Schwab, Pierce back from injury in a big way

By Ryan LavnerMay 30, 2015, 9:18 pm

BRADENTON, Fla. – The week after he accepted the head coaching job at Vanderbilt, Scott Limbaugh cut short his family’s annual summer vacation in Highlands, N.C., and hopped on a plane bound for Austria.

The team’s prized recruit had just lost in the finals of the British Amateur, and Limbaugh desperately needed a face-to-face meeting, to make sure the verbal commitment was still solid.

Limbaugh’s wife, Kate, a former college basketball player, knew the drill, so Scott left behind a dozen relatives, jumped in the car and drove from Cashiers to Atlanta. From there he flew to Amsterdam and then on to Vienna, where he went straight to the course to watch the recruit play in the Austrian Open.

Yep, Matthias Schwab was that important to this emerging program.

“I knew he was a program changer,” Limbaugh said Saturday. “He immediately changes the program the moment he walks on campus.”

But it hasn’t exactly worked out that way, both for Schwab and Vandy. 

Schwab’s impact has come only in spurts – he won his first college tournament in the fall of 2013 and had a few other top 10s, but then his back began to ache. And then it got worse. And then, finally, it got serious, as Limbaugh and Schwab’s parents decided it was in his best interest to shut it down for the rest of the spring season.

“I could have ruined my career,” he said.  

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Turns out Schwab, 20, had two stress fractures in his back (L-4 and L-5 vertebrae), and he wouldn’t play again for the Commodores for another 12 months.

Vanderbilt sorely missed him in the lineup, and without its No. 2 man the ’Dores stumbled on the final day of stroke play at Prairie Dunes and missed the match-play cut.

“You can’t replace guys like that,” Limbaugh said. “He has run the race so many times.”

There were days when Schwab wondered whether his career was over. He didn’t touch a club last fall, and it wasn’t until Brandt Snedeker and Ben Crane recommended a physical therapist named Tom Boers that Schwab felt optimistic.   

He played his first nine holes in December, went home to Austria for the winter break, and returned with a more positive outlook.  

Schwab’s injury necessitated a few changes – standing taller and closer to the ball, to take the strain off his back – but by mid-February he was confident enough to rejoin the lineup. Within six weeks, he’d posted three consecutive top-5s, including a win at the Mason Rudolph. At NCAA regionals earlier this month, he tied for second.

“He’s always solid,” senior Hunter Stewart said. “It’s hard to play poorly when you hit it as solidly as he does.” 

“He believes he belongs,” Limbaugh said. “He gives everybody a sense of confidence because I’ve never seen somebody so in control of their emotions and in control of their golf ball.”

Schwab’s absence helped shape this Vanderbilt team that entered this week’s NCAA Championship as the No. 5 team in the country.

Without their second-best player, the Commodores have relied heavily on Stewart, and the All-American has delivered in a big way. This has been by far the best year of his career – he has top-11s in all 11 starts (including three wins), and he’s a finalist for every national award.

Put them together, and Stewart and Schwab are one of the most feared 1-2 punches in college golf.

Here in the second round of NCAAs, Schwab and Stewart combined to shoot 4 under Saturday to help Vandy rise 14 spots in the standings, to sixth overall.

“You know what you’re getting from those guys,” Limbaugh said.

A stress fracture is a common sports injury, especially for guys who have been going at it as long and hard as some of these elite college players, but nothing was ordinary about how LSU sophomore Brandon Pierce handled the adversity.

Pierce battled all last spring just to crack the Tigers’ lineup, but his season came undone after an event in mid-March.

He doesn’t know what specifically caused his stress fracture – the strain of weightlifting in the fall, or maybe the jolt of hitting a root a few days earlier – but Pierce collapsed to the ground after making a practice swing. He played the last two holes, but knew something was wrong.

Pierce ended up sitting out seven months, until last November.

The 20-year-old is a die-hard Tigers fan, following both his dad and grandfather to Baton Rouge, so he did all he could to help while he was out of action.

“I was like a cheerleader,” he said.

Every day he watched his teammates practice, zipping around in a cart to offer words of encouragement.

Before the team left for an event, he would type out a one-page note to each starter, drive to the university course and stick it in their lockers. He’d be there every time the Tigers returned home too, whether it was 11 p.m. Tuesday or 3 p.m. Sunday.  

On a roster of eight to 10 players, it’s easy for those outside the traveling five to not feel like part of the team. As much as a coach might try to make it inclusive, they are inherently separate, the starters and the bench players.

“Most young men 18-22, they probably don’t have the maturity to handle it and be genuinely pulling for those other guys,” LSU coach Chuck Winstead said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Pierce is back helping his team on the course, and he’s a major reason why the Tigers are even at this week’s NCAAs.

After a runner-up finish during a winter amateur event told him that his body was ready, Pierce has been one of the steadiest contributors for No. 9 LSU, finishing in the top 30 in all seven spring starts. It was his closing 65 at the New Haven regional that helped the Tigers erase an 11-shot, final-round deficit and move inside the top-5 bubble.

And here at Concession, he has continued to roll, sitting only a few shots off the individual lead after back-to-back rounds of 71. As a team, LSU is second among the early starters Saturday, at 5-over 581.

“I’m just really happy to be back with my team,” he said.

With the way Schwab and Pierce are playing, their teammates are happy they’re back, too.

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Storms halt Barbasol before Lincicome tees off

By Associated PressJuly 20, 2018, 11:29 pm

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - Brittany Lincicome will have to wait until the weekend to resume her bid to make the cut in a PGA Tour event.

Overnight storms delayed the start of the second round Friday in the Barbasol Championship, and an afternoon thunderstorm suspended competition for good. The round will resume Saturday morning with much of the field still to play.

The second stoppage at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came 20 minutes before Lincicome's scheduled tee time.

Lincicome was near the bottom of the field after opening with a 6-over 78 on Thursday. The first LPGA player since Michelle Wie in 2008 to start a PGA Tour event, she needs a huge rebound to join Babe Zaharias (1945) as the only female players to make the cut.

Troy Merritt had the clubhouse lead at 15 under, following an opening 62 with a 67.

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Third-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 9:05 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.

Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.

Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.

4:15AM ET: Gavin Green

4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed

4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose

4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley

5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner

5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson

5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)

5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood

5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello

6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford

6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma

6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele

6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood

6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na

6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin

7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim

7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira

7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters

7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li

7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker

7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink

8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook

8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris

8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim

8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari

8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson

8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell

9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka

9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott

9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren

9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone

9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett

10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler

10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell

10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau

10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen

10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele

10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood

11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson

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Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”