Kuchar again the talk of Atlanta

By Doug FergusonSeptember 22, 2010, 11:57 pm
2006 The TOUR Championship presented by Coca-ColaATLANTA – Matt Kuchar is the face of golf in Atlanta this week at the Tour Championship, just like he was 10 years ago.

There’s one difference.

Actually, there’s about 10 million differences.

Kuchar is the No. 1 seed in the FedEx Cup going into the final playoff event, which starts Thursday at East Lake. That gives him a slight edge in the race for the $10 million bonus, the biggest payoff in golf.

It’s hard to believe that Kuchar, perhaps the most celebrated amateur golfer at Georgia Tech since Bobby Jones, wasn’t even sure he wanted to turn pro when he graduated a decade ago.

He had won the U.S. Amateur. He lit up Augusta National with his engaging smile and a game good enough to be the low amateur at the Masters in 1998. Then came the U.S. Open at Olympic Club, where he held his own against golf’s best and tied for 14th.

Not long after that, a businessman tossed out the idea of staying an amateur.

“He said, ‘Nobody has really done it since Bobby Jones. There’s plenty of money to be made in the business world. It’s not that you have to turn professional to make money,”’ Kuchar said. “And he encouraged me to still stay competitive as an amateur. He said, ‘The doors that will open for you will be amazing, and the better you do in golf – if you keep playing Masters tournaments, if you keep playing well in Amateurs – it’s only going to open more doors.

“So it was a neat opportunity.”

Kuchar went to work for Liberty Associates, a boutique investment banking firm in south Florida, a job that entailed plenty of golf with prospective clients, a chance to see how business gets done as efficiently on manicured fairways as in boardrooms.

Chasing the amateur dream, however, soon turned into a sprint.

Kuchar played the Texas Open on a sponsor’s exemption in the fall of 2000 and missed the cut by one shot. He was furious with himself and wanted to tee it up the next week to prove he was better than that.

“And it was then that I knew I needed to really go week in and week out to see how good I could be,” he said.

It took him time to find out. He won his first PGA Tour event two years later at the Honda Classic, immediately went into a tailspin and didn’t emerge until hooking up with Chris O’Connell, a Texas-based coach who taught him a one-plane swing that was more about making a consistent swing than a perfect one.

The plan has worked to near perfection.

No one has more than his 11 top 10s on the PGA Tour this year. His consistent play, coupled with a victory at The Barclays, has put him atop the PGA Tour money list for the first time in his career, his first Ryder Cup team and No. 10 in the world ranking.

It’s also his first appearance in the Tour Championship, a big goal for a Georgia Tech alum who used to play East Lake in college.

“It’s definitely been a neat progression,” Kuchar said. “I think I was definitely well-celebrated as an amateur, and it’s fun to take the steps forward. … To make those steps, it’s a very rewarding feeling.”

The timing of the Tour Championship provides one coincidence – Kuchar, who always has felt at home in Atlanta, is in the process of moving across the state to St. Simons Island.

The memories will stay, particularly his amateur days.

“It seems like coming back from the Masters (in 1998) there was a lot more fanfare,” Kuchar said. “I remember classrooms standing up and applauding. I can remember teachers coming up and congratulating me. The Masters was kind of what seemed like the real significant event to folks from Georgia, folks from Georgia Tech.”

The U.S. Amateur was a big deal in a different way.

There are pictures of Jones returning to Atlanta with the U.S. Amateur trophy, arriving by train, greeted by a host of Atlanta’s finest. A half-dozen people in those pictures were brought back together when Kuchar came home in 1997 with the same trophy, and they put together a mock photo to celebrate the occasion.

Kuchar was told later some in the group had tears in their eyes at the sight of the U.S. Amateur trophy belonging to a Georgia Tech kid.

“It was a very touching moment, and I kind of realized how big of a deal it was,” Kuchar said.

It’s a big deal, now – a chance to be the FedEx Cup champion with a $10 million bonus, perhaps enough for him to be voted PGA Tour player of the year, with the Vardon Trophy on the line for the lowest scoring average.

Kuchar isn’t alone in his pursuit of the big prize.

The top five in the standings – Kuchar, Dustin Johnson, Charley Hoffman, Steve Stricker and Paul Casey – determine their own fate. If they win the Tour Championship, they win the FedEx Cup. Everyone else from No. 6 to No. 30 needs help to win.

Defending champion Phil Mickelson is No. 10, having slipped in the standings with mediocre results in the playoffs. He still has a chance, and can get more than money. A victory would make him No. 1 in the world for the first time, and considering his Masters victory in April, make him the favorite for player of the year. For all he has done in his career, Mickelson has never won any top awards.

He has never had a better chance than now – on a course where he is defending champion, with Tiger Woods not around because the world’s No. 1 player didn’t qualify.

Geoff Ogilvy and family at the 2009 WGC-Accenture Match Play. Getty Images

Notes: Ogilvy moving family to Australia

By Doug FergusonMay 22, 2018, 6:55 pm

Geoff Ogilvy's immediate future involves fewer golf tournament and longer flights.

Ogilvy has been contemplating in the last few years moving back home to Australia, and after discussing it with his Texas-born wife, Juli, they plan to return to Melbourne shortly after Christmas.

Their daughter, Phoebe, turns 12 in October and will be starting the seventh grade in Australia. They have two sons, Jasper (10) and Harvey (8). The Ogilvys figured that waiting much longer to decide where to live would make it tougher on the children.

''We just talked about it, for lots of reasons, and we kept making pros and cons. Juli was strong on it,'' Ogilvy said. ''We're excited. I'm at the point where I'm not going to play 27 times a year. It's going to be brutal to play from there. But you've got to choose life.''

Ogilvy won the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot, and he counts three World Golf Championships among his eight PGA Tour victories. He also has won the Australian Open and the Australian PGA Championship and has reached No. 3 in the world.

His last victory was in 2014, and Ogilvy has slipped to No. 416 in the world.

He has been dividing some of his time with a golf course design business with projects that include Shady Oaks in Fort Worth, Texas, (including a ''Little Nine'' course that opened last year), a renovation in China and a 36-hole course called Peninsula Kingwood in Melbourne.

Ogilvy, who grew up at Victoria Golf Club, still has a home on the 14th hole of the West Course at Royal Melbourne. If he didn't move back home, Ogilvy figured he would be spending six months in Melbourne and six months in Scottsdale, Arizona.

''It's a feeling more than anything,'' he said. ''Scottsdale is dreamy. We live a great existence. I know what I'm getting there. If we didn't move back, we'd be a six-and-six family. The kids get out of school, and they're bounced back and forth. It's not good for continuity.''

As for golf?

Ogilvy narrowly kept his full PGA Tour card last year and this season has been a struggle. He hasn't sorted out what kind of schedule he would keep, understanding it would involve long trips from Sydney to Dallas.

The immediate goal would be to play a heavy fall schedule and miss most of the West Coast swing to get acclimated to the move.

''And then we'll start working it out,'' he said.


US OPEN QUALIFYING: The U.S. Open likes to consider its championship the most democratic of the majors, and it has it just about right again this year. With the addition of 23 players who became exempt by being in the top 60 in the world ranking, 77 players in the 156-man field are exempt from qualifying. That number could go up slightly with another cutoff for the top 60 the Sunday before U.S. Open week.

The U.S. Open is the only American major that does not offer automatic exemptions to PGA Tour winners. Five such winners from this season still face qualifying, including Patton Kizzire, who has won twice (OHL Classic at Mayakoba and Sony Open). The others are Austin Cook, Ted Potter Jr., Andrew Landry and Aaron Wise.

Kizzire is at No. 63 in the world, followed by Wise (66) and Landry (69). All have three weeks to crack the top 60.

Until 2011, the U.S. Open offered exemptions to multiple PGA Tour winners since the previous Open. It leans heavily on the world ranking, as do the other majors. It also awards recent major champions and top finishers from the previous U.S. Open, along with the Tour Championship field from the previous year, to reward a consistently strong season.

''All of the tours around the world have bought into the official world golf ranking rankings,'' said Jeff Hall, the USGA's managing director of rules and open championships. ''And this provides just the right place for us to be with exemptions. We don't have to get into the weighting of one tour over another, this championship versus that event, a week-to-week event. We focus on the official world golf rankings and it seems to get us the right players for our championship.''



FICKLE GAME: Careers can change quickly in golf. No one can attest to that as well as Michael Arnaud.

The 36-year-old Arnaud had never finished better than a tie for fifth in his 49 starts on the Web.com Tour, and that was three years ago. His career earnings were just over $130,000. He had only made it into one previous event this year, and he wasn't in the field at the BMW Charity Pro-Am in South Carolina last week until Kent Bulle withdrew on the eve of the event.

Arnaud tied the course record with a 60 in the second round. He closed with a 63 and won by five shots.

He won $126,000 and moved to No. 13 on the money list, giving him a reasonable chance to reach the PGA Tour if he finishes the season in the top 25.

''A lot of people kept pushing me when I wanted to step away from it,'' Arnaud said. ''My wife was one of those that told me to take the chance and go. Low and behold it really paid off.''


SHINNECOCK SAVANT: Rory McIlroy is excited to get back to Shinnecock Hills for the U.S. Open, a course he already has played a few times.

Equally excited is his manager, Sean O'Flaherty, who knows the course on New York's Long Island better than McIlroy.

O'Flaherty spent two summers as a caddie at Shinnecock Hills.

He went to college at Trinity in Dublin, had friends in the Hamptons and came over during the summer months in 2002 and 2003 to work as a caddie.

''I got to know a lot of members,'' O'Flaherty said. ''I can't wait. To me, it's the best course in the world.''


DIVOTS: Justin Thomas won the Honda Classic on Feb. 25 at No. 4 in the world. No one from the top 10 in the world has won a PGA Tour event since then, a stretch of 12 tournaments. ... Guy Kinnings is leaving IMG after nearly 30 years to become the deputy CEO and Ryder Cup director of the European Tour. He will report directly to European Tour chief Keith Pelley. ... The LPGA tour will play in China during its fall Asia swing at the Buick LPGA Shanghai at Qizhong Garden Golf Club. The tournament will be Oct. 18-21, one week before the men play the HSBC Champions at Sheshan International in Shanghai. ... Alice Chen of Furman has been selected for the Dinah Shore Trophy, awarded to top college women who excel in golf, academics and work off the golf course. ... The Irish Open is going to Lahinch Golf Club in 2019, with former Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley serving as the tournament host.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Matt Kuchar, Peter Uihlein and Jhonattan Vegas are the only players to compete in all five Texas events on the PGA Tour this year.


FINAL WORD: ''The sum of his shots seems to add up to slightly less than the sum of the shots from another guy.'' - Geoff Ogilvy on Jordan Spieth.

Getty Images

Arizona's run continues, knocks off top seed to reach semis

By Jay CoffinMay 22, 2018, 6:35 pm

STILLWATER, Okla. – The No. 1 seed in match play has still never won the women’s NCAA Championship.

That dubious distinction continued Tuesday at Karsten Creek when Arizona knocked out top-seeded UCLA on the final hole of the final match.

With the matches tied at 2 apiece, the anchor match between Arizona junior Bianca Pagdanganan and UCLA freshman Patty Tavatanakit was tied on the 18th hole, a par 5 that’s reachable in two shots by many.

Tavatanakit was just short of the green in two and Pagdanganan, the Wildcats’ hero from Monday when she made eagle on the last hole to give her team a shot at match play, blasted her second shot onto the green. Tavatanakit failed to get up and down – missing a 4-footer for birdie – and Pagdanganan two-putted for birdie to give Arizona the victory.


NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Scoring and TV times

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Full coverage


“We’re lucky to be in match play,” Arizona coach Laura Ianello said. “Let’s ride the highs. Why not?”

Arizona will now face Stanford in the semifinals. The Cardinal, the 2015 champion and 2016 runner up, has qualified for match play in each of the past four seasons. They beat Northwestern, 3-2, in the quarterfinals to advance.

USC will face Alabama in the other semifinal, meaning three Pac-12 teams have advanced to the Final Four. The Crimson Tide had an easy go of it in their quarterfinal match against Kent State, winning 4-1. The decisive victory gave Alabama extra rest for its afternoon match.

USC beat Duke, 3-1-1, in the other quarterfinal, pitting teams that have combined to win nine NCAA titles in the past 20 years. But neither team has had much success in the past four years since the championship turned to match play. Not only has neither team won, neither has even reached the championship match.

Duke’s Leona Maguire won the first match and the second match was halved, but USC swept the last three matches with Gabriela Ruffels, Alyaa Abdulghany and Amelia Garvey all winning to propel the Trojans into the semifinals.

Alabama (2) vs. USC (3)

2:30PM ET: Lauren Stephenson (A) vs. Jennifer Chang (USC)

2:40PM ET: Kristen Gillman (A) vs. Amelia Garvey (USC)

2:50PM ET: Cheyenne Knight (A) vs. Allisen Corpuz (USC)

3:00PM ET: Lakareber Abe (A) vs. Alyaa Abdulghany (USC)

3:10PM ET: Angelica Moresco (A) Gabriela Ruffels (USC)


Stanford (5) vs. Arizona (8)

3:20PM ET: Emily Wang (S) vs. Gigi Stoll (A)

3:30PM ET: Shannon Aubert (S) vs. Yu-Sang Hou (A)

3:40PM ET: Mika Liu (S) vs. Haley Moore (A)

3:50PM ET: Albane Valenzuela (S) vs. Sandra Nordaas (A)

4:00PM ET: Andrea Lee (S) vs. Bianca Pagdanganan (A)

Getty Images

NCAA DI Women's Champ.: Scoring, TV times

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 22, 2018, 5:50 pm

The NCAA Division I Women's Golf Championship is underway at Kartsen Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.

After three days of stroke play, eight teams advanced to the match-play portion of the championship. Quarterfinals were contested Tuesday morning with semifinals in the afternoon. The finals are being held on Wednesday. Golf Channel is airing the action live.

Wake Forest junior Jennifer Kupcho won the individual title. Click here for live action, beginning at 4 p.m. ET.

Scoring:

TV Times (all times ET):

Tuesday
4-8PM: Match-play semifinals (Click here to watch live)

Wednesday
4-8PM: Match-play finals

Getty Images

Spieth grouped with Kisner, Stricker at Colonial

By Will GrayMay 22, 2018, 5:34 pm

It's a short commute for the PGA Tour this week, as Colonial Country Club sits less than an hour away from last week's host site, Trinity Forest. Here's a look at some of the marquee, early-round groupings at the Fort Worth Invitational, where local favorite Jordan Spieth will look to contend at "Hogan's Alley" for the fourth straight year (all times ET):

8:55 a.m. Thursday, 1:55 p.m. Friday: Jon Rahm, Bryson DeChambeau, Rickie Fowler

Rahm impressed in his Colonial debut last year, finishing T-2 in his first trip around one of the Tour's most historic venues. He returns this week and will play alongside DeChambeau, who missed the cut in his first two Colonial appearances but has played well this year, and Fowler, who makes his first trip to Fort Worth since missing the cut in 2014.


Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


9:06 a.m. Thursday, 2:06 p.m. Friday: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Kisner, Steve Stricker

Spieth has had great success at Colonial, with his 2016 title sandwiched between a runner-up in 2015 to Chris Kirk and one last year behind Kisner, who returns to defend his title on the heels of two straight missed cuts. Stricker, who won here in 2009, returns for the fourth straight year after a T-7 finish last year.


1:55 p.m. Thursday, 8:55 a.m. Friday: Aaron Wise, Zach Johnson, Justin Rose

At age 21, Wise became the Tour's latest winner when he cruised to a three-shot victory Sunday in Dallas, and he'll play the first two rounds alongside a pair of major champs. Johnson won here in 2010 and 2012 and remains the tournament's leading money-winner, while Rose opted to skip the European Tour's flagship event to make his first start in Fort Worth since 2010.


2:06 p.m. Thursday, 9:06 a.m. Friday: Webb Simpson, Brooks Koepka, Adam Scott

Simpson tees it up for the first time since his victory at TPC Sawgrass, and he does so on a layout where he has cracked the top five each of the last two years. Koepka will be making his Colonial debut, while Scott returns to a course where he won as world No. 1 back in 2013 as he continues his quest to crack the OWGR top 60 to earn a spot in the U.S. Open.