Baylor's Davis back, better after heartbreak at NCAAs

By Ryan LavnerNovember 2, 2015, 8:46 pm

ATLANTA – The morning after she lost the NCAA Championship, Hayley Davis didn’t lock herself in her hotel room, or console her Baylor teammates, or dwell on what could have been. She boarded a flight to Australia.

Technically, it was a pre-scheduled study abroad program for her human health performance and recreational services major, but it proved to be the perfect antidote to the most traumatic moment of her career.

College golf fans won’t soon forget Davis.   

The 22-year-old was the heart and soul of a Baylor team that no one expected to reach the NCAA finals against Stanford. She later became the focal point of the Bears’ title pursuit, after the first four singles matches split at two points apiece at Concession Golf Club.

Clinging to a 1-up lead over Stanford’s Mariah Stackhouse, Davis authored one of the most memorable shots in college golf history, after her drive on the 16th hole kicked back into the hazard after she took an aggressive line off the tee.

“When I was walking up to the ball,” she said Monday, “I didn’t know where it was. It could have been in the water; it could have been anywhere. But as soon as I saw it, I said to myself: Wow, I’ve been given a chance here, and I can take it.

“The only shot I could even think about was the 8-iron at the hole. It wasn’t even an option to chip out or play right of the pin. I kind of love those shots where you’re like, ummmm, I don’t know what’s going to happen here.”

The ball was above her feet. The tall fescue grass was right in front of her. Her feet were sinking in the mud. And she struck it absolutely perfectly, the ball landing softly in the middle of the green, scaring the hole and settling 7 feet past the cup. The birdie gave her what seemed like an insurmountable 2-up lead with two to play.

“It was the best shot I’ve ever seen,” Baylor coach Jay Goble said. “Under the circumstances, to be able to pull off a shot like that, it truly shows how unreal she is. I think sometimes she doesn’t even realize that she could be the best there is out there, if she really wanted it.”

But the match was far from over. Stackhouse won the 17th with a two-putt birdie. She won the 18th too, with a dramatic 15-footer, to force overtime.

The match appeared destined for a second playoff hole. Then Davis shoved a 4-foot par putt.

Stanford’s players, gathered behind the green, shrieked with joy. Baylor’s gasped in disbelief. The Bears’ team leader had faltered, and now she was broken, drifting back toward the woods and collapsing onto the ground in tears.

After a half hour, Davis emerged and gave an emotional interview. “I don’t know if I’ll ever get over it completely,” she said.

It all happened so fast, and soon the players went their separate ways. The night of the NCAA finals, Davis’ mother booked the flight to Australia. The next morning, Davis was gone.  

“The best thing probably anybody could do,” Goble said.

Davis traveled around the country, camping on the beach for three weeks. She brought her golf clubs, because she was traveling straight from NCAAs, but never took them out of their travel case. Surrounded by 20 other students from Baylor and Texas A&M, she was just a normal 22-year-old. The group knew nothing of the recent heartbreak she had endured.

Back home, no one could get ahold of Davis either – the Wi-Fi service was too spotty. For the better part of three weeks, she was completely off the grid.

“It was really hard for me to deal with,” she said. “Getting away from everything kind of helped me be able to talk about it and properly reflect and understand what had really happened.”

Goble checked in only once or twice during the summer, but he wasn’t concerned about the player who had single-handedly altered the trajectory of the program during her four years in school.   

“She was the best person in the world to handle that,” he said. “For a lot of other people, that would probably destroy them. For Hayley, it’s only going to make her better. She’s different than everybody else.”

It wasn’t until Davis returned to Waco in mid-July, after the first stage of LPGA Q-School, that she finally talked with Goble about the events at Concession, about how many messages they had received from those in the community. By that point, Davis had come to appreciate the bigger picture, that underdog Baylor had its best season in program history and nearly won an NCAA title.

Davis is back with the Bears now, but in a different role, as a student assistant. With only six hours left to complete her degree in the spring, she has been working out with the team on Mondays and Thursdays and then practicing on Fridays as she tries to keep her game sharp for the final stage of Q-School. 

The Bears could use her guidance. Reeling from the loss of All-American sophomore Dylan Kim, who recently underwent hip surgery and is likely out for the season, they have yet to finish inside the top 10. Here at the East Lake Cup, Baylor is ranked 70th; the other three women’s teams are all in the top six.

“Hayley changes the atmosphere for our team when she’s in the room,” Goble said. “They practice better. They work out better. They’re in a more competitive frame of mind.”

More than that extra dose of aggressiveness, Davis also brings an added level of perspective. After all, she faced the most pressure possible in college golf: Playing for herself, her family, her teammates, her school, she won and lost the decisive match. She will carry that experience with her forever.

“I always wanted to be a part of something historic,” she said, “and to have this happen during my senior year, during my final semester, was unbelievable. I’m better for it.”

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DJ, McIlroy, Spieth listed as PGA betting favorites

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 1:38 pm

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

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Molinari moves to No. 6 in world with Open win

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:31 pm

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.

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Simpson overtakes DeChambeau in Ryder Cup race

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:09 pm

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

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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:

European Points

1. Francesco Molinari

2. Justin Rose

3. Tyrrell Hatton

4. Tommy Fleetwood

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Thorbjorn Olesen

Russell Knox

Eddie Pepperell

World Points

1. Jon Rahm

2. Alex Noren

3. Rory McIlroy

4. Paul Casey

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Matthew Fitzpatrick

Sergio Garcia

Ian Poulter

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Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish

By Associated PressJuly 23, 2018, 12:25 am

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.

Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.

The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.

Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.

The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.