Mussani Wins Futures Tour Players Championship
After all, doctors had reminded her that extreme heat, fatigue, stress and constant travel were all contributing factors to flare-ups for Lupus, the incurable autoimmune disease that sometimes makes her life miserable. Lupus has caused Canadian Salimah Mussani to pass out on golf courses in the summer heat and to withdraw from tournaments. It has given her skin rashes and made her hands swell with inflammation. It has made her feel tired and achy. And it has made a 26-year-old woman slowly ease out of bed each morning as if she were 50 years older.
But today, Mussani was able to raise the trophy as the winner of the $100,000 Michelob ULTRA Duramed FUTURES Players Championship. For once, she had beaten the odds, beaten the heat, outlasted the competition, and made herself untouchable for the better portion of four rounds in the Duramed FUTURES Tour's only major championship. After 72 holes and who-knows-how-much agony, Mussani mustered a five-under-par final round performance of 67 to win this 22nd annual tournament by five strokes at 272 (-16) at Hickory Point Golf Course.
'I almost can't believe it,' said Mussani, a fourth-year pro whose best finish prior to this week was a tie for 14th at the Tour's April tournament in McAllen, Texas. 'When you're tapping in for par, a lot of stress is removed from the game.'
With scores of 67-70-68-67, Mussani nearly made the Tour's only 72-hole event in the regular season look like a pleasurable stroll under her sun-reflective umbrella, used to keep her cool during the week's 90-degree temperatures. After the first round, she was tied for second, one shot off the lead. After 36 holes, she led by two shots. After three rounds, she led by four strokes and for most of today's final round, she was a minimum of two shots ahead of her closest chaser.
'She played well all week and made a lot of birdies,' said Charlotte Mayorkas of Las Vegas, who fired a final-round 67 (-5) and finished second at 277 (-11). 'I knew she was going to keep making birdies. I went out there and had nothing to lose and I did the best I could to catch her.'
'If I'd made some putts in the first and second rounds, maybe I would have had a better chance,' said In-Bee Park, 17, of Las Vegas, who carded a 68 (-4) in the final round and finished third at 279 (-9). 'I started out the tournament tied for 48th and moved up, so I'm very happy. It feels like I'm getting used to this stuff.'
Mussani was bogey-free on the weekend and hit 14 greens, 12 fairways and rolled in 27 putts in today's final round. While she was out-driven off the tee all day by good friend and pairings partner Lisa Fernandes of Jacksonville, Fla., her irons were precise and her left-handed putting was smooth and on line all day. One would never suspect that she lost her breakfast on the practice range prior to teeing off or that she felt queasy for most of the front nine.
'I was feeling a little weak, but I kept eating crackers because I knew I had to go out and play well,' said Mussani, a member of the 2000 NCAA Women's Golf Championship runner-up team while at Stanford University.
Mussani was on cruise control and held the lead throughout Saturday and Sunday's rounds. When she walked up the 10th fairway today past the leaderboard and saw that Mayorkas was making a run at her lead, Fernandes told her pal, 'Just take care of business.' And that's exactly what Mussani did.
'Sal really put the hammer down,' said Fernandes, who held a share of second place during the second and third rounds and finished tied for 14th at 286 (-2) after a final-round 77 and a day of golf swing snafus. 'She's on top of her game right now.'
Even more importantly, Mussani is on top of her health, which has been the toughest aspect of getting the most out of her game. Two years ago at the Tour's tournament in York, Pa., Mussani fell victim to the extreme heat and humidity of summer and was taken off the golf course and iced down in the locker room while Tour staff called her parents. Countless times, she has been forced to withdraw from events when fatigue made it difficult to lift her feet just to walk. A recurring skin rash sometimes has her brown skin smeared in white ointment.
And at the Tour's annual qualifying tournament last November, Mussani spent the entire night before the final round in the emergency room of a hospital in Lakeland, Fla. Doctors originally thought she was having an appendicitis, but traces of e-coli bacteria later were discovered in her system. Still in pain, the Canadian carded a two-under-par final round score of 70 and finished fourth in the tournament.
'This girl does not quit,' said her father, Anil Mussani, a retired family practice physician. 'It's been very difficult with the Lupus. She has the talent, but I think her health has held her back for a long time. This is awesome because she has always wanted to win on the [Duramed] FUTURES Tour.'
Part of the reason Mussani has been able to perform more consistently has been her father's help in finding a Lupus Clinic where doctors have not simply directed the golfer to quit golf and use her Stanford degree in psychology and economics.
'When you have geared your life and career in a certain direction and then you get this big setback, yes, it's pretty devastating,' said her father of Salimah's Lupus diagnosis in 2000 while in college.
Nearly two years ago, Mussani and her father found a new medicine called Cellcept, a chemotherapy drug, which she now takes twice a day. She was able to get off Prednisone, which affected her blood pressure, weight and skin. The new drug has allowed her to have a more normal quality of life. Feeling better has allowed her to play more rounds more consistently.
'Before this new drug, she didn't have that many good days, so when she had a good day, she would push herself and then she would feel even worse,' said her dad. 'Now, she appreciates the good days and has learned when to give herself the rest she needs.'
'Maybe this will give her the confidence that she belongs there on the Tour,' added her mother, Shamim Mussani, a pharmacist in Ontario. 'This win is what she's been waiting for. We knew she had the potential, but her health always held her up. This means a lot.'
Mussani's win means that she put the $14,000 champion's check in her pocket and moved from 49th to 11th on the Tour's season money list. It means that she earned an exemption into the LPGA State Farm Classic (Aug. 28-Sept. 3) in nearby Springfield, Ill. And that LPGA exemption will fit nicely alongside the LPGA's CN Canadian Women's Open (Aug. 10-13), in which she earned a spot by winning a recent CN Canadian Women's Tour event in Ontario.
And most importantly, her win means that Mussani has come full circle in a young golf career that started out with a stamp of doubt and has fast-forwarded into a blossoming career of hope and potential. Voted by her peers last fall as the recipient of the Heather Wilbur Spirit Award (for best exemplifying dedication, courage, perseverance, love of the game and spirit toward achieving goals as a professional golfer), Mussani was nearly speechless when informed that she had won the honor. That came as no surprise for a player who has never used her health challenges as an excuse in competition.
On a challenging 6,539-yard course laden with rough this week, Mussani was right down the middle where she always is. She moved deliberately. She minimized her strokes, as she has done all season -- lowering her stroke average from 76.54 (in 2005) to 71.26 in six events so far this year. Even her word economy is packed with meaning in as few syllables as possible, as if to conserve her energy for the times when she really needs it.
'I had a message in the pro shop from my dad that this was the best Father's Day present ever,' she said with a quiet smile. 'I'm glad he liked it.'
Vegas helicopters in to Carnoustie, without clubs
Jhonattan Vegas did some range work, putted a little and strolled to the first tee for his 5:31 a.m. ET start in the 147th Open Championship.
Everything before that, however, was far from routine.
That face when you realized you visa to the UK is expired the same day you were supposed to travel. La cara cuando te das cuenta que tu visa al Reino Unido está vencida el mismo días que viajas.pic.twitter.com/lztAcLUNN0— Jhonattan Vegas (@JhonattanVegas) July 12, 2018
Vegas' visa to travel to Scotland expired and the process to renew it got delayed - and it looked like his overseas' flight might suffer the same fate. Vegas, upon getting his visa updated, traveled from Houston, Texas to Toronto, Canada to Glasgow, Scotland, and then took a helicopter to Carnoustie.
He arrived in time on Thursday morning, but his clubs did not. Mizuno put together some irons for him and was able to cobble together his preferred metal woods. He hit the clubs for the first time on the range, less than 90 minutes before his start.
"I'm going to go out there and play with freedom," Vegas told Golf Channel's Todd Lewis.
How to watch The Open on TV and online
You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.
Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie
In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on GolfChannel.com.
Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:
(All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; GC.com=GolfChannel.com or check the GLE app)
Monday, July 16
GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)
GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)
GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)
Tuesday, July 17
GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)
Wednesday, July 18
GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)
Thursday, July 19
GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)
GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)
GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)
GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)
GC.com: Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)
GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)
Friday, July 20
GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)
GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)
GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)
GC.com: Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)
GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)
Saturday, July 21
GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)
NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)
GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)
GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)
GC.com: Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)
GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)
Sunday, July 22
GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)
NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)
GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)
GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)
GC.com: Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)
GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)
Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship
Tiger Woods is competing in his first Open Championship since 2015. We're tracking him this week at Carnoustie.
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The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major
Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:
What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.
What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.
How old is it?
It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.
Where is it played?
There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.
Where will it be played this year?
At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.
Who has won The Open on that course?
Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).
Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?
Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.
Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?
This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.
Who has won this event the most?
Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.
What about the Morrises?
Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.
Have players from any particular country dominated?
In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.
Who is this year's defending champion?
That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.
What is the trophy called?
The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).
Which Opens have been the most memorable?
Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.
When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?
Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.