UCLA and Duke lead field at womens NCAA Championship
No intraconference hostility here: The Bruins greeted them with friendly waves.
With so many Pac-10 teams coming together on the opposite coast this week, they might as well all get along.
Six Pac-10 schools are in the 24-team field at the NCAA women’s golf championship, which begins Tuesday. The event usually is dominated either by that conference or by Duke; since 1993, every national title but one has gone to either the Blue Devils or a Pac-10 school.
“I think we’re really committed to excellence,” Sun Devils coach Melissa Luellen said. “They’re really committed to their athletic programs. They’ve got great coaches. The weather’s pretty great on the West Coast. … If I was a kid looking at schools, I’d look at the West Coast, for sure.”
No women’s golf program has won more NCAA team titles than the defending national champion Sun Devils, who have seven. They’re joined here by top-ranked UCLA, Pac-10 champion Arizona, Southern California, Stanford and Oregon – making up one-fourth of the field that will take on the 6,368-yard, par-72 course at the Country Club of Landfall.
“I think our conference, within itself, we’ve really pushed each other as teams to keep getting better and better, because there’s so much competition in the Pac-10,” UCLA coach Carrie Forsyth said. “Week after week, it’s like we play all these same tournaments and we’re competing against each other. The better one team gets, the better you have to get, and you just have to keep going forward.”
Brooks’ Blue Devils rank second with five championships, all since 1999, including three in a row from 2005-07.
“Before we had our little run, it was always out there,” veteran Duke coach Dan Brooks said of the Pac-10. “It was all the Southwest, and the Southwest is strong again.”
The Sun Devils return a strong nucleus from the group that captured the school’s most recent national title. Three players who led Arizona State last year in Owings Mills, Md. – Juliana Murcia, Carlota Ciganda and Jaclyn Sweeney – are in Luellen’s lineup.
“It was such a joy and such an amazing feeling to win the national championship; it’s kind of like the culmination of the whole year and the hard work and everything that everybody does,” Luellen said. “But we’re at a different place, at a different course, different conditions, different players, we have a different team. When you go back to the same course, there’s a lot more expectations because, ‘Oh, you should play that course really well.’ Well, now it’s almost kind of like a new ball game all over again.”
UCLA enters the tournament ranked No. 1 in the coaches’ poll and by GolfStat and GolfWeek, but Forsyth downplayed that ranking, saying “it means zero, frankly.”
The Bruins are chasing their third NCAA title and first since 2004 after finishing second in both 2008 and ’09.
“You have to come into it feeling good about your game. It is golf, so you might have one player who has an off week. You can’t completely eliminate those things,” Forsyth said. “Hopefully, you come in with all five of your players feeling good, playing well … and really just having a game plan for the golf course, No. 1, but even more importantly, just a game plan mentally for dealing with any pressure or nervousness.”
Eleven of the teams here this week played Landfall a few months ago during the NCAA Fall Preview. Duke finished at 17-over 881 for a one-stroke victory over Auburn and UCLA.
“We’re by no means a front-runner,” Brooks said. “We’re among several good teams, I think, that could win this. The Southwest teams are right in there. … I’d put us in the pack with those teams, but whoever wins is going to have to have a good tournament.”
Four top finishers in Japan qualify for The Open
IBARAKI, Japan – Shota Akiyoshi of Japan shot a 2-under-par 70 on Sunday to win the Mizuno Open and qualify for The 147th Open.
Akiyoshi offset three bogeys with five birdies at the Royal Golf Club in Ibaraki, Japan, to finish 1 under overall and secure his first ever tournament win on the Japan Golf Tour.
Michael Hendry of New Zealand and Japanese golfers Masahiro Kawamura and Masanori Kobayashi were tied for second one stroke off the pace to also qualify for The Open at Carnoustie, Scotland, from July 19-22.
Hendry, who led the tournament coming into the final round, came close to forcing a playoff with Akiyoshi but dropped a shot with a bogey on the final hole when he needed a par to draw level.
Hendry will make his second appearance at The Open after qualifying at the Mizuno Open for the second year in a row.
Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way
Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.
Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.
And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.
“The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.
Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.
Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.
Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.
Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.
“I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told LPGA.com at the Kingsmill Championship last week.
Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.
A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.
It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.
There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.
Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.
The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.
Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.
“I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told LPGA.com last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”
Rose hasn't visited restroom at Colonial - here's why
In case you're unaware, it's pretty hot in Texas.
Temperatures at Colonial Country Club have approached 100 degrees this week, leaving players to battle both the golf course and potential dehydration.
With the help of his caddie Mark Fulcher, Fort Worth Invitational leader Justin Rose has been plenty hot himself, staking himself to a four-shot lead.
"Yeah, Fulch has done a great job of just literally handing me water bottle after water bottle. It seems relentless, to be honest with you," Rose said Saturday.
So just how much are players sweating the heat at Colonial? Well, it doesn't sound like all that water is making it all the way through Rose.
"I haven't even seen the inside of a restroom yet, so you can't even drink quick enough out there," he shared.
Up four, Rose knows a lead can slip away
Up four shots heading into Sunday at the Fort Worth Invitational, Justin Rose has tied the largest 54-hole lead of his PGA Tour career.
On the previous two occasions he took a 54-hole Tour lead into the final round, he closed.
And yet, Rose knows just how quickly a lead can slip away. After all, it was Rose who erased a six-shot deficit earlier this season to overtake Dustin Johnson and win the WGC-HSBC Championship.
"I think I was in the lead going into the final round in Turkey when I won, and I had a four-shot lead going into the final round in Indonesia in December and managed to put that one away," Rose said Saturday, thinking back to his two other victories late last year.
"I was five, six back maybe of DJ, so I've got experience the other way. ... So you can see how things can go both ways real quick. That's why there is no point in getting too far ahead of myself."
Up one to start the third round Saturday, Rose extended his lead to as much as five when he birdied four of his first six holes.
He leads the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green (+12.853) and strokes gained: approach-the-green (+7.931).
Rose has won five times worldwide, including at the 2016 Rio Olympics, since his last victory in the United States, at the 2015 Zurich Classic.
With a win Sunday, he'd tie Nick Faldo for the most PGA Tour wins by an Englishman post-World War II, with nine.
But he isn't celebrating just yet.
"It is a big lead, but it's not big enough to be counting the holes away. You've got to go out and play good, you've got to go out positive, you've got to continue to make birdies and keep going forward.
"So my mindset is to not really focus on the lead, it's to focus on my game tomorrow and my performance. You know, just keep executing the way I have been. That's going to be my challenge tomorrow. Going to look forward to that mindset."