College Review: New teams, players emerging this fall

By Ryan LavnerNovember 6, 2014, 6:46 pm

Each week on, we’ll examine the biggest storylines in college golf. 

Biggest takeaway: Parity reigns this season 

OK, I'll admit it: The last few years have been pretty easy. You could always count on Alabama to produce a championship-caliber team. Same with Cal and Texas. Same with Illinois and Oklahoma State. This season is a little bit more of a guessing game, with 12 teams in Golfstat’s top 25 already earning at least two victories. The parity party was predicted on these pages in early September, but it’s still fun to watch new teams and players emerge as the fall season comes to an end. It makes the NCAA Championship – one of the great events in our entire sport – even more unpredictable. 

Team of the week: Washington (women)

In a top-notch field that included USC, UCLA, Stanford and Arizona, it was the Huskies who staked their claim as the top team in women’s college golf with an 11-shot victory at the Pac-12 Preview. Four Washington players finished inside the top 10 as they earned their third title in four fall starts. The question now: Will the good times continue? Although the Huskies have enjoyed a superb fall campaign, the team could be in store for some major shakeups come springtime, with top player SooBin Kim and freshman Jing Yan both scheduled it to tee it up in next month’s LPGA Q-School finals. Top-20 finishes there likely would compel them to turn pro and thus miss the spring season. 

Player of the week: Fred Wedel, Pepperdine 

The Waves junior won his first career tournament in record fashion this week at the Warrior Princeville Makai Invitational in Hawaii. His 20-under 196 – good for a three-shot win over world No. 1 amateur Ollie Schniederjans and San Diego’s Grant Forrest – set a new 54-hole school record, shattering the mark set by Andrew Putnam (now on the PGA Tour). You can’t help but cheer for this kid. I wrote his story when he made a surprising run at the U.S. Amateur, advancing all the way to the semifinals. Great to see him notch his first W.

Biggest disappointment: USC (women)

Even the best teams have off-weeks, and that appears to have been what happened this week at the Pac-12 Preview. The Trojans, coming off back-to-back wins and playing with their regular starting lineup, could do no better than a tie for fifth in the loaded event in Hawaii. Juniors Kyung Kim and Annie Park were the only players to finish inside the top 20 for USC, which is ranked No. 2 in Golfstat’s rankings.

Keep an eye on: UCLA

Seems our preseason rank (No. 9) was a bit too low for the Bruins, who earned their third title of the season with a come-from-behind victory over crosstown rival USC at the Gifford Collegiate at CordeValle. The team champion was decided by the best five of six scores – not the usual 5-for-4 – and all of the Bruins finished 34th or better, including top-3 showings from Jake Knapp and Lorens Chan. The deepest teams are the ones that win in the postseason, and this was an encouraging sign for UCLA in a field that also included Texas and Stanford.   

What you may have missed: Georgia Tech senior Ollie Schniederjans tied for second in Hawaii. His last 10 college tournaments: four wins, four runners-up, a third and sixth. He finishes the fall with a 68.07 scoring average. …  Speaking of the Yellow Jackets, they cruised to a 15-shot win over Arizona State to capture their second title of the season. Tech’s 55-under 809 (!) was one shot off its record-setting performance here in 2005. … UCLA’s Alison Lee, the reigning Player of the Year on the women’s side, earned her first victory of the season at the Pac-12 Preview. It may prove to be her last event in a Bruins polo – she’s among the favorites to earn her LPGA card next month at Q-School. ... Stanford sophomore Maverick McNealy, one of the early favorites for college player of the year, posted his worst result of the fall season at the Gifford – 21st. He went 1-1-3 in his first three starts. … No. 3 Oregon and 12th-ranked Georgia headline the field at the Ka’anapali Classic, which begins Friday in Hawaii. The Ducks have won all three of their fall starts, but haven’t played since beating a top field at Colonial on Oct. 7.  

In this week’s College Central video …’s Lance Ringler and I discuss the top headlines in the women’s game:

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Woods on firing shot into crowd: 'I kept moving them back'

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 3:14 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – It added up to another even-par round, but Tiger Woods had an eventful Friday at The Open.

His adventure started on the second hole, when he wiped a drive into the right rough. Standing awkwardly on the side of a mound, he prepared for a quick hook but instead fired one into the crowd that was hovering near the rope line.

“I kept moving them back,” he said. “I moved them back about 40 yards. I was trying to play for the grass to wrap the shaft around there and hit it left, and I was just trying to hold the face open as much as I possibly could. It grabbed the shaft and smothered it.

“I was very, very fortunate that I got far enough down there where I had a full wedge into the green.”

Woods bogeyed the hole, one of four on the day, and carded four birdies in his round of 71 at Carnoustie. When he walked off the course, he was in a tie for 30th, six shots off the clubhouse lead.

It’s the first time in five years – since the 2013 Open – that Woods has opened a major with consecutive rounds of par or better. He went on to tie for sixth that year at Muirfield.

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Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 2:30 pm

Tiger Woods shot his second consecutive 70 on Friday at Carnoustie and enters weekend play at even par for the championship, still in contention for major No. 15.

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Scott and Sunesson a one-week partnership

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 2:13 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Adam Scott has been in between caddies for the last month and went with a bold stand-in for this week’s Open Championship, coaxing veteran looper Fanny Sunesson out of retirement to work for him at Carnoustie.

Sunesson caddied for Nick Faldo in his prime, as the duo won four major titles together. She also worked for Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia before a back injury forced her to retire.

But for this week’s championship, Scott convinced the Swede to return to the caddie corps. The results have been impressive, with the Australian following an opening 71 with a second-round 70 for a tie for 16th place.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“It's been going great. Fanny is, obviously, a fantastic caddie, and to be able to have that experience out there with me is certainly comforting,” Scott said. “We've gotten along really well. She's picked up on my game quickly, and I think we think about things in a very similar way.”

Scott was also asked about a potential long-term partnership between the duo, but he didn’t sound hopeful.

“It's just for this week,” he said. “It would be up to her, but I don't think she's making plans of a comeback. I was being a bit opportunistic in contacting her and coaxing her out of retirement, I guess. But I think she's having a good week. We'll just take it one week at the moment.”

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After tense Augusta Sunday, Rory ready to be aggressive

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 1:51 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy temporarily lost his superpowers during the Masters.  

In one of the most surprising rounds of the year, he played tentatively and carefully during the final day. Squaring off against the major-less Patrick Reed, on the brink of history, with the backing of nearly the entire crowd, it was McIlroy who shrank in the moment, who looked like the one searching for validation. He shot a joyless 74 and wound up six shots behind Reed.

No, the final round was nowhere near as dispiriting as the finale in 2011, but McIlroy still sulked the following week. He binge-watched TV shows. Devoured a few books. Guzzled a couple of bottles of wine. His pity party lasted a few days, until his wife, Erica, finally dragged him out of the house for a walk.

Some deeper introspection was required, and McIlroy revealed a healthier self-analysis Friday at Carnoustie. He diagnosed what went wrong at Augusta, and then again two months later at the U.S. Open, where he blew himself out of the tournament with an opening 80.

“I was worrying too much about the result, not focusing on the process,” he said. “Sunday at Augusta was a big learning curve for me because, even if I hadn’t won that tournament, but I went down swinging and aggressive and committing to every shot, I would have walked away a lot happier.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

And so McIlroy has a new mantra this week at The Open.

Let it go.

Don’t hold back. Don’t worry about the repercussions. Don’t play scared.

“I’m committed to making sure, even if I don’t play my best golf and don’t shoot the scores I want, I’m going to go down swinging, and I’m going to go down giving my best,” he said. “The result is the byproduct of all the little things you do to lead up to that. Sometimes I’ve forgotten that, and I just need to get back in that mindset.”

It’s worked through two rounds, even after the cool, damp conditions led McIlroy to abandon his ultra-aggressive strategy. He offset a few mistakes with four birdies, shooting a second consecutive 69 to sit just a couple of shots off the lead.

During a sun-splashed first round, McIlroy gleefully banged driver on almost every hole, flying or skirting the bunkers that dot these baked-out, undulating fairways. He wasn’t particularly accurate, but he also didn’t need to be, as the thin, wispy rough enabled every player to at least advance their approach shots near the green.

Friday’s weather presented a different challenge. A steady morning rain took some of the fire out of parched fairways, but the cooler temperatures also reduced much of the bombers’ hang time. Suddenly, all of the bunkers were in play, and McIlroy needed to adjust his driver-heavy approach (he hit only six) on the fly.

“It just wasn’t worth it,” he said.

McIlroy hit a few “skanky” shots, in his words, but even his bigger misses – on the sixth and 17th holes – were on the proper side, allowing him to scramble for par and keep the round going.

It’s the fifth time in his career that he’s opened a major with back-to-back rounds in the 60s. He’s gone on to win three of the previous four – the lone exception that disastrous final round (80) at Augusta in 2011.

“I don’t want to say easy,” he said, “but it’s felt comfortable.”

The weekend gets uncomfortable for everyone, apparently even four-time major winners who, when in form, ooze confidence and swagger.

Once again McIlroy has that look at a major.

The only thing left to do?

Let it go.