NCAA quarters: Illinois still alive; Texas sent packing

By Ryan LavnerJune 2, 2015, 7:05 pm

BRADENTON, Fla. – After top seed Illinois set its lineup for Tuesday’s quarterfinal match, assistant coach Zach Barlow sent heralded freshman Nick Hardy a text message.

“Be ready for that 4-5 slot all 3 matches bro,” Barlow wrote. “No one’s putter we trust more than yours! When it’s on the line, we want you putting for it.”

Fourteen hours later, Hardy was putting with everything on the line.

To the surprise of no one around this Illinois program, Hardy buried the 6-foot par putt, the finishing blow that sent the Illini to the semifinals of the NCAA Championship.

Recalling this story in the clubhouse later Tuesday, Barlow could only laugh.

“I’d let him putt for my life,” he said.

Despite trailing in all five matches early, Illinois kept its title hopes alive with a 3-2 victory over UCLA.

That was supposed to set up a blockbuster against Texas, two teams with 15 combined wins this season, but only the Illini stayed alive. 

Southern Cal rolled Texas, 3-0-2, in one of the other quarterfinal matches, a victory more decisive than even the final score indicated.

“It’s a stinger,” Longhorns coach John Fields said.

With the afternoon semifinals underway at Concession, Georgia is facing SEC foe LSU, while Illinois takes on USC.

The Bulldogs, the lowest-ranked team to advance to match play, continued their surprising run with a thorough 4-1 victory over host South Florida.

LSU, which needed an incredible final-day run just to advance through regionals, won the first three matches against Vanderbilt to end the drama early.

But all eyes were on Texas, and for good reason. The Longhorns were the hottest team in the country, with six wins in their last seven events entering nationals. But this was an unusual week from the outset. 

The Longhorns got off to a rocky start, and their spot in match play was only secured after playing the last two days in 12 under.

In the quarterfinals, USC’s Bobby Gojuangco led off with a 4-and-2 win, and Rico Hoey never faltered during a 2-and-1 decision over Texas’ Doug Ghim.

Sean Crocker delivered the clinching point for the Trojans, but not without some help.

Crocker won the last two holes of regulation after opponent Gavin Hall went bogey-double bogey, and Hall then blocked his tee shot into the jungle left of the 10th fairway. Over by the television set, Hall slashed around in the bushes while Crocker stuffed his approach to 10 feet. Ballgame.

“I don’t like losing,” Crocker said. “I hate losing, no matter what it is.”

Said Texas’ Beau Hossler: “The one goal at the beginning of the season was to win the national championship, so yeah, it’s disappointing, because we didn’t reach that goal. We expect to win tournaments, and obviously coming up short of that is not a good feeling.”

Four of the top five teams in the country have now left the property: No. 1 Florida State and No. 3 Arizona State didn’t even advance to match play, and No. 2 Texas and No. 5 Vanderbilt bowed out in the quarters.

“You almost have to overcome your success a little bit here,” Fields said. “It’s hard, because you’re stinging because it’s over. When you see kids go home and they’re emotional at the end, it’s because you recognize that it’s over. So many great things happen that go into this moment, it’s hard to accept.”

Illinois hopes it got its scare out of the way early.

All five players trailed in their match as the team made the turn, but they flipped the outcome with a spirited rally.

Most impressive was junior Charlie Danielson, who, starting at the eighth hole, won seven holes in a row en route to a 4-and-3 victory.

After such a dramatic swing, Small said it is his job to “spread the love, spread that momentum.”

It seemed to work for Thomas Detry, as the sweet-swinging Belgium, who was in contention for the NCAA individual title, pulled away from UCLA’s Manav Shah after making three consecutive birdies late in his round.

And it seemed to work for Hardy, who could “feel the energy” as the crowd swelled, the pressure built and it became apparent that his match would be the decider.

Small chose Hardy for the anchor spot for two reasons: He was playing well, having shared medalist honors at the Big Ten Championship a few weeks ago; and he had match play experience, having reached the semifinals of the Western Amateur as an incoming freshman.

Small has already started calling his two newcomers “sophomores,” because if they’ve come this far they’re not playing like freshmen anymore. 

“Win or lose today, I want them to learn for the next two or three years," Small said. "We want to win, but I’ve got a future here, too. Might as well throw them in there. Why sit there and pamper them and baby them? Put them in there and let ’em go.”

His faith was rewarded as Hardy knocked his approach safely on the 18th green, about 40 feet from the cup. He raced his first try past the hole, but kept his composure and drained the comebacker.

They celebrated for a few minutes, and Hardy was the hero, just as Barlow suspected the night before.

A few minutes after receiving that text Monday night, the one that told him to be ready for all of the pressure and the big spot, the 19-year-old tapped out his reply.

“I want it too,” he wrote. “Thank you.”

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Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 8:55 pm

NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:

Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)

Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.

1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.

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Knox relishes round with 'mythical figure' Woods

By Ryan LavnerJuly 19, 2018, 8:48 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Russell Knox was expecting the worst and hoping for the best Thursday at The Open.

Playing with Tiger Woods tends to have that effect.

The native Scot received a treat earlier this week when he saw his name on the tee sheet alongside his boyhood idol, Woods.

“Felt good out there, but obviously my swing, it was just like I had too much tension,” Knox said after an opening 73. “I just wasn’t letting it go as normal. First round with Tiger, I expected to feel a little bit different. The way I felt was better than the way I swung.”

Knox said that he was nervous playing alongside Woods, a player he’d only encountered on the range. “He’s almost like a mythical figure,” he said.

But after a while, he settled into the rhythm of the round at Carnoustie.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I thought it would be worse,” he said, “I feel like I should know what I’m doing. It’s cool playing with Tiger, but I’ve got to get over that. I’m here to win, not just enjoy my walk around the course.”

Knox probably had more interaction with Woods than he anticipated, if only because the third member of the group, Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, keeps to himself because of the language barrier.

“It’s kind of a blur,” Knox said. “It’s like, Oh, I’m chatting away with Tiger here like normal. I don’t even remember what I was saying.”

There have been countless stories from this year as the next generation of players – guys who grew up watching Woods dominate the sport – get paired with Woods for the first time.

It was no less special for Knox on Thursday.

“It’s nice for him to say things like that,” Woods said, “and we enjoyed playing with each other. Hopefully we’ll play a little bit better tomorrow.”

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Rain expected to shower Carnoustie Friday morning

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 8:43 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – By the end of the day Friday, we’ll be able to determine which side of The Open draw ended the first two rounds at Carnoustie with more favorable conditions. With rain expected for most of Friday morning, it seems those who played early/late may be more pleased.

According to, there is a 75 percent chance of rain beginning at 2 a.m. local time Friday here in Scotland. That percentage vaults up to 95 percent by 7 a.m., with the first tee time scheduled for 6:35. At 11, the number drops to 55 percent. After 2 p.m., the percentage chances of rain are 25 percent and below for the remainder of the day.

Temperatures during the day are expected to be from the low 50s to the low 60s and winds will vary between 14-18 mph, again per

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

This is The Open’s official weather report for the weekend:

Saturday: A dull start with some drizzle possible. Staying cloudy for much of the day but gradually becoming brighter with a chance of some sunny intervals during the afternoon and evening. Winds light and variable in direction but should predominantly settle in to a SSE 8-12mph during the afternoon. Max temp 20C (68F).

Sunday: Often cloudy but mainly dry. A better chance of some decent sunny spells compared to Saturday. Most likely the windiest day of the Championship; SW 12-18mph with gusts 20-25mph. Feeling warm, especially in any sunshine with a max temp of 23C (73F).

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Bandaged Woods 5 back after even-par 71

By Ryan LavnerJuly 19, 2018, 8:38 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tiger Woods arrived Thursday with therapeutic tape on the back of his neck.

Carnoustie’s back nine inflicted even more pain.

Playing in the most difficult conditions of the day, Woods’ progress was stalled by two late bogeys as he settled for an even-par 71 that left him five shots off the lead at The Open.

“I played better than what the score indicates,” he said. “It certainly could have been a little bit better.”

Woods created a stir when he showed up with black kinesiology tape on his neck. Afterward, he said that his neck has been bugging him “for a while” and that Thursday was merely the first time that the tape was visible.

“Everyone acts like this is the first time I’ve been bandaged up,” he said, smiling. “I’ve been doing this for years.”

Woods said that the discomfort didn’t really affect his swing, other than a few shots “here and there.” It didn’t seem to affect his score, either, as he went out in 2 under before a few stumbles on the back nine.

On the fast, baked-out turf, he played conservatively off the tee, using driver only once and 3-wood just twice. Apparently he didn’t need the added distance, not with his 6-iron traveling 240 yards. He tried to play to his spots, even if it routinely left him more than 200 yards for his approach.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

That’s the strategy he employed at Hoylake in 2006, where he hit driver just once and captured the third of his Open titles. Despite some of the similarities in firmness, Woods said that Carnoustie presents a different challenge off the tee.

“These fairways are very small,” he said. “They’re hard to hit right now. They’re so fast, and they’re so moundy.”

Finding the fairway wasn’t the chief problem for Woods on Day 1, however. He missed just four fairways but found only 11 greens.

More damaging to his score was his play on the par 5s. Despite having only an 8-iron in, he failed to birdie each of the two par 5s and then bogeyed Nos. 10, 13 and 15 to squander his early momentum.

Though the draw here won’t be a significant factor – or at least not like in recent years, with a wide range in scores from morning to afternoon – it’s clear that Woods (in game 47 of 52) encountered the most difficult of the conditions Thursday, with the wind gusting to 20 mph and the fairways running even faster after another sun-splashed afternoon.

Still, his opening 71 was one of the better scores in the late wave.

“He hit it good,” said playing partner Russell Knox. “He plotted his way around, which I expected him to do, and he was very conservative off the tee. It’s kind of fun to watch him do that, to be honest.”

Even more fun would be a major with Woods in contention.

He hasn’t broken par in the opening round of his last eight majors. Indeed, for Woods, these slow starts have been the real pain in the neck.