NC States Hill wins mens NCAA Championship

By Associated PressMay 28, 2009, 4:00 pm
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TOLEDO, Ohio ' With just eight holes remaining in the race for medalist at the NCAA Division I mens golf championship, North Carolina States Matt Hill trailed by two strokes.
 
Instead of panic, it was time to take control.
 
Hill made three birdies down the stretch and then played keepaway with the lead to capture the top individual prize Thursday at Inverness Club.
 
Im pretty pumped up, thats for sure, and a little bit relieved at the same time, Hill said after shooting his third consecutive 2-under 69 to finish at 6-under 207.
 
The tall Canadian started the day tied for the lead with Georgias Russell Henley, who lapsed to a 75 to finish at 213. Starting on the 10th hole, Hill played the first 10 holes in even par and by that point trailed TCUs Tom Hoge by two shots.
 
Clemson junior Kyle Stanley, who matched the days low round with a 66, was second by two strokes. He got a close look at Hills play.
 
You have to tip your hat to Matt. I played with him all three days and he played some incredible golf, Stanley said. Obviously, hes used to winning. And he played great.
 
Hill, who finished the season with eight wins, picked up the pace. The sophomore from Brights Grove, Ontario ' also PGA Tour star Mike Weirs hometown ' birdied holes No. 2 and 5 to regain the lead while those around him were falling victim to the wet conditions, which made the greens receptive but the course even longer.
 
Hill bogeyed the long, par-4 seventh hole after finding the thick rough off the tee, but all but locked up the win with a birdie at the par-5 eighth. He cut the corner with a drive that caught a slope and ended up almost 370 yards from the tee. From there he hit a 6 iron about 220 yards to middle of the green and two-putted for the birdie from 30 feet.
 
I didnt really want to know where I stood until I was coming down the stretch, he said. It was a little bit nerve-racking on a few of the holes but as soon as I found out I had a two-shot lead it was maybe a little bit more comfortable. The bogey kind of made it a little tougher, and then I guess that birdie definitely helped on 8 when that putt snuck in there.
 
No one else was making a move. Stanley parred the last five holes. One group ahead, Hoges lead had melted with bogeys at holes 5, 6 and 7. The last man standing was Hill.
 
He locked up the win with a two-putt par on his final hole, pumping his fist as the 3-footer fell into the cup.
 
This whole seasons been amazing, Hill said. To win this is really icing on the cake and its really special to me. I really worked really hard to get here.
 
Tom Glissmeyer of Southern California (66), Rickie Fowler (68) of the low team through 54 holes of medal play, Oklahoma State, and Hoge (70) tied for third at 3-under 210.
 
Glissmeyer said Hill deserves to be the national player of the year.
 
Hes proving that hes, if not the best, then one of the best in the country, Glissmeyer said.
 
Only nine players in the 156-man field broke par at the 7,255-yard layout, which has also hosted PGA Championships in 1986 (won by Bob Tway on a dramatic sand shot on the 72nd hole to defeat Greg Norman) and 93 (Paul Azinger edged Norman in a playoff), U.S. Opens in 1920 (Ted Ray), 31 (Billy Burke), 57 (Dick Mayer) and 79 (Hale Irwin), the U.S. Amateur (Craig Stadler) in 1973 and the U.S. Senior Open in 2003 (Bruce Lietzke).
 
Hill is the first North Carolina State player to win the individual championship. Past medalists include Tiger Woods (Stanford, 1996), Phil Mickelson (Arizona State in 1989, 90 and 92) and Jack Nicklaus (Ohio State, 1961).
 
Michigans Alexander Sitompul shot a 70 to finish at 2-under 211. Oklahoma States Morgan Hoffman (71) and Central Floridas Blayne Barber (68) were another shot back.
 
Oklahoma State led the eight teams qualifying for the new match-play format which begins with Friday mornings quarterfinals. The team championship match is set for Saturday morning.
 
Coach Mike McGraw said that even though every team starts with a blank slate in match play, he felt his team still had an advantage because of the confidence it had gained so far.
 
It means a lot. Weve played well for three days, McGraw said. We knew (the new format) would be the case whether we finished first, second, eighth ' you always know that thats going to come, so it doesnt matter. You just want to do the best you can and build confidence every day.
 
The tightest race of the day was for the last spots in the team match-play. Oklahoma State went 3 under in the third round to finish at 3-under 849, which was 13 strokes ahead of runner-up Arizona State.
 
Southern California started the round tied for 12th but climbed all the way to a tie for third with Arkansas and Washington, going 5 under on the day.
 
Oklahoma State, which includes Tways son, Kevin, will face eighth-seeded Georgia. In the other quarterfinals, Arizona State will meet No. 7 Texas A&M, No. 3 USC will play No. 6 Michigan, and No. 4 Arkansas will face No. 5 Washington.
 
The second round was suspended for 4 1/2 hours by a thunderstorm, requiring almost half the field to come back Thursday morning to pick up where they left off when darkness fell on Wednesday night. The third round began mid-morning but the rain held off, although the deep rough was particularly thick and troublesome because it was so wet.
 
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    Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

    Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

    Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

    This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

    While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

    Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

    Getty Images

    McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

    Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

    “It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

    “Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

    He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.  

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    Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 1:36 pm

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    Rory looking for that carefree inner-child

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:28 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eleven years later, Rory McIlroy cringes at the photo: the yellow sweater with the deep V-neck, the chubby cheeks and the messy mop that curled under his cap.

    “You live and you learn,” he said Wednesday, offering a wry smile.

    The last time McIlroy played at a Carnoustie Open, in 2007, he earned the Silver Medal as the low amateur. He tied for 42nd, but the final result had mattered little. Grateful just to have a spot in the field, courtesy of his European Amateur title, he bounced along the fairways, soaking up every moment, and lingered behind the 18th green as one of his local heroes, Padraig Harrington, battled one of his favorite players, Sergio Garcia. Waiting for the trophy presentation, he passed the time playing with Padraig’s young son, Paddy. On Wednesday, McIlroy spotted Paddy, now 15, walking around Carnoustie with his three-time-major-winning father.

    “He’s massive now – he towers over me,” he said. “It’s so funny thinking back on that day.”

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    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “I just think, as you get older, you get a little more cautious in life,” said McIlroy, 29. “I think it’s only natural. There’s something nice about being young and being oblivious to some stuff. The more I can get into that mindset, the better I’ll play golf.”

    And so on the eve of this Open, as he approaches the four-year anniversary of his last major title, McIlroy finds himself searching for a way to channel that happy-go-lucky 18-year-old who was about to take the world by storm, to tap into the easygoing excellence that once defined his dominance.

    It’s been a year since he first hinted at what he’s been missing. Last year’s Open at Royal Birkdale was the final event of his long run with caddie J.P. Fitzgerald. The chief reason for the split, he said, had nothing to do with some of the questionable on-course decisions, but rather a desire to take ownership of him game, to be freed up alongside one of his best friends, Harry Diamond.

    That partnership has produced only one victory so far, and over the past few months, McIlroy has at times looked unsettled between the ropes. It’s difficult to compute, how someone with seemingly so much – a résumé with four majors, a robust bank account, a beautiful wife – can also appear disinterested and unmotivated.

    “I think sometimes I need to get back to that attitude where I play carefree and just happy to be here,” he said. “A golf tournament is where I feel the most comfortable. It’s where I feel like I can 100 percent be myself and express myself. Sometimes the pressure that’s put on the top guys to perform at such a level every week, it starts to weigh on you a little bit. The more I can be like that kid, the better.”

    It’s a decidedly different landscape from when the erstwhile Boy Wonder last won a major, in summer 2014. Jordan Spieth had won just a single Tour event, not three majors. Dustin Johnson wasn’t world No. 1 but merely a tantalizing tease, a long-hitting, fast-living physical freak who was just beginning a six-month break to address "personal challenges." Two-time U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka hadn’t even started playing in the States.  

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    “I think at this stage players have caught up,” Harrington said. “There’s many players who drive the ball comparable and have certainly eaten into that advantage. Rory is well on pace to get into double digits with majors, but it has got harder. There’s no doubt there’s more players out there who are capable of having a big week and a big game for a major. It makes it tough.”

    It’s not as though McIlroy hasn’t had opportunities to add to his major haul; they’ve just been less frequent and against stronger competition. In the 13 majors since he last won, he’s either finished in the top 10 or missed the cut in 11 of them. This year, he played in the final group at the Masters, and was on the verge of completing the career Grand Slam, before a soul-crushing 74 on the last day. His U.S. Open bid was over after nine holes, after an opening 80 and a missed cut during which he declined to speak to reporters after both frustrating rounds.

    “I’m trying,” he said Wednesday. “I’m trying my best every time I tee it up, and it just hasn’t happened.”

    A year after saying that majors are the only events that will define the rest of his career, he recently shrugged off the doom and gloom surrounding his Grand Slam drought: “It doesn’t keep me up at night, thinking, If I never won another major, I can’t live with myself.”

    Eleven years ago, McIlroy never would have troubled himself with such trivial questions about his legacy. But perhaps a return to Carnoustie, to where his major career started, is just what he needs to unlock his greatness once again.