Love III was also named a captain twice, first in 2012 and again in ’16.

“I didn’t do it again, I didn’t carry the flag to Europe in 2010, which is fine, and now I’m never going to get to do it again,” he said.

As for who may be named the next U.S. captain after another loss to the Europeans last month in France Azinger could only speculate. “Looks like Wisconsin [site of the 2020 matches at Whistling Straits] and Steve Stricker are going to be a perfect match,” he said.