Younger players have the mental makeup to win now

By Jason SobelJanuary 14, 2013, 1:37 pm

Charles Howell III is a congenial kind of guy, the type who appreciates the give and take of some playful banter. So when I saw him on the practice green at Waialae Country Club for the first time last Wednesday, it wasn't long after we exchanged Happy New Year greetings that I tried to give him a little grief.

'You're looking old,” I jabbed. “What is this, like your 17th year out here?'

'Nope,' he answered. 'Only my 14th.'

The response floored me. I had picked a number large enough – or so I thought – that it would exaggerate his age for the sake of the joke. Do the math, though, and you'll find that, yes, it really has been that long since Howell first broke onto the scene with 13 starts back in 2000.

The conversation instantly reminded me of another one I had with him at the Sony Open. It was six years ago when Howell appeared primed to win this tournament, only to get lapped on the back nine by Paul Goydos. Afterward, he characteristically sat down and answered some tough questions, shouldering the blame for the defeat. But when I suggested that his loss was serving as a microcosm for the inadequacy of young American golfers, he chafed at the notion that there was even any issue.

'I think it's ridiculous' he said at the time. 'I think American golf under 30 is fine. If you look across the board, if you look at the guys playing nowadays, I don't buy into that, no.'

This despite the fact that only three American 20somethings had won the year before (J.B. Holmes, Troy Matteson and D.J. Trahan), only two owned multiple career victories (Ben Curtis and Jonathan Byrd) and only one was ranked in the world’s top 50 (Lucas Glover). It doesn’t take a golf historian to realize that despite a few major wins in that group, none of those players developed into a superstar.

The story is relevant today because we’ve seen a seismic shift in the early success of U.S.-born golfers. Dustin Johnson has won in each year since graduating college. Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson are already major champions. And on seemingly a weekly basis, baby-faced kids who were carrying their bags in college tournaments not long ago are not only competing with the world’s best on the PGA Tour but contending for titles.

And winning them. Russell Henley is the latest – and maybe greatest – example of a player finding prosperity so soon after leaving campus. His final round at the Sony Open, one of three 63s he posted during the week, included five birdies to close. Ask the question of why times have changed so quickly and the simplest answer may be staring back from atop the leaderboard: Because they’re really talented.

That may be true, but it’s a copout. Just five-10 years ago, players coming out of college were really talented, too, yet the results weren’t nearly as immediate. So what’s the real reason? Ask Henley and he cites everything from the increasing competitiveness of junior golf to motivation from friends like Harris English, who kept his card after a strong rookie campaign last year.

“I think more guys want it,” Henley explained. “It's just getting more and more competitive. If everybody could just get out of their own way a little bit, including me a lot of time – the majority of the time – everybody could play some good golf out here. Everybody is very talented.”

He isn’t wrong about any of that, of course, though his answer serves as only a broad explanation. In fact, go back and read it again. If Howell had offered that comment back in 2005 as a reason for less success rather than Henley using it now as a reason for more, it still would have served that dual purpose.

As if to only further the point about young golfers making the jump to the most elite level, Scott Langley also contended throughout the weekend at Waialae. Like Henley, he is a 2011 college graduate – and like Henley, he never seemed like he was lost in the moment, even when his hot putter grew cold on Sunday.

“Guys are really good at every level – junior golf, amateur golf and mini-tours everywhere,” Langley reasoned when faced with the question. “I think the instruction is really good. That definitely helps. Guys are getting better technique younger. But then also I think as far as me and my peers, we've helped each other a lot, just push each other to be better. 

“Our little group of guys has played together for 10 years probably. We just always kind of have tried to make each other better. If I see Russell playing really good, I want to play really good. I want to beat him. And same with if [fellow rookie] Luke Guthrie is playing great; I want to go out there and play well. We push each other, and I think we kind of feed off each other.”

We’re getting warmer. Quality players have always been around, but a higher quantity of quality players competing in the junior, amateur and collegiate ranks basically traveling the world as unpaid professionals speaks volumes as to why the comfort level comes more readily these days.

There’s more to it, though. Langley’s explanation could serve as to why more young players are faring well, but it doesn’t necessarily address why it’s collegians as opposed to elite international players who have often played five years of professional golf by the time they turn 23. For that, I asked someone who has not only witnessed the transformation firsthand. He prodded it along.

“We want guys who want a great education, but want to play professional golf when they get out,” said University of Illinois head coach Mike Small, who coached both Langley and Guthrie. “They're coming to get their games better. I think the mindset is that you should get that degree, but you might as well become as you good as you can at golf while you’re here.'

Now we’re getting somewhere. Small has a unique perspective in making the jump to the highest level thanks to his own background. He not only succeeded in reaching the PGA Tour, he failed at sustaining his time there, a contrast he sees as a benefit to his players.

“This isn't fun-and-games daycare. I treat them and train them like Tour players,” he added, acknowledging that such treatment has changed in recent years. “These players aren't scared anymore. The golf courses we play are harder; the coaches are expecting more.

“I want to win championships as much as anyone, but if you coach these guys and convince them they're not going to reach their peak until 35 or 40, they’re going to lose that dream when they’re 22 or 23. I want my guys to want to play on Tour someday. I'm not going to force them, but I want them to have that dream.”


Whether it’s Small at Illinois or Chris Haack – Henley’s coach at the University of Georgia, which is churning out Tour players annually – or any number of college coaches who have been at the forefront of such change, it’s the mindset being instilled in players from Day 1 on campus that is making the biggest impact. No longer are college golfers being warned to respect their elders and informed that – with a heaping dose of luck spooned on top of their talent – maybe they can someday succeed on the PGA Tour level.

Sure, we can credit equipment as a technical assistance to these players and specialized instructors as a physical aid. In sport’s ultimate mental pursuit, though, there are now greater concessions being made toward that part of the game, if not with specific mental gurus and psychologists, then at least with a nod toward the power of positive thinking.

College students are taught to dream big and though it’s been a gradual shift, college golfers are now taking that notion to an extreme level. It’s one that should only serve to feed off itself in coming years, too; just as Henley received motivation from English, kids still living in dorms right now are deriving inspiration from Henley’s victory, believing that if he can win right away, well, so can they.

Six years ago, when I explored this topic with Howell, his retort was, 'I think American golf under 30 is fine.” He probably wasn’t wrong about that, but “fine” turned out to be underwhelming. The impressive exploits of young, U.S.-born golfers recently easily exceeds “fine,” which is exactly what they’ve been taught for years.

Geoff Ogilvy and family at the 2009 WGC-Accenture Match Play. Getty Images

Notes: Ogilvy moving family to Australia

By Doug FergusonMay 22, 2018, 6:55 pm

Geoff Ogilvy's immediate future involves fewer golf tournament and longer flights.

Ogilvy has been contemplating in the last few years moving back home to Australia, and after discussing it with his Texas-born wife, Juli, they plan to return to Melbourne shortly after Christmas.

Their daughter, Phoebe, turns 12 in October and will be starting the seventh grade in Australia. They have two sons, Jasper (10) and Harvey (8). The Ogilvys figured that waiting much longer to decide where to live would make it tougher on the children.

''We just talked about it, for lots of reasons, and we kept making pros and cons. Juli was strong on it,'' Ogilvy said. ''We're excited. I'm at the point where I'm not going to play 27 times a year. It's going to be brutal to play from there. But you've got to choose life.''

Ogilvy won the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot, and he counts three World Golf Championships among his eight PGA Tour victories. He also has won the Australian Open and the Australian PGA Championship and has reached No. 3 in the world.

His last victory was in 2014, and Ogilvy has slipped to No. 416 in the world.

He has been dividing some of his time with a golf course design business with projects that include Shady Oaks in Fort Worth, Texas, (including a ''Little Nine'' course that opened last year), a renovation in China and a 36-hole course called Peninsula Kingwood in Melbourne.

Ogilvy, who grew up at Victoria Golf Club, still has a home on the 14th hole of the West Course at Royal Melbourne. If he didn't move back home, Ogilvy figured he would be spending six months in Melbourne and six months in Scottsdale, Arizona.

''It's a feeling more than anything,'' he said. ''Scottsdale is dreamy. We live a great existence. I know what I'm getting there. If we didn't move back, we'd be a six-and-six family. The kids get out of school, and they're bounced back and forth. It's not good for continuity.''

As for golf?

Ogilvy narrowly kept his full PGA Tour card last year and this season has been a struggle. He hasn't sorted out what kind of schedule he would keep, understanding it would involve long trips from Sydney to Dallas.

The immediate goal would be to play a heavy fall schedule and miss most of the West Coast swing to get acclimated to the move.

''And then we'll start working it out,'' he said.

US OPEN QUALIFYING: The U.S. Open likes to consider its championship the most democratic of the majors, and it has it just about right again this year. With the addition of 23 players who became exempt by being in the top 60 in the world ranking, 77 players in the 156-man field are exempt from qualifying. That number could go up slightly with another cutoff for the top 60 the Sunday before U.S. Open week.

The U.S. Open is the only American major that does not offer automatic exemptions to PGA Tour winners. Five such winners from this season still face qualifying, including Patton Kizzire, who has won twice (OHL Classic at Mayakoba and Sony Open). The others are Austin Cook, Ted Potter Jr., Andrew Landry and Aaron Wise.

Kizzire is at No. 63 in the world, followed by Wise (66) and Landry (69). All have three weeks to crack the top 60.

Until 2011, the U.S. Open offered exemptions to multiple PGA Tour winners since the previous Open. It leans heavily on the world ranking, as do the other majors. It also awards recent major champions and top finishers from the previous U.S. Open, along with the Tour Championship field from the previous year, to reward a consistently strong season.

''All of the tours around the world have bought into the official world golf ranking rankings,'' said Jeff Hall, the USGA's managing director of rules and open championships. ''And this provides just the right place for us to be with exemptions. We don't have to get into the weighting of one tour over another, this championship versus that event, a week-to-week event. We focus on the official world golf rankings and it seems to get us the right players for our championship.''

FICKLE GAME: Careers can change quickly in golf. No one can attest to that as well as Michael Arnaud.

The 36-year-old Arnaud had never finished better than a tie for fifth in his 49 starts on the Tour, and that was three years ago. His career earnings were just over $130,000. He had only made it into one previous event this year, and he wasn't in the field at the BMW Charity Pro-Am in South Carolina last week until Kent Bulle withdrew on the eve of the event.

Arnaud tied the course record with a 60 in the second round. He closed with a 63 and won by five shots.

He won $126,000 and moved to No. 13 on the money list, giving him a reasonable chance to reach the PGA Tour if he finishes the season in the top 25.

''A lot of people kept pushing me when I wanted to step away from it,'' Arnaud said. ''My wife was one of those that told me to take the chance and go. Low and behold it really paid off.''

SHINNECOCK SAVANT: Rory McIlroy is excited to get back to Shinnecock Hills for the U.S. Open, a course he already has played a few times.

Equally excited is his manager, Sean O'Flaherty, who knows the course on New York's Long Island better than McIlroy.

O'Flaherty spent two summers as a caddie at Shinnecock Hills.

He went to college at Trinity in Dublin, had friends in the Hamptons and came over during the summer months in 2002 and 2003 to work as a caddie.

''I got to know a lot of members,'' O'Flaherty said. ''I can't wait. To me, it's the best course in the world.''

DIVOTS: Justin Thomas won the Honda Classic on Feb. 25 at No. 4 in the world. No one from the top 10 in the world has won a PGA Tour event since then, a stretch of 12 tournaments. ... Guy Kinnings is leaving IMG after nearly 30 years to become the deputy CEO and Ryder Cup director of the European Tour. He will report directly to European Tour chief Keith Pelley. ... The LPGA tour will play in China during its fall Asia swing at the Buick LPGA Shanghai at Qizhong Garden Golf Club. The tournament will be Oct. 18-21, one week before the men play the HSBC Champions at Sheshan International in Shanghai. ... Alice Chen of Furman has been selected for the Dinah Shore Trophy, awarded to top college women who excel in golf, academics and work off the golf course. ... The Irish Open is going to Lahinch Golf Club in 2019, with former Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley serving as the tournament host.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Matt Kuchar, Peter Uihlein and Jhonattan Vegas are the only players to compete in all five Texas events on the PGA Tour this year.

FINAL WORD: ''The sum of his shots seems to add up to slightly less than the sum of the shots from another guy.'' - Geoff Ogilvy on Jordan Spieth.

Getty Images

Arizona's run continues, knocks off top seed to reach semis

By Jay CoffinMay 22, 2018, 6:35 pm

STILLWATER, Okla. – The No. 1 seed in match play has still never won the women’s NCAA Championship.

That dubious distinction continued Tuesday at Karsten Creek when Arizona knocked out top-seeded UCLA on the final hole of the final match.

With the matches tied at 2 apiece, the anchor match between Arizona junior Bianca Pagdanganan and UCLA freshman Patty Tavatanakit was tied on the 18th hole, a par 5 that’s reachable in two shots by many.

Tavatanakit was just short of the green in two and Pagdanganan, the Wildcats’ hero from Monday when she made eagle on the last hole to give her team a shot at match play, blasted her second shot onto the green. Tavatanakit failed to get up and down – missing a 4-footer for birdie – and Pagdanganan two-putted for birdie to give Arizona the victory.

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Scoring and TV times

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Full coverage

“We’re lucky to be in match play,” Arizona coach Laura Ianello said. “Let’s ride the highs. Why not?”

Arizona will now face Stanford in the semifinals. The Cardinal, the 2015 champion and 2016 runner up, has qualified for match play in each of the past four seasons. They beat Northwestern, 3-2, in the quarterfinals to advance.

USC will face Alabama in the other semifinal, meaning three Pac-12 teams have advanced to the Final Four. The Crimson Tide had an easy go of it in their quarterfinal match against Kent State, winning 4-1. The decisive victory gave Alabama extra rest for its afternoon match.

USC beat Duke, 3-1-1, in the other quarterfinal, pitting teams that have combined to win nine NCAA titles in the past 20 years. But neither team has had much success in the past four years since the championship turned to match play. Not only has neither team won, neither has even reached the championship match.

Duke’s Leona Maguire won the first match and the second match was halved, but USC swept the last three matches with Gabriela Ruffels, Alyaa Abdulghany and Amelia Garvey all winning to propel the Trojans into the semifinals.

Alabama (2) vs. USC (3)

2:30PM ET: Lauren Stephenson (A) vs. Jennifer Chang (USC)

2:40PM ET: Kristen Gillman (A) vs. Amelia Garvey (USC)

2:50PM ET: Cheyenne Knight (A) vs. Allisen Corpuz (USC)

3:00PM ET: Lakareber Abe (A) vs. Alyaa Abdulghany (USC)

3:10PM ET: Angelica Moresco (A) Gabriela Ruffels (USC)

Stanford (5) vs. Arizona (8)

3:20PM ET: Emily Wang (S) vs. Gigi Stoll (A)

3:30PM ET: Shannon Aubert (S) vs. Yu-Sang Hou (A)

3:40PM ET: Mika Liu (S) vs. Haley Moore (A)

3:50PM ET: Albane Valenzuela (S) vs. Sandra Nordaas (A)

4:00PM ET: Andrea Lee (S) vs. Bianca Pagdanganan (A)

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NCAA DI Women's Champ.: Scoring, TV times

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 22, 2018, 5:50 pm

The NCAA Division I Women's Golf Championship is underway at Kartsen Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.

After three days of stroke play, eight teams advanced to the match-play portion of the championship. Quarterfinals were contested Tuesday morning with semifinals in the afternoon. The finals are being held on Wednesday. Golf Channel is airing the action live.

Wake Forest junior Jennifer Kupcho won the individual title. Click here for live action, beginning at 4 p.m. ET.


TV Times (all times ET):

4-8PM: Match-play semifinals (Click here to watch live)

4-8PM: Match-play finals

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Spieth grouped with Kisner, Stricker at Colonial

By Will GrayMay 22, 2018, 5:34 pm

It's a short commute for the PGA Tour this week, as Colonial Country Club sits less than an hour away from last week's host site, Trinity Forest. Here's a look at some of the marquee, early-round groupings at the Fort Worth Invitational, where local favorite Jordan Spieth will look to contend at "Hogan's Alley" for the fourth straight year (all times ET):

8:55 a.m. Thursday, 1:55 p.m. Friday: Jon Rahm, Bryson DeChambeau, Rickie Fowler

Rahm impressed in his Colonial debut last year, finishing T-2 in his first trip around one of the Tour's most historic venues. He returns this week and will play alongside DeChambeau, who missed the cut in his first two Colonial appearances but has played well this year, and Fowler, who makes his first trip to Fort Worth since missing the cut in 2014.

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

9:06 a.m. Thursday, 2:06 p.m. Friday: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Kisner, Steve Stricker

Spieth has had great success at Colonial, with his 2016 title sandwiched between a runner-up in 2015 to Chris Kirk and one last year behind Kisner, who returns to defend his title on the heels of two straight missed cuts. Stricker, who won here in 2009, returns for the fourth straight year after a T-7 finish last year.

1:55 p.m. Thursday, 8:55 a.m. Friday: Aaron Wise, Zach Johnson, Justin Rose

At age 21, Wise became the Tour's latest winner when he cruised to a three-shot victory Sunday in Dallas, and he'll play the first two rounds alongside a pair of major champs. Johnson won here in 2010 and 2012 and remains the tournament's leading money-winner, while Rose opted to skip the European Tour's flagship event to make his first start in Fort Worth since 2010.

2:06 p.m. Thursday, 9:06 a.m. Friday: Webb Simpson, Brooks Koepka, Adam Scott

Simpson tees it up for the first time since his victory at TPC Sawgrass, and he does so on a layout where he has cracked the top five each of the last two years. Koepka will be making his Colonial debut, while Scott returns to a course where he won as world No. 1 back in 2013 as he continues his quest to crack the OWGR top 60 to earn a spot in the U.S. Open.