NCAA alters national championship schedule for BYU women

By Ryan LavnerMay 11, 2016, 1:21 pm

The cheers in Baton Rouge, La., reverberated through NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis.

Last Saturday, when BYU’s women’s team clinched a spot in next week’s national championship, it created a series of obstacles for the NCAA.

As a Mormon-run school, BYU prohibits Sunday play for all of its sports teams. Problem is, the third round of stroke-play qualifying at Eugene Country Club is scheduled for Sunday, May 22.

The NCAA must provide an accommodation for any school that cannot compete on a particular day for a religious reason, and so they announced this week a revised, and unprecedented, schedule of events for the NCAA Women’s Championship:

Instead of playing its third round on Sunday, BYU will now compete on Thursday (May 19), which is the lone practice-round day for the 24-team field.

The practice round is a 9:30 a.m. shotgun start, with BYU scheduled to begin its preparations on the 14th hole. Once all teams complete their practice round, BYU will have 30 minutes before the start of its first round of play (which is technically Round 3, played to Sunday hole locations). All five Cougars players will be sent off individually, at seven-minute intervals, alongside a walking scorer and a rules official who will serve as a marker.

Most interesting, however, is that the other coaches and players will be allowed to watch BYU compete from outside the ropes. In fact, they’d be wise to do so – they’re getting a sneak peek at the hole locations for Sunday’s round.

“It’s definitely going to be unique,” BYU coach Carrie Roberts said by phone, “and hopefully we give them a good show.”

The BYU situation has created a stir in the college golf community. Not all 24 teams are competing on a level playing field, and so it’s possible, maybe even likely, that the conditions BYU plays in Thursday will be different than what the rest of the field faces on Sunday when the Cougars are back at the team hotel.

“We’ve never been in this situation before, so we don’t know if it’s going to be good or not,” Roberts said. “The talk is about if it’s an advantage for us, but what if it isn’t? If it’s a disadvantage for us, nobody says a thing. But if it’s an advantage, it’s a huge topic.

“That’s something out of our control. We don’t want an unfair advantage. We don’t want the weather to be good one day and to be bad on Sunday. That’s the last thing we’d want. Hopefully it’s the same for everybody.”

BYU must be among the top 15 teams after 54 holes to advance to Monday’s final round of stroke-play qualifying, which will determine the eight-team match-play bracket.

Of course, this scenario was bound to arise eventually: BYU’s golf programs have combined to compete in more than 35 NCAAs, and last year both the men’s and women’s competitions switched to a Friday-Wednesday championship format on the same venue.

What’s unfortunate is that the fair-play controversy threatens to overshadow what has been a resurgent season for the 26th-ranked Cougars, who won a school-record five events, including their first West Coast Conference title.

At the Baton Rouge regional, BYU was in line for the sixth and final qualifying spot before playing the short 15th hole in 6 over par. With three holes to play, the Cougars dropped behind Houston, which had already posted a three-round total of 21-over 885.

Then BYU’s Rose Huang shook off a triple bogey on 15 and recorded three consecutive pars to close. So did Alex White. Kendra Dalton added a birdie on the last. All of a sudden, they had tied Houston, with one group left on the course.

And so BYU’s postseason hopes came down to the team’s best player, senior Lea Garner, who was reeling after three straight bogeys on Nos. 15-17. After a perfect drive on 18, Garner stuck a 6-iron from 145 yards to about 8 feet.

“You know how sometimes you’re lined up perfectly and if you make a good stroke it’s going to go in?” Garner asked Roberts later. “That’s what it felt like.”

Garner, who tied for fourth individually, poured in the birdie putt to edge Houston by one and send the Cougars to their first NCAA finals since the 2006-07 season.

“College golf is the ultimate team sport, and everybody has to contribute,” Roberts said. “You can’t have a LeBron James that kind of carries you. You all have to have five No. 1s to compete, and everybody did their job.”

Whether the Cougars can extend their postseason will come down to their play, certainly, but also the luck of the draw.

“We’re just grateful,” Roberts said, “that the NCAA is going to accommodate us and give us a chance.” 

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Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”