For Mexicans in LAAC, team comes first

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 14, 2016, 10:08 pm

LA ROMANA, Dominican Republic – Santiago Casado was all smiles Thursday as he huddled with his team behind the ninth green at Casa de Campo’s Teeth of the Dog course.

And why not? This Latin America Amateur Championship couldn’t have started much better.

Four of the Mexican players in the field were inside the top seven on the leaderboard, including Alvaro Ortiz, the brother of PGA Tour player Carlos Ortiz, whose opening 4-under 68 shared the early lead with Jose Andres Miranda of Ecuador.

“The players did an extraordinary job,” Casado said. “We’re in position and the players are prepared to contend.”

That means Casado, the national team manager for the Mexican Golf Federation, has done his job.

Golf in Mexico is more of a team effort than an individual pursuit. Juniors begin by playing in regional tournaments all across the country, then graduate to national events when their game is ready. A decade ago, the Mexican Junior Golf Association partnered with the AJGA, the premier junior golf organization in the U.S., after voicing concerns that its players were at a disadvantage in trying to gain exposure for college golf scholarships. As part of that arrangement, some of the top Mexican juniors earned exemptions into AJGA tournaments – which are heavily attended by college golf coaches – based on high finishes in select local events.

“If you want to become one of the best players in the world and want to play on the PGA Tour, you have to go to the U.S. to play college golf,” Casado said. “It’s where you want to be to compete in amateur events – that’s the best opportunity to compete every single week with the best in the world.”

Casado’s main role with the Mexican Golf Federation is to recruit, train and prepare his eight-man roster for college and, later, a professional career. He is concerned less about his players’ technique and more about infusing them with confidence and self-belief.

That cerebral approach doesn’t change once they arrive on a college campus, either. Rather than point to any technical changes with their swing, the players said that they’ve most improved their course management while in college. 

“Ten years ago, we thought that coming to America was having a lesson with top-100 coaches in the world,” Casado said. “They’re proving themselves that it’s part of the process: Respect where you come from. Never lose track of your family and friends. Believe in your country and culture. Those are the aspects that we are following, and then just enjoy the ride.”

Seven of his eight players are currently in college, playing on scholarship at Arkansas, Tennessee, New Mexico State, Jacksonville and Louisiana-Lafayette; the eighth player, Roberto Ruiz Gonzalez, recently exhausted his eligibility at the University of Texas-El Paso. Naturally, that creates a friendly rivalry among the players as they keep track of their teammates’ high finishes and world ranking.

“Once we come here, though, we feel like a family,” said Raul Pereda de la Huerta, a sophomore at Jacksonville. “We’re like brothers.”

The most heralded Mexican amateur is Ortiz, a sophomore at Arkansas.

After all, it was his brother, Carlos, 24, who gave the Mexican Golf Federation a boost after a four-year career at North Texas and a breakout year on the Tour, when he won three times in 2014 and earned Player of the Year honors.

Said Casado: “He has proven to all of these young talented players that if you stick to the process and trust the work every single day, you can make the dream of playing on the PGA Tour.”

Having a Tour-caliber sibling may ratchet up expectations, but Ortiz views it more as an opportunity to measure his own game.

“Being able to say that when I beat him, I beat a PGA Tour player, it’s a good feeling,” he said. “But it’s a healthy competition. It’s more about pride than anything.”

Ortiz, who finished fourth in this event last year after a closing 67, is looking to become the first Mexican amateur in more than a half-century to play in the Masters. Huerta (69), Fernando Cruz Valle (70) and Arkansas commit Luis Garza (70) are all in strong position after Day 1, too.

A victory here wouldn’t just be an incredible individual accomplishment. It’d also be a testament to Casado’s process, to the team-first attitude that permeates this group.

“We realize the impact of winning this event,” Casado said. “The most important thing for our players, and part of our problem, is the pride of representing your country. You can see it in the way they dress, and all of their families are here. It’s not only a big individual event, but it’s a big feeling of playing for your country.”

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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.

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Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:07 am

It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.

Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.

The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:

The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.

For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.

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Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.

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Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose

By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 9:17 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.

Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.

The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.

“There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.

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In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.

“To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”

Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.

“To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.