Clemson Claims ACC Tourney Victory
NEW LONDON, N.C. -- Jack Ferguson culminated one of the greatest comebacks in Clemson golf history with a birdie on the final hole, giving No. 1 ranked Clemson its eighth ACC golf Championship. The 50th ACC Tournament was completed Sunday at the Old North State Club in New London, N.C.
Clemson finished with a team total of 865, one better than Wake Forest. North Carolina finished third at 869, while Georgia Tech was fourth at 881. Duke was fifth at 892, followed by NC State at 900, Virginia at 902, Florida State at 917 and Maryland at 919.
Clemson overcame a five-stroke Wake Forest advantage heading into the final round. It was the largest Clemson deficit entering a final round overcome to gain victory since the 1998-99 season when Clemson won the Chris Schenkel Invitational in Statesboro, Ga., after trailing Georgia by five shots entering the final round.
The heroics of Larry Penley's Tigers were even more dramatic when you take into account that Clemson trailed Wake Forest by nine strokes with just six holes to play. Clemson recorded three birdies on the 18th hole, including Ferguson's eight-foot birdie in the final group to win the tournament. Matt Hendrix and Ben Duncan also scored birdies on the par-5 final hole to key the Clemson victory.
'I don't know how we did this,' said Penley, who won the ACC Championship for the seventh time in his Clemson coaching career. 'We played steady on 16 and 17, much better than yesterday when he made bogeys on those two holes. Then, we made some shots on 18 and Wake Forest came back to us.'
With Clemson and Wake Forest and the final groups approaching the green, Penley informed Ferguson, a sophomore from Seneca, of the situation. 'I told him we needed a birdie to win the tournament, but a two-putt would give us a co-championship. I basically wanted him to make the putt, but just dribble it in. He looked at me and said, 'Don't worry coach, center-cut.'
That is just what Ferguson did with the eight-foot up-hill putt, giving him a score of 70 for the day and a one-stroke team victory for the Tigers, Clemson's first ACC team title since 2000. Ferguson finished the tournament with a 214 total after rounds of 72-72-70. He and individual medallist Richard Treis of North Carolina were the only two competitors to shoot par or better all three rounds of the event. Ferguson now has a streak of 12 consecutive rounds of par or better.
While Ferguson will get many of the headlines, he was not Clemson's low competitor on Sunday. Matt Hendrix, a junior from Aiken, S.C., fired a 68 on Sunday and finished seventh overall with a 217 score. He was consistent with nine hole scores of 34 and his birdie on the 18th gave Clemson considerable momentum because he was the first Tiger to finish.
D.J. Trahan had 17 pars and one bogey and shot a 73 on Sunday. His 218 total was good enough for ninth place, his third career top-10 finish at the ACC Tournament. It was the second time Trahan had played on a Clemson ACC Championships team, as he was a starter on the 2000 Clemson team that featured current PGA Tour professional Jonathan Byrd.
Senior Ben Duncan had a final round 74 and finished with a 221 score, good enough for 14th. It was his second straight top 15 finish at the ACC Tournament. 'Ben's performance was huge,' said Penley. 'His birdie on 18 was big, but he stayed in the game all day. He played the last 14 holes at one under par.'
Junior Gregg Jones had a final round 78 and his score did not count towards Clemson's team total on Sunday. But, he was a counter on Friday and Saturday with scores of 74 and 73, respectively. All five Clemson golfers finished in the top 20 of the individual race, the first time in the 50 years of the tournament that all five Clemson golfers had top 20 finishes.
The victory was the fourth tournament victory for Clemson this year, one short of the single season school record. The Tigers won three events in the fall. The finish also gives Clemson 15 consecutive top three tournament finishes, a school record. Clemson's next tournament will be May 8-9 at the Atlanta Intercollegiate. The NCAA East Regional is May 15-17 at the University Course in Auburn, AL.
LPGA's new Q-Series to offer deferrals for amateurs
The LPGA’s new Q-Series, which takes the place of the final stage of Q-School beginning this year, will come with a revolutionary new twist for amateurs.
For the first time, the LPGA will offer deferrals that will allow amateurs to win tour membership in December but delay turning pro until the following June or July, tour commissioner Mike Whan told GolfChannel.com.
It’s a notable change, because the deferral will allow a collegiate player to earn tour membership at the end of this year but retain amateur status to finish out her collegiate spring season next year, before joining the tour.
“We haven’t done that in the past, because we didn’t want an onslaught, where every player in college is trying to join the tour,” Whan said.
The way it worked in the past, a collegian could advance through the final stage of Q-School, but if that player earned the right to a tour card and wanted to take up membership, she had to declare after the final round that she was turning pro. It meant the player would leave her college team in the middle of the school year. It was a particularly difficult decision for players who earned conditional LPGA status, and it played havoc with the makeup of some college teams.
Whan said the revamped Q-Series format won’t create the collegiate stampede that deferrals might have in the past.
“It will take a unique talent to show up at the first stage of Q-School and say, ‘I’ll see you at Q-Series,’” Whan said. “There won’t be a lot of amateurs who make it there.”
Under the new qualifying format, there will continue to be a first and second stage of Q-School, but it will be much harder to advance to the final stage, now known Q-Series.
Under the old format, about 80 players advanced from the second stage to the Q-School finals. Under the new format, only 20 to 30 players from the second stage will advance to the Q-Series, and only a portion of those are likely to be collegians.
Under the new format, a maximum of 108 players will meet at the Q-Series finals, where a minimum of 45 tour cards will be awarded after 144 holes of competition, played over two weeks on two different courses. The field will include players who finished 101st to 150th and ties on the final LPGA money list, and players who finished 11th to 30th and ties on the final Symetra Tour money list. The field will also include up to 10 players from among the top 75 of the Rolex Women’s World Rankings and the top five players on the Golfweek Women’s Collegiate Rankings.
“We feel if you make it to the Q-Series finals as a college player, you are probably among the best of the best, and we ought to give you the opportunity to finish the college year,” Whan said.
University of Washington coach Mary Lou Mulflur said she would prefer amateurs not be allowed to compete at Q-School, but she called this a workable compromise.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” Mulflur said. “It’s better than the way it’s been in the past. That was hard, because it broke up teams.”
Mulflur said she disliked the tough position the former policy put college players in at the final stage of Q-School, where they had to decide at event’s end whether to turn pro and accept tour membership.
“I can’t imagine being a kid in that position, and I’ve had a couple kids in that position,” Mulflur said. “It’s hard on everybody, the player, the family and the coaches. You hear about coaches standing there begging a kid not to turn pro, and that’s just not the way it should be, for the coach or the player.”
Mulflur agreed with Whan that the new Q-Series format should limit the number of collegians who have a chance to win tour cards.
“I believe it’s a good compromise, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out going forward,” Mulflur said. “Kudos to the commissioner for giving kids this option.”
Whan said collegians who take deferrals will be counseled.
“We will sit down with them and their families and explain the risks,” Whan said. “If you take a deferral and start playing on July 15, you might find yourself back in Q-Series again later that year, because you may not have enough time.”
Tour still focused on security after death of suspected Austin bomber
AUSTIN, Texas – Although the suspect in the wave of Austin-area bombings was killed early Wednesday, the PGA Tour plans to continue heightened security measures at this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club.
According to various news outlets, Mark Anthony Conditt has been identified as the bombings suspect, and he was killed by an explosion inside his car in Round Rock, Texas, which is 19 miles north of Austin Country Club.
“We do not comment on the specifics of our security measures, but we are continuing to work in close collaboration with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in Austin to ensure the safety of our players and fans at this week’s tournament,” the Tour said in a statement. “Regardless of the recent developments, our heightened security procedures will remain in place through the remainder of the week.”
Authorities believe Conditt is responsible for the five explosions that killed two people and injured five others in Austin or south-central Texas since March 2.
Play began Wednesday at the Match Play.
Monahan addresses alcohol, fan behavior at events
AUSTIN, Texas – Fan behavior has become a hot-button topic on the PGA Tour in recent weeks, with Rory McIlroy suggesting on Saturday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational the circuit should “limit alcohol sales on the course.”
The Tour’s policy is to stop selling alcohol an hour before the end of play, which is normally around 5 p.m., and on Wednesday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play commissioner Jay Monahan said it’s something the Tour is monitoring.
“When you have people who aren’t behaving properly and they’ve had too much alcohol, then I agree [with McIlroy],” Monahan said. “In those incidences those people who are making it uncomfortable for a player alcohol sales should be cut off.”
Fan behavior became an issue with some players when Tiger Woods returned to competition at last month’s Genesis Open. During the final round of the Honda Classic Justin Thomas had a fan removed when he yelled for Thomas’ tee shot at the par-4 16th hole to “get in the bunker.”
Monahan declined to address Thomas’ situation at PGA National specifically, but he did seem to suggest that as interest grows and the Tour continues to attract more mainstream sports crowds, vocal fans will continue to be the norm.
“I believe that there was more that went into it that preceded and in a situation like that we’re hopeful our players will reach out to our security staff and they can handle that,” Monahan said. “[But] yelling, ‘get in the bunker,’ that’s part of what our players have to accept. In any sport, you go to an away game, in any other sport, and people aren’t rooting for you. Sometimes out here you’re going to have fans that aren’t rooting for you, but they can’t interfere with what you’re trying to do competitively.”
Senden playing first event since son's brain tumor
John Senden is back inside the ropes for the first time in nearly a year at this week's Chitimacha Louisiana Open on the Web.com Tour.
Senden took a leave of absence from professional golf in April, when his teenage son, Jacob, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He didn't touch a club for nearly four months as Jacob endured six rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, a gauntlet that stretched from April until mid-November.
But Senden told PGATour.com that his son's tumor has shrunk from the size of a thumbnail to the size of a pinky nail, and after a promising MRI in January he decided to plan his comeback.
"I haven't really played in 12 months, but in that time Jacob has really, really hung tough," Senden said. "His whole body was getting slammed with all these treatments, and he was so strong in his whole attitude and his whole body. Just really getting through the whole thing. He was tough."
Senden was granted a family crisis exemption by the Tour, and he'll have 13 starts to earn 310 FedExCup points to retain his playing privileges for the 2018-19 season. He is allowed five Web.com "rehabilitation" starts as part of the exemption, but will reportedly only make one this week before returning to the PGA Tour at the RBC Heritage, followed by starts in San Antonio, Charlotte and Dallas.
Senden, 46, has won twice on Tour, most recently the 2014 Valspar Championship.