Changes recommended for NCAA individual event

By Ryan LavnerMay 29, 2013, 9:23 pm

MILTON, Ga. – Change is coming soon to the NCAA Championship, or so we can hope.

No longer will the individual champion here be a morning finisher, or a 10-tee starter. No longer will it be a secondary storyline.

Since 2009, when match play was instituted at NCAAs, the individual champion has been rendered a mere footnote. That’s a shame too, for there is an impressive list of recent winners, from Matt Hill and Scott Langley, to John Peterson and Thomas Pieters.

Well, the NCAA Championship Committee recently made a recommendation to the Sports Management Cabinet: Bring back 72 holes of stroke play.

That’s the way it used to be, remember, pre-2009, and it seemed to work – Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Luke Donald are among the notable winners in this event’s illustrious history.

Of course, such a change would cause a drastic shakeup at NCAAs, which next year will be broadcast on Golf Channel.

Currently, there is a 54-hole stroke-play qualifier that determines both the individual champion and the top eight teams that advance to match play. The quarterfinal matches begin Friday, followed by the semifinals on Saturday and the finals on Sunday.

The committee has recommended, however, that the stroke-play qualifier run Friday through Sunday, then cut to the low eight teams.

Then, on Monday – the first day of TV coverage – the low 40 individuals and ties would compete in the fourth and final round of stroke play to determine the individual champion. Those individuals on an advancing team who were not in the top 40 would essentially have a day off.

On Tuesday, the top eight teams would square off in the quarterfinal matches, followed by the semis, with the finals to be held Wednesday. The cabinet could approval this proposal in two weeks, with the new format in place for the 2014 NCAAs at Prairie Dunes.

“The NCAA Championship should be four rounds,” Cal coach Steve Desimone. “It’s the best amateur event in the world, and we’re shortchanging that. We had the best tournament in the world for amateur and college golf, and we don’t have the tournament that we once had.”

No doubt, a 72-hole tournament adds credibility to this event. College teams generally play two-day, 54-hole tournaments during the season, but only because of time constraints. Every significant amateur event is four rounds.

“If it’s going to be a major, it gives it a chance to get even more credibility,” Alabama coach Jay Seawell said. “This is probably the greatest amateur event in the world. The more holes you play, the better player is going to come forward.”

Some coaches contend that the current system is unfair for players who are on competitive teams.

After all, the third round at NCAAs is arguably the most stressful day of the college golf season. The top eight teams jockey for position. The individuals – sometimes unknowingly – chase the individual title.

Those players on the top eight teams have a disadvantage, however. Their burden is twofold: They’re trying to win the individual title, yes, but they also need to play conservatively enough to keep their team in the race for one of the coveted eight spots. Meanwhile, a player on a non-contending team can freewheel.

That’s been the case in recent years.

Three of the last four individual winners have begun their third and final round on the 10th hole. Half of the four finished in the morning wave. Buzzkill.

“This (proposal),” Seawell said, “would alleviate one of those pressures.”

The proposed plan still isn’t perfect, at least to some coaches.

Most notably, the prospect of having both the quarterfinal and semifinal matches on the same day is a daunting prospect. (Stretch the event a day longer, however, and then it’s an eight-day grind, including the practice round.) Said Seawell: “I think the buildup each day and night for the kids is good.”

And, yes, the fact that match play even determines the team champion still bothers Desimone.

Only once since 2009 has the No. 1-ranked team in the country left NCAAs with the trophy. That was last year’s Texas squad, with Jordan Spieth leading the way.

This season, No. 1 Cal has won 11 of its 13 starts to set the modern-day NCAA record for most victories in a season. But with the match-play final, the distinct possibility exists that the Golden Bears could return to Berkeley with the No. 1 overall seed but not a title to show for it.

“The ultimate goal should be to identify the best team in college golf, and I don’t know that any team thinks we’re doing that right now,” Desimone said. “One day of match play can erase an incredible season. Do I think that’s fair? No. No one in their right mind would say that’s fair.”

That discussion – a significant one, it should be noted – has been tabled, at least for another year.

Now, the NCAA appears ready to shine the spotlight back on the individual champion. Compared to what is currently in place – 54 holes, a secondary storyline – that’s a promising step.

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Third-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 9:05 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.

Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.

Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.

4:15AM ET: Gavin Green

4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed

4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose

4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley

5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner

5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson

5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)

5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood

5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello

6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford

6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma

6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele

6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood

6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na

6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin

7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim

7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira

7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters

7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li

7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker

7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink

8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook

8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris

8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim

8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari

8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson

8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell

9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka

9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott

9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren

9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone

9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett

10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler

10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell

10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau

10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen

10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele

10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood

11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson

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Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”

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After 36, new Open favorite is ... Fleetwood

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 7:49 pm

With a handful of the pre-championship favorites exiting early, there is a new odds-on leader entering the third round of The Open at Carnoustie.

While Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner share the 36-hole lead, it's England's Tommy Fleetwood who leads the betting pack at 11/2. Fleetwood begins the third round one shot off the lead.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at

Tommy Fleetwood: 11/2

Zach Johnson: 13/2

Rory McIlroy: 7/1

Jordan Spieth: 8/1

Rickie Fowler: 9/1

Kevin Kisner: 12/1

Xander Schauffele: 16/1

Tony Finau: 16/1

Matt Kuchar: 18/1

Pat Perez: 25/1

Brooks Koepka: 25/1

Erik van Rooyen: 50/1

Alex Noren: 50/1

Tiger Woods: 50/1

Thorbjorn Olesen: 60/1

Danny Willett: 60/1

Francesco Molinari: 60/1