Trahan Has Unfinished Business at Clemson
D.J. Trahan returned to Clemson for his senior year with a purpose...win a national championship. It really is that simple.
Trahan's list of accomplishments during his first three years with the Clemson golf program already qualify him for the Clemson Hall of Fame. He has already won the Jack Nicklaus and Ben Hogan Awards, honors presented to the National Player of the Year. He has represented the United States in the Walker Cup and the Palmer Cup matches, high profile international team competitions that signify the pinnacle of amateur golf.
He is already Clemson's career leader in stroke average (71.58 entering the spring of 2003), has been a first-team All-American and ACC Player of the Year. He was won the United States Public Links Championship. In the summer he was even named one of the 50 greatest golfers in the history of the ACC, the only active golfer to make the list.
There is just one item missing from his resume. 'D.J. Trahan has some unfinished business,' said coach Larry Penley. 'He wants to win a national championship for Clemson University. He certainly has the maturity and the leadership qualities to take us there. He's as talented a leader as you will find.'
Penley knows what he is talking about. He is now in his 20th year as Clemson's head coach. During that time he has taken Clemson to the NCAA national tournament every year and has finished in the top 10 each of the last six years, including a No. 2 final ranking in 2001 and a No. 3 rating in 2002 last year. He has come close to a team title on many occasions, but has never won the top prize.
'This team is certainly capable of winning the national championship and that is our goal. That is our goal every year for this program. But, this year in particular we have the talent, the leadership, the ball striking ability, and the motivation to win a national championship,' said Penley.
So far this year Clemson has shown it has the mettle to compete for the top honor. The Tigers won three tournament championships in the fall, a first in the program's history, and finished second in two others, including the Ping Preview at Karsten Creek in Stillwater, Okla., the site of this year's NCAA Tournament.
The Tigers are ranked No. 1 in the nation as a team in all three polls entering the spring season. 'We have gotten off to a good start,' continued Penley. 'We knew we would be tested in Japan at the Topy Cup in the very first tournament. The Japanese teams were outstanding competition, as were the United States teams. That was an important tournament because it showed we could win without D.J. being our low man.'
That has been the key for Clemson through the first half of the schedule. The Tigers are more than just four guys and D.J. Trahan. Through two tournaments Clemson already had five different players record an individual top-10 finish. Clemson finished second in the 16-team Collegiate Match Play Championship in November while Trahan was recovering from leading the United States team to the World Amateur Championship.
'And, we have some outstanding players who have not gotten into a tournament yet,' said Penley. 'The top five spots on this team are competitive. The sixth, seventh and eighth players could just as well be our third, fourth and five players. If the NCAA counted eight players in a tournament I would really be confident about our chances.'
Clemson concluded the fall schedule with a 70.95 team stroke average, best ever for a fall season. The five players combined for nine individual top-10 finishes. All five players had at least one round in the 60s and four players had at least three. Thirty-two of the 55 individual rounds were at par or better.
Clemson has a different motivation this year as compared to this time a year ago. Clemson was ranked ninth in the preseason poll for 2001-02. You could not blame that poll for that rating because Clemson had just lost two first-team All-Americans in Lucas Glover and John Engler, a pair of four-year starters who are now playing professionally on the Nationwide Tour. Penley's team was allowed to sneak up on the other teams, something it did when it won the Preview in the fall of 2001 at Ohio State.
But, this year Clemson won't sneak up on anyone. 'We can't use that motivation in 2003. We are ranked number-one and we won't let that consume us. We are just going to concentrate on getting better every tournament. That sounds simple, but that is our approach. Every player will examine their game week to week, find the weakness and improve on it. That consistent work ethic will be a key for us this year,' said Penley.
Trahan provides that example to the younger players with his long hours on the range at the Robinson Practice Facility or at the Walker Course. The hard work has paid off for the senior, who was an Academic as well as on the course All-American last year.
Trahan enters the fall as Clemson's career stroke average leader. That is quite a statement considering 12 Clemson golfers were on the 50-player All-Time ACC team (no school had more). He already owns the Clemson record for rounds in the 60s and should establish the mark for under-par rounds. The sky is the limit for this player, who was the No. 1-ranked amateur and the No. 1 college player when the season began.
Gregg Jones is a returning second-team All-American from a year ago. Jones has a career average of 72.44, now fourth in Clemson history. A year ago the junior had four top-10 finishes in his 12 tournaments and had a 71.81 stroke average. His season included a ninth place finish at the Ping Preview and a second-place finish at Augusta State. His 17th place finish at the NCAAs, a 1-under 283 score, was a key to Clemson's top three finish. He finished the fall strong by recording a 3-0-1 record at the Match Play Championship.
Ben Duncan is the early favorite for the team's most improved award. The senior played in nine tournaments last year and posted a 73.54 stroke average, third best on the team. But, his final season has gotten off to a quick start with a 70.83 stroke average through his first two events, including the first two top-10 finishes of his career. He was Clemson's top golfer at the Carpet Classic with a 211 score. That victory was the 50th of Penley's Clemson career.
Matt Hendrix was a reliable performer last year as a sophomore with a 73.70 stroke average as a competitor in all 12 events. He got his junior year off to a great start with a 65 in the first round at the Topy Cup, the low round by a Clemson golfer in two years. His 207 54-hole total in Japan was a key to Clemson's team victory. He had a 71.09 stroke average for the fall of 2003, tied for second on the team.
Jack Ferguson had perhaps the best summer of any Clemson golfer. He won an amateur event in Birmingham, Ala., then had top-10 finishes at the Rice Planters (6th), Southern Am (3rd), South Carolina amateur (2nd) and The Cardinal (2nd). To begin his sophomore year at Clemson he finished second among collegians at the Topy Cup with a 204 score, one of the top five 54-hole scores in Clemson history. He also had a 71.09 stroke average for the fall and enters the spring ranked in the top 15 in the nation, according to the Sagarin rankings.
Martin Catalioto was a starter in eight events as a freshman last year and posted a 74.6 stroke average. His NCAA Tournament performance included a 293 total, third best among Tigers and his score counted all four rounds, a solid performance for a first-year freshman. However, Catalioto will red-shirt the season, giving him three more years to lead the Clemson program starting in 2004.
Brian Duncan, a red-shirt freshman, and Nick Biershenk, a true freshman, were semifinalists at the South Carolina Amateur Match Play Championships this past summer. Both are brothers with ties to the Clemson golf program. Brian, brother of Clemson senior Ben Duncan, got his first action at the Match Play Championship and defeated his opponent from Arizona and registered a tie against Oklahoma State. Both could see action this season.
Biershenk is the brother of Nationwide Tour veteran Tommy Biershenk, a starter for Clemson in the mid-1990s. Nick will likely red-shirt this season. Michael Sims and Stephen Poole are two other veterans who could break into the lineup at any time.
What pleases Penley the most about his team is its mental approach to this season. 'After last year's finish (third) they didn't pat each other on the back. They worked hard over the summer to get better. They know there are strong challengers out there, a lot of great teams. They all want the same goal and they understand the work it will take to get there.'
Monday Scramble: Flawless Francesco outlasts them all
Francesco Molinari outlasts the rest, Tiger Woods inches closer to an earth-shattering victory, Jordan Spieth lets a successful title defense slip away, Eddie Pepperell toasts his success and more in this week’s Open edition of Monday Scramble:
Amid a wild and windy afternoon at Carnoustie, where seemingly no less than a dozen players had a viable shot at the claret jug, it was a steady performance from Francesco Molinari that translated into breakthrough.
Molinari is no stranger to the big stage, and five years ago he played the final round alongside Phil Mickelson as Lefty stormed from behind to win at Muirfield. But this time, this day, it was his turn to shine as he put forth a ball-striking and scrambling clinic that yielded 16 pars and two birdies while the other leaders struggled around him.
It's the cap of an impressive heater for Molinari, who is now the first Italian to ever win a major. He outlasted Rory McIlroy at the BMW PGA Championship in May, won the Quicken Loans National by eight shots last month and now has finished first or second in five of his last six worldwide starts.
The soft-spoken veteran played the final two rounds without making a bogey, and he is a worthy champion. Expect the jug to receive a few refills of wine - and perhaps a little coffee - over the next year.
1. For about a 90-minute stretch Sunday, it seemed like Tiger Woods would finally find a way to silence the critics once and for all.
Playing alongside Molinari, Woods displayed the same tactical brilliance on the opening nine, carding two birdies while others struggled out of the gates and, at one point, taking the lead alone. But an errant approach and a poor flop shot led to a double bogey on No. 11, and his bid for the jug was diverted soon thereafter.
But man, what a ride it was through that opening stretch. For months the questions have lingered about exactly how and when Tiger might put all the pieces together, and after an early exit at Shinnecock it was easy to write him off. But his inner tactician shined for much of the week on a toasty layout, and he was steady in all facets over the weekend.
Just as Woods' five-win season in 2013 has been used as a recent example of just how high his ceiling reaches, so too this performance will be viewed like manna from heaven for Tiger apologists. He didn't quite pull it off, but there's every reason to expect that he can do so the next time around.
2. While he came up three shots short of catching Molinari, even Woods appeared to savor the final leg of a T-6 finish that serves as his best result in a major in five years and becomes the new high water mark for an already impressive season.
"It was a blast," Woods told reporters. "I was saying earlier that I need to try and keep it in perspective because, beginning of the year, if they'd have said you're playing the Open Championship, I would have said I'd be very lucky to do that."
3. A bit more on Molinari, the newest Champion Golfer of the Year who has turned into a weekend assassin over the last three months.
Between his stirring victory at Wentworth, his rout at TPC Potomac and his comeback at Carnoustie, Molinari has now played six weekend rounds while making only a single bogey. One!
That includes 36 bogey-free holes over the last two days in Scotland, as Molinari methodically took apart the demanding links layout while turning in the only bogey-free scorecard out of the entire field on Sunday.
"To go the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest," Molinari said. "But I felt really good this morning. When I came here, I felt ready for the challenge."
4 While many players would quiver at the thought of a final-round tee time alongside Woods with a major on the line, Molinari didn't blink. Perhaps because he's been in similar situations before.
In addition to his supporting role during Mickelson's win in 2013, Molinari has twice faced off with Woods in the Ryder Cup - including a 2012 singles' draw that remains Woods' most recent Ryder Cup match. So stepping to the tee Sunday, Molinari was fazed neither by his playing partner nor by the three co-leaders that sat three shots ahead of him.
"Clearly in my group, the attention wasn't really on me, let's put it that way," Molinari said. "If someone was expecting a charge, probably they weren't expecting it from me, but it's been the same the whole of my career."
5. How times change. Just a few weeks ago, Molinari opted to tee it up at the Quicken Loans National instead of the French Open at Ryder Cup venue Le Golf National. The reason? He was concerned about his FedExCup standing.
Molinari hadn't done much in the States this year, and he was 123rd in points with his 2019 status very much in limbo. Fast forward a few weeks - including two wins and a runner-up - and Molinari can safely book travel plans on both sides of the Atlantic for years to come.
6. It was a week of what might have been for Jordan Spieth.
Spieth started his stint in Scotland by handing back the claret jug in a ceremony he admitted was more bitter than sweet. But through 54 holes, he was the betting favorite as one of three co-leaders, equipped with a great chance to go back-to-back and end a victory drought that extended back to Royal Birkdale.
Amid a disappointing campaign, it was the first time he started the final round closer than four shots to the lead.
But Spieth apparently used up his magic last year in Southport, as he seemed out of sorts from the start and quickly faded. Spieth didn't make a birdie all day, and he found a gorse bush at an inopportune time en route to a double bogey on one of the easiest holes on the course.
It added up to a 76 and a tie for ninth, another disappointing finish in a year of mixed results. Now he'll have to wait another year for a potential reunion with the jug.
7. Of course, Spieth wasn't the only player who watched a share of the 54-hole lead slip away.
Kevin Kisner held at least a share of the lead after each of the first three days, but his bid for a maiden major went sideways in a bunker on the second hole Sunday. Xander Schauffele's bid lasted significantly longer, as he kept pace with Molinari until the 17th hole.
But in the end, it was a 3-over 74 and a share of second place for both men, who now find themselves firmly in the Ryder Cup mix heading into the homestretch of the selection process.
8. For the first time in his career, Rory McIlroy has a runner-up finish in a major championship. But good luck making sense of his week at Carnoustie years from now.
McIlroy was barely a factor over the weekend, having seemingly forfeited his shot at a second Open title during benign third-round conditions. But when his lengthy eagle putt fell on the 14th hole Sunday and sparked a celebration reminiscent of Hazeltine, hope was once again alive.
Ultimately, it was too little too late for the Ulsterman, who couldn't convert a lengthy birdie putt on the 72nd hole that could have putt pressure on the leaders behind him. He'll leave Scotland with a healthy check, but without the feeling that he ever got both feet planted in his quest for the claret jug.
"I just ran out of holes," McIlroy said.
9. If McIlroy's runner-up felt like somewhat of a disappointment, Justin Rose's T-2 finish was nothing short of found money.
Rose needed to birdie the difficult 18th on Friday simply to make the cut on the number, and he rebounded with a third-round 64. The Englishman added a Sunday 69 to lend credence to the notion that, despite only two top-10s in the tournament as a pro, Rose might still have an Open title in him after all.
"I just think having made the cut number, it's a great effort to be relevant on the leaderboard on Sunday," Rose said.
The weekend close continues a recent run of solid form for Rose, who won a few weeks back at Colonial and now has reached a career-best No. 2 in the world rankings.
So the Champion Golfer of the Year walks into a coffee shop...
Sadly, it seems we may not see these creative retirement plans come to fruition - at least not for a few years. But credit to Molinari for thinking outside the box, and credit to Wesley Bryan for a timely share.
This week's award winners ...
Hair of the Dog: Eddie Pepperell. The 27-year-old Englishman admitted he was "a little hungover" during the final round, but he still put up the day's best score with a 4-under 67 that gave him a share of sixth and his first ever top-10 finish in a major. Drinks all around.
Paris Bound?: Webb Simpson. The Players champ tied for 12th to move past Bryson DeChambeau at No. 8 in the U.S. Ryder Cup standings, with the top eight after the PGA Championship qualifying automatically. Schauffele moved to 11th, while Kisner moved to 13th.
Quiet Consistency: Tony Finau. Finau tied for ninth at Carnoustie and has now cracked the top 10 in each of the three majors this year. In fact, six of his 10 career major starts have gone for T-18 or better. Perhaps something for Captain Furyk to consider.
Quietly Slumping: Sergio Garcia. The Spaniard is barely a year removed from his watershed win, but he has now missed the cut in four straight majors and has missed six of nine cuts overall dating back to the Masters.
Role Reversal: Molinari, who won The Open while playing alongside Tiger 12 years after he caddied for his brother, Edoardo, in a group with Woods at the 2006 Masters. Woods was the defending champ, and Edoardo was the reigning U.S. Amateur winner:
2006: Francesco Molinari caddies for his brother at The Masters in the same group as Tiger— Golf Monthly (@GolfMonthly) July 22, 2018
2018: Beats Tiger Woods to win The Open #golf #molinari #tigerwoods #golfer #golfers #instagolf #golfstagram https://t.co/QtmHCyPAvZ pic.twitter.com/7ABuJL53So
King of Yelp: To the Carnoustie barber that gave Spieth a trim before the third round that set social media ablaze. While Spieth admitted it was a little "high and tight," it became the most famous £9 haircut in years.
Make Your Own Bed: To the frat house of American stars that has become something of an Open annual tradition. While Spieth, Kisner and Zach Johnson fell short of winning the jug for the house, hopefully they all got a few good shots in on all-time goalie Jason Dufner during intra-squad soccer scrimmages.
Kick Him Out: To the obnoxious fan that nearly derailed Tiger's final tee shot. One-upsmanship has become somewhat of a plague among American crowds, but Sunday showed that even the revered Scottish faithful have a few bad eggs in the bunch.
Place Your Bets: With only 17 days until the opening round of the PGA Championship, the Westgate Las Vegas installed Dustin Johnson as a 12/1 co-favorite alongside Spieth and McIlroy. Woods headlines the group next in line at 16/1.
Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Justin Thomas. For the second year in a row, Thomas' Open chances fell apart during a rainy second round. It was 67-80 at Birkdale, and this time 69-77 to miss the cut by a shot at Carnoustie. Watching what Rose did after finishing only one shot better through 36 holes only adds salt to the wound.
DJ, McIlroy, Spieth listed as PGA betting favorites
Three majors are in the books, but there's still one more trophy up for grabs in two weeks' time.
While next year The Open will signal the end of the 2019 major season amid a revamped calendar, this is the final year that the PGA Championship will be held in August. The tournament returns next month to Bellerive Country Club outside St. Louis, which last hosted the PGA when Nick Price won in 1992 and hasn't hosted a PGA Tour event since Camilo Villegas won the 2008 BMW Championship.
Oddsmakers at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook published PGA betting odds shortly after the final putt dropped at Carnoustie and Francesco Molinari left with the claret jug. Topping the board are a trio of major champions: Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, all listed at 12/1.
McIlroy won the PGA in both 2012 and 2014, while Spieth needs only the Wanamaker Trophy to round out the career Grand Slam. Johnson has recorded four top-10s in the PGA, notably a T-5 finish at Whistling Straits in 2010 when a few grains of sand kept him out of a playoff with Martin Kaymer and Bubba Watson.
Fresh off a T-6 finish in Scotland, Tiger Woods headlines the group listed at 16/1, behind only the three co-favorites as he looks to win a 15th career major.
Here's a look at the betting odds for a number of contenders, with the opening round of the PGA just 17 days away:
12/1: Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth
16/1: Tiger Woods, Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler
18/1: Justin Rose
20/1: Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm
25/1: Tommy Fleetwood, Francesco Molinari, Jason Day
30/1: Patrick Reed, Hideki Matsuyama
40/1: Henrik Stenson, Alex Noren, Paul Casey
50/1: Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Sergio Garcia, Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, Matt Kuchar
60/1: Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Louis Oosthuizen, Patrick Cantlay, Bryson DeChambeau, Webb Simpson
80/1: Adam Scott, Zach Johnson, Kevin Kisner
100/1: Ian Poulter, Thomas Pieters, Tyrrell Hatton, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Daniel Berger, Kevin Chappell, Brian Harman, Brandt Snedeker, Charley Hoffman
Molinari moves to No. 6 in world with Open win
After breaking through for his first career major title, Francesco Molinari reached some rarified air in the latest installment of the Official World Golf Rankings.
The Italian's two-shot win at Carnoustie moved him up nine spots to No. 6 in the world, not surprisingly a new career high. But it's also a quick ascent for Molinari, who has now won three of his last six worldwide starts and was ranked No. 33 in the world after missing the cut at The Players Championship two months ago.
A share of second place helped Xander Schauffele jump from No. 24 to No. 18 in the updated standings, while the same result meant Kevin Kisner went from No. 33 to No. 25. Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy both went up one spot after T-2 finishes to No. 2 and No. 7, respectively - a new career high for Rose.
The drama in the rankings unfolded at No. 50, as Tiger Woods moved up 21 spots to exactly No. 50 following his T-6 finish. While some projections had him moving to 51st, Woods was able to sneak into the top 50 just in time to qualify for a return to the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, as the top 50 in the rankings both this week and next qualify for Akron.
That includes Zach Johnson, last year's runner-up who was not yet qualified but moved from No. 52 to No. 49 this week. It also includes Kevin Chappell, who went from 61st to 47th with a T-6 finish in Scotland.
Despite missing the cut at Carnoustie, Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1 for another week followed by Rose, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Molinari is now at No. 6, with McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Jason Day rounding out the top 10.
Simpson overtakes DeChambeau in Ryder Cup race
A T-12 finish at The Open allowed Webb Simpson to move past Bryson DeChambeau into the eighth and final automatic qualifying spot in the U.S. Ryder Cup points race with just three weeks to go.
Simpson finished the week at 3 under, five shots behind winner Francesco Molinari. Adding another strong result to his win at TPC Sawgrass and T-10 finish at the U.S. Open, he's now edged in front of DeChambeau by less than 41 points. But with players earning one point per $1,000 each of the next two weeks and 1.5 points per $1,000 at the PGA Championship, the race is far from over.
Jordan Spieth's T-9 finish strengthened his position at No. 6, as the top six players are essentially assured of qualifying automatically. Rickie Fowler held onto his spot at No. 7, while Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner both moved onto the bubble following T-2 finishes at Carnoustie. After a T-6 finish, Tiger Woods jumped from 31st to 20th.
Here's a look at the updated American standings, with the top eight after the PGA qualifying automatically and captain Jim Furyk adding four picks in September:
1. Brooks Koepka
2. Dustin Johnson
3. Patrick Reed
4. Justin Thomas
5. Bubba Watson
6. Jordan Spieth
7. Rickie Fowler
8. Webb Simpson
9. Bryson DeChambeau
10. Phil Mickelson
11. Xander Schauffele
12. Matt Kuchar
13. Kevin Kisner
14. Tony Finau
15. Brian Harman
On the European side, Molinari was already in position to qualify automatically but is now assured of a spot on Thomas Bjorn's roster this fall. Fellow major champs Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy also solidified their footing with runner-up performances.
Here's a look at how things look for the Europeans, with the top four from each list after the PGA Championship qualifying automatically:
1. Francesco Molinari
2. Justin Rose
3. Tyrrell Hatton
4. Tommy Fleetwood
1. Jon Rahm
2. Alex Noren
3. Rory McIlroy
4. Paul Casey