Mystery man of U.S. Am semifinals

By Ryan LavnerAugust 19, 2017, 3:09 am

LOS ANGELES – Three of the four U.S. Amateur semifinalists are standout college players and known commodities in the amateur golf community.

And then there’s Mark Lawrence Jr.

He’s No. 386 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. He’s a dominant player in his home state of Virginia but a mystery to the rest of the country. This isn’t just his first U.S. Amateur appearance. It’s his first USGA appearance, period. He didn’t play the U.S. Junior. Or the now-defunct Public Links. Or the Four-Ball. Or the Open. Nothing.

Not even his fellow competitors knew anything about him.

“Before this tournament? No,” said his quarterfinal opponent, Dawson Armstrong.

But that all changed Friday, when Lawrence moved two steps away from the U.S. Amateur title with a 3-and-2 victory over Armstrong, one of the favorites entering the match-play portion at Riviera.

“He’s got a good golf game,” Armstrong said in the locker room afterward. “He’s in the semifinals for a reason.”

Lawrence, a rising junior at Virginia Tech, will face Doc Redman on Saturday, with a likely invitation to the 2018 Masters on the line.

“I’m maybe a little bit surprised,” Lawrence said, “but I’ve been really confident in my golf game. I thought if I could get myself in the right position, I could go pretty far.”

But this far?

Lawrence’s most significant victory to date was the Virginia State Amateur title, which he captured last month, 37 years after his father won. All of his other victories have been regional.


U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos


“But he’s been a great player for a long, long time,” said Virginia Tech coach Jay Hardwick, “so it’s not a surprise to any of us in the state that have seen him play.”

For everyone else, though, this is the first time Lawrence has starred on a big stage.

He attempted to qualify for the U.S. Junior once, but he shot the third-lowest qualifying score in the country and was beat out for the lone spot. He didn’t tee it up in any U.S. Amateur qualifiers, either, because the event always conflicted with the first week of school.

“I haven’t played in a lot of big events,” he said. “It’s really expensive and you have to have a good rank to get in to begin with.”

Unlike many of his peers who travel the world playing in amateur events, Lawrence works full time in the summer at Kinloch Golf Club, about 10 minutes from his parents’ home in Richmond.

Valet attendant, range picker, shuttle driver – Lawrence does it all four days a week, in eight-hour shifts (from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.).

“He doesn’t really get the opportunity to travel much in the summer,” Hardwick said, “but that also makes him hungrier. It can be a catch-22, because if you don’t get to play a lot the pressure isn’t as easy to handle, but he’s always been strong when it comes to that. This plan works for him, and I admire him for that.”

Added Lawrence’s caddie and friend of 13 years, Chris Kapsak: “Mad respect for him. It’s a lot of money to do these types of tournaments, but he said he wanted to give it a try, and he took advantage of the one opportunity and did something like this.”

Lawrence began his college career at Auburn but transferred to Virginia Tech after one disappointing season to be closer to home. Working with assistant coach Brian Sharp, Lawrence overhauled his game, transitioning from a push-draw to a slight fade, a move that has produced more consistent, controlled shots.

Another change was his unique putting method, which combines a mid-length putter, an armbar, a ball position near his back foot and a claw grip. Yeah, there’s a lot going on.

“But it works for him,” Hardwick said. “Putting is the one thing that doesn’t have to be perfect looking. What’s perfect to me is when the ball goes in the hole.”

And it has all week.

Lawrence opened his U.S. Amateur with a 64 at Bel-Air. Even with a 3-over 73 in the second round of qualifying, he earned a high seed in match play.

Jumping out to quick leads each round, Lawrence knocked off 2015 U.S. Amateur runner-up Derek Bard, Tyler Strafaci and Shae Wools-Cobb. His opponent in the quarterfinals was Armstrong, the 2015 Western Amateur champion and one of the Walker Cup bubble boys.

But Lawrence caught a break when Armstrong came down with food poisoning Thursday and spent most of the night in the bathroom. Armstrong’s fever spiked in the afternoon, and he did well just to last until the 16th hole.

“Taking so many pills to stay physically stable, your touch and feel goes away,” Armstrong said afterward. “I tried to stay as mentally sharp as I could, but sooner or later, with those feelings happening, you’ve got to get lucky on a day like this, and I just didn’t have it today, sadly.”

And Lawrence played solidly after a shaky start, winning three holes in a row on the back nine to cruise to a convincing victory.

“With his distance, he’s able to hit softer shots when fuller shots are demanded for the shorter players,” Armstrong said. “He’s able to have more control of his game, and when his putter is rolling like it is this week, he can be pretty dangerous.”

Another stiff challenge awaits, against Redman, a sophomore at Clemson who two weeks ago reached the finals of the Western Amateur.

It’s another match in which Lawrence will be the underdog. Not that he’s paying attention.

“I was about 200 ranking spots behind the other seven guys in the quarterfinals,” he said, “but I still had the mindset that I could compete.

“The way golf is right now, everybody is really good. Everybody can win.”

And that includes No. 386.

Getty Images

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

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 22, 2018, 10:50 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.

Scoring:

TV Times (all times ET):

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

Wednesday
4-8PM: Match-play finals

Getty Images

Fort Worth Invitational: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 22, 2018, 10:30 pm

The PGA Tour makes the short drive from Dallas to Fort Worth and Colonial Country Club. Here are the key stats and information for this week. Click here for full-field tee times.

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 4-7PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 4-7PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.


Purse: $7.1 million

Course: Colonial Country Club (par 70, 7,209 yards)

Defending champion: Kevin Kisner. Last year he defeated Jordan Spieth, Sean O’Hair and Jon Rahm by one stroke


Notables in the field

Jordan Spieth

• Finished T-2, 1st and T-2 in last three starts in this tournament

• 52 under par at Colonial last five years (best of anyone by 27 strokes in that span)

• 100 birdies/eagles made here last five years (most of anyone in that span)


Rickie Fowler

• First start since missed cut at The Players

• More missed cuts (3) than top-10 finishes (2) in 2018


Jon Rahm at the 2018 WGC-Mexico Championship.

Jon Rahm

• Finished T-2 in this tournament last year (66 in final round)

• 17 top-5 finishes in 46 official worldwide individual starts as professional


Webb Simpson

• First start since Players victory (fifth PGA Tour win)

• Fifth on Tour in strokes gained: putting this season (177th two seasons ago)

Getty Images

Maguire's storied Duke career comes to an end

By Ryan LavnerMay 22, 2018, 8:39 pm

STILLWATER, Okla. – After losing in the quarterfinals here at the NCAA Women’s Championship, Duke coach Dan Brooks gathered his team and walked back toward the 18th hole. He wanted to get away and deliver a parting speech to senior Leona Maguire, one of the most important players in program history.

“I feel like I didn’t say enough, and I feel like I didn’t say it right,” he said afterward. “I guess that’s inevitable when dealing with a player who has meant so much.”

Maguire’s heralded Duke career came to an end Tuesday when she and her teammates dropped their quarterfinal match to Southern Cal, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2. Maguire did her part, winning, 1 up, against USC’s Jennifer Chang, but it still wasn’t enough.

Maguire will go down as one of the best players not just in Duke’s storied history, but all time in college golf. She’s a two-time Player of the Year. She finished with the best scoring average (70.93) in Division I women’s golf history. She had a record 32 competitive rounds in the 60s. She spent 135 weeks at the top of the World Amateur Golf Rankings, another record.

The 23-year-old from Ireland is the rare collegian who turned down guaranteed LPGA status to return to school to earn her degree and try to win a NCAA title with twin sister Lisa, the team’s No. 5 player. Ultimately, they never reached the championship match.

“I wouldn’t change a thing,” she said softly outside the clubhouse. “The experiences, the memories, I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Maguire said that she’s turning pro soon and has a full schedule upcoming. She’ll play the ShopRite LPGA Classic and then try to capitalize on her full status on the developmental Symetra circuit.

Asked about her potential at the next level, Brooks said that Maguire can be a future Hall of Famer.

“She’s the hardest worker and the smartest player I’ve ever coached,” he said. “I’m really going to miss her.”

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 Web.com 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.