NCAA women's Championship: The course is winning

By Ryan LavnerMay 25, 2015, 2:15 am

BRADENTON, Fla. – The numbers are jarring.

The 54-hole cut at this women’s NCAA Championship will fall somewhere around 65 over par. No player is in red numbers. The scoring average for the 24-team field is 78.47. There has been one round in the 60s – and seven in the 90s.

No wonder this place is nicknamed Concussion.

Look, it’s no surprise that players and coaches have voiced their displeasure about the penal setup. But it’s the volume of the complaints that has everyone's attention.

So what happened? How did this championship at least temporarily spiral out of control?

There are a few explanations, which is why Jerry Lemieux, director of rules for the women’s NCAA Championship and the man responsible for the course setup at Concession Golf Club, is taking a seat in a chair outside the extravagant clubhouse here.

He begins by saying that he’s made a few mistakes, that maybe he should have eased into the week, that maybe he should have ramped up the intensity with each passing round, instead of dialing it back after the big scores and the bellyaching.

“But we looked at this thing on the scorecard,” he says, “and playing it at 6,400 yards in firm and fast conditions didn’t scare us."

It does now. Through the first two rounds, 17 of the 24 teams posted their worst 18-hole score of the season.

USC, Duke lead women's NCAAs

Scores: Women's NCAA Championship team | Individual

Playing bad golf is frustrating, and the annoyance is only amplified when the heat index creeps over 100 degrees and the wind blows and the pressure mounts and the nerves start and the expectation rises and the crowd swells and the cameras power on.

“And once it starts,” Lemieux says of the criticism, “it can breed a slippery slope as a player and that can be their get-out-of-jail-free card.

“The coaches that you see with their teams with a positive attitude, who know that this is a week of survival, who have prepared their players for this and held their chins up, those are the teams we’ll see in match play.”

It’s a delicate balance: A setup that is too easy doesn’t separate the field, while one that is too difficult tends to cause turmoil.

But there’s also an underlying issue at work here.

Women’s college golf hasn’t been on national television in years, and everyone hopes to make a good impression when the cameras start rolling for real Monday afternoon. That’s problematic now, Washington coach Mary Lou Mulflur says, because “people will see teams 40 over par in the mix, and it doesn’t make us look very good.”

No one wants to see these elite players get embarrassed. 

“This setup is the most difficult I’ve been on,” Alabama coach Mic Potter added. “And I don’t think that’s a bad thing, as long as it doesn’t hurt the perception of our sport.”

It's important to note that Lemieux had a few disadvantages this year.

Concession is a relative newcomer, having opened in 2006, and there have been no significant women’s events held here. Officials at host sites the past three years relied on ample data for how the course played for a women’s event. Not so here. All Lemieux had to work with were discussions with the club, chats with a few LPGA players who are members here, and then visits to the course last September and then again a week ago.

Another factor: Players and coaches always had two practice rounds in the lead-up to the championship. But with the women’s move to match play, visiting teams weren’t allowed to see the course until Thursday morning, the lone practice round. To adequately prepare for this championship – and specifically the severity of these green complexes, which are 9,000 square feet but with only about 500 square feet of usable targets – they needed more than a six-hour tour with their teammates.

“’Brutal’ is probably a good word for it,” Washington’s Charlotte Thomas (+6, T-11) said. “Bogey is not a bad score, and that’s a scary thing.” 

All of that said, let's face it: Concession is playing as expected. The course rating is 78.1, and members joke that it’s really a par 80. The scoring average for the first two rounds: 78.35 and 79.21, respectively.

“That’s what we signed up for with this golf course,” Lemieux said. “We signed up to play a very hard course.”

Have there been a few surprises? Sure.

All four par 3s are longer than 160 yards, but the greens haven’t been as receptive to shots with long irons or hybrids.

The par-4 16th is one of the course’s signature holes, but over the first two rounds the players shied away from the water on the left and bailed out, leaving 200-plus yards into a treacherous green.

And instead of playing to conservative quadrants, dozens of players have been seen pinballing their shots across the green.

As Arizona coach Laura Ianoella said: “You never feel safe out here.”

“If you are not on your game,” Lemieux said, “mentally as well as physically and you make a mistake, it will bite you in the ass.”

The South Carolina men’s team arrived at Concession on Sunday, and expect plenty more to take in the final few days of the women’s championship.

Seems everyone is spooked by the high scores.

“There’s no pride of authorship in this,” Lemieux said. “I signed my name to this at the end of the day. If the coaches are having a problem with this, then we’ll continue to try to make it better.”

Yet the goal of any setup specialist – whether it’s Lemieux, the USGA’s Mike Davis or the PGA’s Kerry Haigh – is to identity the best teams and players.

And, well, look at the leaderboard here: USC and Duke, the two best teams in the country, are positioned 1-2 with a few holes left in their third rounds, at 28 and 31 over, respectively. The individual standings show Alabama's Emma Talley, a player with major-championship experience, leading 2013 NCAA champion Annie Park of USC and No. 1-ranked Leona Maguire of Duke. 

“I don’t see tremendous flukes,” Potter said.

Lemieux told every coach at the start of the week that though this is a difficult golf course, they are grading on a curve. It doesn’t matter whether they’re 33 over or 33 under – the eight teams that advance get A's. And then it's on to match play, a format that perfectly suits this ruthless track.

“We’ll give the trophy to five women who will be really happy,” he said, “and it’ll be like a badge of honor – we won it at Concession.”

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Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 21, 2018, 2:15 pm

Tiger Woods, in search of his 15th career major championship title, started the weekend six off the lead at Carnoustie. We're tracking him in Round 3 of The Open.

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Rose's Saturday 64 matches Carnoustie Open record

By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 1:03 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Justin Rose needed to sink a 14-foot putt on the final hole Friday just to make the cut on the number at The Open.

Freewheeling when he came to the course Saturday, Rose tied the lowest score ever recorded in an Open at Carnoustie.

Entering the weekend nine shots off the lead, the world No. 3 carded a bogey-free, 7-under 64 to at least make things interesting. It won’t be known for several hours how many shots Rose will be behind, but his back-nine 30 gives him an opportunity, if the wind blows 25 mph Sunday as forecast, to challenge the leaders.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

After all, Paul Lawrie was 10 shots back entering the final round here in 1999.

“I think the birdie on 18 last night freed me up, and I’m just very happy to be out on this golf course and not down the road somewhere else this morning,” said Rose, who is at 4-under 209. “So that might have been part of the shift in mindset today. I had nothing to lose from that point of view.”

Rose’s 64 matched Steve Stricker and Richard Green’s record score at Carnoustie (2007).

It also was Rose’s career-low round in a major.

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Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 12:20 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:

Saturday, Day 3 (Times ET)

4:30-7AM (Watch): Sunny skies and birdies were on the menu early in Round 3, as Justin Rose made his way around Carnoustie in 64 strokes. Click here or on the image below to watch.

Friday, Day 2 (Times ET)

8:20AM-3PM (Watch): As the skies cleared on Friday afternoon, defending champion Jordan Spieth made a run to try and regain the claret jug. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the marquee group: Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose and Kiradech Aphibarnrat.

1:30-8:20AM (Watch): On a rainy Friday morning at Carnoustie, Rory McIlroy shot 69 to reach 4 under, while Zach Johnson fired a 67 for the early lead. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the marquee group: Brooks Koepka, Ian Poulter and Cameron Smith.

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 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 marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.

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How to watch The Open on TV and online

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 8:30 am

You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.

Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie

In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on  

Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:

(All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; or check the GLE app)

Monday, July 16

GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (

GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (

GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (

Tuesday, July 17

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (

Wednesday, July 18

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (

Thursday, July 19

GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (

GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM ( Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (

Friday, July 20

GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM ( Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (

Saturday, July 21

GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (

NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (

Sunday, July 22

GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (

NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM ( Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM ( Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM ( Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (