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NCAA favorite Oklahoma St. wins 7th straight event

By Ryan LavnerApril 10, 2018, 5:31 pm

With less than two months left in the college season, Oklahoma State looks like a prohibitive favorite to win the NCAA Championship.

Especially on its home course.

The Cowboys, No. 1 in the Golfstat rankings, won their seventh consecutive event Sunday at the Aggie Invitational. That win streak matches the longest single-season mark in program history, set in 1986-87. That team also captured the first two events of the following season, stretching its win streak to nine total.

The seven-stroke victory in Bryan, Texas, was Oklahoma State’s eighth of the season while playing one of the country's most difficult schedules. No other Division I program has more than five.

“The guys are really playing well,” said head coach Alan Bratton. “It’s fun to be a part of.”

The only event the Cowboys haven’t won this season was the Fighting Illini Invitational in the fall, where they finished third, 13 shots behind Texas A&M. They played that event without one of their best players, sophomore Viktor Hovland.

With four events left on the schedule, including the NCAA Championship at its home course, Karsten Creek, Oklahoma State has a chance to become the winningest team in program history, surpassing the 1985-86 squad, which won 10 times.

Still, OSU needs to finish strong to even be considered one of the best teams this decade.

The 2012-13 Cal team won 11 times, posted a head-to-head record of 206-3-1 (the three losses by a total of five shots), beat their opponents by a combined 8,238 strokes and had a lineup with three first-team All-Americans and a pair of second-teamers. That team didn’t win the championship, however, losing to Illinois in the NCAA semifinals. In 2013-14, Alabama won an NCAA record 11 times in a row across two seasons.

But in the college golf community, there’s already a strong sense of déjà vu this spring.

During the 2010-11 season, Oklahoma State also had the best team in the country – a group that included current PGA Tour players Peter Uihlein, Kevin Tway, Morgan Hoffmann and Talor Gooch – and a home-course advantage at the NCAAs. But that spring, in the semifinals, the Cowboys lost a heartbreaker to Patrick Reed-led Augusta State.

This year’s team, statistically, might be even better.

All five of OSU’s starters has a sub-72 scoring average, led by Hovland’s 69.28 and freshman Matthew Wolff’s 69.77, both of whom are ranked inside the top 6 nationally. Zach Bauchou (No. 20) and Kristoffer Ventura (No. 47) are also in the top 50, while freshman Austin Eckroat is ranked 67th.

"Every year is different," Bratton said, "but so far, so good with this one. I like the chemistry of this group. Along with the talent level, the chemistry has helped raise our level of play." 

Oklahoma State’s bid for an eighth consecutive victory begins Saturday at the ASU Thunderbird Invitational.

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Van Rooyen holes putt after ball-marker ruling

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 4:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Erik van Rooyen was surveying his 10-footer for par, trying to get a feel for the putt, when his putter slipped out of his hand and dropped onto his ball marker.

The question, then, was whether that accident caused his coin to move.

The rules official looked at various camera angles but none showed definitively whether his coin moved. The ruling was made to continue from where his coin was now positioned, with no penalty.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

This was part of the recent rules changes, ensuring there is no penalty if the ball or ball maker is accidently moved by the player. The little-used rule drew attention in 2010, when Ian Poulter accidentally dropped his ball on his marker in Dubai and wound up losing more than $400,000 in bonus and prize money.

After the delay to sort out his ruling Friday, van Rooyen steadied himself and made the putt for par, capping a day in which he shot even-par 71 and kept himself in the mix at The Open. He was at 4-under 138, just two shots off the clubhouse lead.

“I wanted to get going and get this 10-footer to save par, but I think having maybe just a couple minutes to calm me down, and then I actually got a different read when I sat down and looked at it again,” he said. “Good putt. Happy to finish that way.”

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Lyle birdies last hole in likely his final Open start

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 4:32 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – If this was Sandy Lyle’s final Open appearance, he went out in style.

Playing on the final year of his automatic age exemption, the 60-year-old Scot buried a 30-foot birdie on the last hole. He missed the cut after shooting 9-over 151 over two rounds.

“I was very light-footed,” he said. “I was on cloud nine walking down the 18th. To make birdie was extra special.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Lyle, who also won the 1988 Masters, has missed the cut in his last eight majors, dating to 2014. He hasn’t been competitive in The Open since 1998, when he tied for 19th.

To continue playing in The Open, Lyle needed to finish in the top 10 here at Carnoustie. He’d earn a future exemption by winning the Senior British Open.

“More punishment,” he said.

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DJ, Thomas miss cut at Open; No. 1 up for grabs

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 3:35 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The top two players in the world both missed the cut at The Open, creating the possibility of a shakeup at the top of the rankings by the end of the weekend.

Dustin Johnson became the first world No. 1 since Luke Donald in 2011 to miss the cut at the year’s third major.

Johnson played solidly for all but the closing stretch. Over two rounds, he was 6 over par on the last three holes. He finished at 6-over 148.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Thomas added to what’s been a surprisingly poor Open record. Just like last year, when he struggled in the second round in the rain at Royal Birkdale, Thomas slumped to a 77 on Friday at Carnoustie, a round that included three consecutive double bogeys on Nos. 6-8. He finished at 4-over 146.

It’s Thomas' first missed cut since The Open last year. Indeed, in three Open appearances, he has two missed cuts and a tie for 53rd.  

With Johnson and Thomas out of the mix, the No. 1 spot in the rankings is up for grabs this weekend.

Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm all can reach No. 1 with a victory this week.

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TT Postscript: Woods (71) makes cut, has work to do

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 3:32 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Here are a few things I think I think after Tiger Woods shot a second consecutive even-par 71 Friday in the second round. And yes, he made the cut:

• Tiger said all 71s are not created equal. On Thursday, he made three birdies and three bogeys. On Friday, he made four birdie and four bogeys. Which round was better? The first. His theory is that, despite the rain, conditions were easier in the second round and there were more scoring opportunities. He didn't take advantage.

• This is the first time since the 2013 Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes that Tiger shot par or better in each of the first two rounds of a major. That’s quite a long time ago.

• Stat line for the day: 11 of 15 fairways, 13 of 18 greens, 32 total putts. Tiger hit one driver and two 3-woods on Thursday and four drivers on Friday, only one which found the fairway. An errant drive at the second led to him sniping his next shot into the gallery


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

• In his own words: “I could have cleaned up the round just a little bit. I got off to not exactly the best start, being 2 over through three, but got it back. The golf course was a little bit softer today, obviously. It rains, and we were able to get the ball down a little bit further, control the ball on the ground a little bit easier today, which was nice.”

• At some point Tiger is going to have to be more aggressive. He will be quite a few shots off the lead by day’s end and he'll have a lot of ground to make up. Hitting irons off the tee is great for position golf, but it’s often leaving him more than 200 yards into the green. Not exactly a range for easy birdies.

• Sure, it’s too soon to say Tiger can’t win a fourth claret jug, but with so many big names ahead of him on the leaderboard, it’s unlikely. Keep in mind that a top-six finish would guarantee him a spot in the WGC: Bridgestone Invitational in two weeks. At The Players, he stated that this was a big goal.

• My Twitter account got suspended momentarily when Tiger was standing over a birdie putt on the 17th green. That was the most panicked I’ve been since Tiger was in contention at the Valspar.