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News & Tours

3 of top 4 seeds advance to NCAA semis

By Ryan Herrington

Nobody said trying to win a national title would be easy. Yet for three of the four schools that claimed victories in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championship Friday at Capital City Club's Crabapple Course, the process was more grueling than they had hoped.

"What was that the other day I said about this feeling like I was getting a root canal. You can magnify it now by about 10," joked California coach Steve Desimone after his No. 1-seeded  squad squeaked out as 3-2 victory over No. 8-seed Arizona State. "I don't know if I have any roots left."

Cal quarters triumph.jpeg
Max Homa lifts Cal teammate Brandon Hagy in celebration after Hagy's win gave the Golden Bears a quarterfinal win over Arizona State.
Photo by J.D. Cuban

There was a familiarity between the Pac-12 foes, the two schools having competed against each other in seven tournaments during the 2012-13 season. In that sense, while the underdogs, ASU also knew what to expect from the team that's chasing not just a championship but the label of best college team ever. So it was that the Sun Devils managed to split the first four matches, 2-2.

The deciding point came down to a clash between Cal's Brandon Hagy and Arizona State's Jon Rahm, both of whom had top-10 finishes in the stroke-play competition. Hagy had a 1-up lead against Rahm on the 17th, and nearly closed out the match there before lipping out a four-foot par putt on the hole. On the par-4 18th, however, he hit his approach from 138 years with a gap wedge to three feet then had the putt conceded when Rahm missed a 15-foot birdie effort, ensuring Cal's dream season lived on for at least one more day.

Hagy's shot, however, wasn't the only clutch swing of the afternoon.

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News & Tours

Proposed NCAA format change impacts match play

By Ryan Herrignton

Ollie emotions.jpgMILTON, GA.—Ollie Schniederjans says he usually doesn't get emotional on a golf course. But after securing the third and deciding point to send Georgia Tech to the semifinals of the NCAA Championship Friday afternoon, the sophomore covered his face in a towel for a half a minute, hiding his excitement/relief besides the first green at Capital City Club's Crabapple Course as fans cheering on the host school continued to applaud his triumph.

"The whole Georgia Tech nation is watching a playoff hole to go to the next round, and it's all on me," said Schniederjans, whose match with UNLV's Kevin Penner was decided on the first extra hole after the Georgia Tech golfer hit a clutch approach to two feet and then make the birdie putt. "The whole Georgia Tech nation is on my shoulders. I felt that. It felt awesome to get it done. I care a lot."

Yet a year from now, if a plan recommended by the NCAA men's Division I golf committee and under review later this month by the NCAA Championship/Sports Management Cabinet is approved, the emotionally spent golfer would have to collect his thoughts and return to the course in short order to play with his team in the semifinal round.

The quick turnaround would be the lone hiccup to a well-intended concept to bring back a fourth round of stroke play to crown an individual NCAA champion. Under the proposal, the eight teams advancing to match play would continue to be determined over 54 holes of stroke play. Meanwhile, the top 40 golfer and ties after three rounds would play another 18 holes used exclusively to settle the medalist race. To keep the overall championship at six days (seven counting the practice round) while adding an extra day of stroke play, the proposal calls for the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds of match play to be contested on one day rather than two.

The intent of the change is to restore some of the prestige to the medalist race that many coaches believe has been diminished when match play was added to the championship in 2009 and the individual competition reduced to 54 holes. At last December's GCAA annual convention in Las Vegas, the vast majority of coaches in attendance agreed they were in favor of making the individual competition a 72-hole affair again—something they say would help legitimize the winner in the eyes of the wider golf community.

But at least one coach is questioning whether the extra round of stroke play comes with too big a trade-off.

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News & Tours

Tiger makes cut at Memorial, but 10 behind

By Dave Shedloski

DUBLIN, Ohio - Well, you can't win them all. Even Tiger Woods seems willing to accept that. Which was the news of the day in the second round of the Memorial Tournament.

Tiger.jpgWoods struggled to a 2-over-par 74 Friday morning at Muirfield Village GC, just his ninth score in plus territory in 54 tournament rounds. His two-day total of 1-over 145 was good enough to make his 15th cut in as many appearances at Jack Nicklaus' invitational, but he'll find himself beginning the third round 10 strokes behind Bill Haas, who has never finished better than T-30 at Memorial - unless you count the year as a college student when he caddied for his father, Jay, whose nine top-10s in 29 Memorial starts is a record.

Woods, of course, has eight top-10s here, including his record five wins. He's won four times this year, including favorite haunts Torrey Pines GC and Bay Hill, and is coming off a victory in The Players three weeks ago.

That he is struggling at the Memorial seems like a bit of a head scratcher, given those circumstances.

"I haven't won every tournament I've played in," Woods said.

No, it only seems that way, particularly this year when his victory clip thus far is running better than .500.

The last time Woods shot as high as 74 at Muirfield Village was in the second round of 2009. He then reeled off 69-65 on the weekend to win for the fourth time.

Perhaps the surprise related to Woods' performance thus far is that he's only missed four fairways. Conventional wisdom says that when Woods drives it well, he'll put himself in contention.

Not happening this week.

The culprit is a suddenly cold putter. After 30 whacks Thursday, Woods needed 29 more on Friday, including three at the par-5 15th that resulted in a double-bogey. Woods missed a five-foot par putt on the lightning-fast greens and then came up empty on the eight-foot comeback try.

Normally a brute on par-5s, he's even on them so far.

"Tough conditions out there, and I didn't exactly play my best, either," said the No. 1 player in the world. "It's a little rough out there. It's not that hard to make bogeys and doubles on this golf course."

Though he hasn't often done that, which probably speaks to the current state of his game. But he was not chagrined. "I'm not too disappointed with it," he said. "I'm not that far off. On a golf course like this, with the wind gusts like this, it's tough."

As for his putting, he didn't blame the slick greens, though Jim Furyk, who won the 2002 Memorial, said he'd never seen them faster, and the wind was making them even more devious.

"It was kind of a mental thing I was struggling with out there," he said.

Hmmmm. That's news too.

(Getty Images photo)

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Gear & Equipment

Jack's latest: Nicklaus Signature Eyewear

By John Strege

Jack Nicklaus is more than just a winner of 18 major championships and the unofficial reigning greatest player in history. He also is a conglomerate.

There is Golden Bear Lemonade, Nicklaus Travel, Jack Nicklaus Wines, Jack Nicklaus Signature Collection golf shoes, Jack Nicklaus Pens, Jack Nicklaus Apparel, Jack Nicklaus Art & Memorabilia, Golden Bear Realty and Nicklaus Golf Academies, among other products and services.

Jack Nicklaus Signature.jpg

His latest venture is Jack Nicklaus Signature Eyewear and Golden Bear Sunglasses. Nicklaus has licensed PeakVision, with its golf-sunglass technology, to design and promote the products. There is a philanthropic angle to this venture, too; a portion of the proceeds will benefit the Nicklaus Children's Health Care Foundation.

There are six models in both the Signature and the Golden Bear collections. They went on sale this week at the Memorial Tournament that Nicklaus hosts at his Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio. Prescription models also will be available.

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News & Tours

The Most Interesting U.S. Open Long Shots

blog-qualifying-sectionals.jpgBy Brendan Mohler

Monday, June 3, is a big day in the life of hundreds of golfers who will tee it up in U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying. While many of those trying to qualify are former PGA Tour cardholders whose Open exemptions have run out, many of the contestants are better characterized by what they've experienced off the course.

With help from the USGA, we've gone through the fields at the 11 sectional qualifying sites and pinpointed some players (and their qualifying sites) with off the course stories worth noting. 

Andy Aduddell, 38, of Avondale, Arizona, enlisted in the Air Force after September 11th and became a F-16 fighter pilot. He teaches the 56th Training Squadron at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale. (Lakewood CC, Dallas.)

Austin Grey, 25, of Spring Hill, Florida became a member of the U.S. Marine Corps after high school and served for five years. He was eventually named corporal and deployed to Kuwait in 2008.  (Ritz-Carlton Members Club, Brandenton, Fla.)

Christian Heavens of Fairview, Illinois, is the nephew of Notre Dame's fifth all-time leading rusher, Jerome Heavens, who was drafted in 1979 by the Chicago Bears. (Springfield CC, Springfield, Ohio)

Mike Ignasiak, 47, of Saline, Michigan, was a relief pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers in the 90s and his brother, Gary, pitched for the Tigers. (Brookside G&CC and The Lakes G&CC, Columbus, Ohio)

Michael Muehr, 41, of Potomac Falls, Virginia, is a former PGA Tour player who, after being diagnosed with a cancerous tumor on his Achilles in 2002, founded Golf Pros Beating Cancer, an organization that raises money for Melanoma research. (Woodmont CC, Rockville, Md.)

Timothy O'Neal of Savannah, Georgia, won a PGA Tour Latinoamerica event in May and at one point in his career, was financed by various celebrities including Will Smith. (Woodmont CC)

Brinson Paolini of Virginia Beach is an All-American at Duke and was named the 2013 recipient of the Byron Nelson Award for combining excellence with character and integrity. Before graduating in May, Paolini volunteered at the Durham Soup Kitchen in his free time. (Woodmont CC)

Justin Reiger of East Amherst, N.Y. is the son of Darcy Reiger, who was a defenseman in the NHL and now is the general manager of the Buffalo Sabres. (Old Oaks CC & Century CC, Purchase, N.Y.)

Brad Schneider of Valrico, Florida is a member of the UCF golf team and received the David Toms Award in 2012, given to a player who overcomes adversity to achieve excellence. Schneider broke his leg while playing football with his friends, and had to relearn how to walk after nine surgeries kept him in bed for four months. (Ritz-Carlton Members Club)

John Wright, 49, of Gulf Shores, Alabama plays speed golf at least once a week, during which he carries four clubs and can play nine holes in under 28 minutes. It takes him an average of 65 minutes to play 18, and he shoots around 76. (Ritz-Carlton Members Club)

John Urquhart of Glendale, Arizona was diagnosed in 2006 with an autoimmune disease known as IgA nephropathy. After two and a half years of dialysis, he finally received a kidney transplant. John is also a 15-year member of a country music band. (Big Canyon CC & Newport Beach CC, Newport Beach, Calif.)

(Getty Images photo)

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Health & Fitness

Fitness Friday: How to avoid lower-back pain

fitness-friday-rickie-fowler.jpgBy Ron Kaspriske

Rickie Fowler is 24 years old, has the flexibility of a rubber band and the hand-eye coordination of a world-class juggler. He also has lower-back pain. Hard to believe someone Fowler's age, with his athletic prowess, could suffer from an ailment that is common for golfers north of 50, but it's true. Some trainers speculate that this issue might be with him his entire career and could keep him from playing a full schedule of events in years to come.

How did Fowler get in this predicament? It's hard to know exactly, though most golfers who suffer from lower-back pain (the lumbar spine region) either swing the golf club in an unusual or awkward manner, or a lack of mobility in the hips and mid-back (thoracic spine region).

Golf Digest fitness advisor Ben Shear (@Ben_Shear), who trains several players on the PGA Tour, says improving mid-back mobility can alleviate any unnecessary torque on the lower back. Same goes for improving hip mobility. When you're in the gym, focus on exercises that improve the range of motion you have in both the mid-back and the hips and you'll help protect yourself against lower-back pain. For the mid-back, something as simple as sitting in a chair with good posture and rotating your trunk in each direction will help. Remember to keep the hips and lower body still. To help your hips, skipping the elevator and taking the stairs will do wonders as will exercises such as lateral squats/lunges and clamshells.

"The lumbar spine does have some ability to rotate," Shear says. "But not nearly as much as the mid-back. That's why it's important to work on mid-back mobility exercises. You ought to be able to rotate your upper body back and forth with minimal rotation of the lumbar spine."

Fowler says he's working hard to correct his issues.

Hear more from him on the subject and how he's trying to fix his problems.

Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor for Golf Digest.

(Photo by Donald Miralle )
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News & Tours

Match-play berths decided amid controversy

By Ryan Herrington

Survive and advance is the mantra for the remaining eight schools as the match-play portion of the NCAA Championship gets underway Friday at Capital City Club's Crabapple Course. As it turns out, the strategy also ruled the day during Thursday's final round of stroke play as the field of 30 teams jockeyed for places among the "Elite Eight."

California, trying to cap a storybook season in which it has already won 11 of 13 tournaments, secured the top seed, led by NCAA medalist Max Homa. Still, it was the race for the last few spots that showcased the most drama.

After 54 holes, four schools—UNLV, New Mexico, Arizona State and Texas A&M—were all tied for sixth place with two-over 842 scores. A playoff ensued to eliminate one team, the Aggies winding up the odd-men out when they shot one over par while the other three teams each posted even-par scores.

That A&M was even in the playoff, however, was a point of controversy as the team thought it had finished at one-over when sophomore Tyler Dunlap made an all-world 40-foot putt for par on his final hole, resulting in a celebratory cheer heard around the course. Yet Dunlap's group, which included Arizona State's John Rahm and UCF's Greg Eason, had missed their times at two pace-of-play checkpoints during the round. Rules officials summoned the trio to the clubhouse to discuss what happened during the round, eventually deciding to give Dunlap and Eason one-stroke penalties for slow play.

Rahm, however, did not receive a penalty, allowing the Sun Devils to remain at two over as keep their spot in the playoff. According to NCAA men's Division I golf committee chairman Mike Carter, the reason only two of the players were assessed penalties was because officials following the group for its last 11 holes deemed Rahm had been making a concerted effort to speed up the group and get it back into position.

Texas A&M coach J.T. Higgins was understandably frustrated with the outcome. "That was the most exciting round of golf I’ve ever been a part of,” Higgins said. “Our guys fought so hard, they gave us everything they had and never quit. They earned it, I’ll go to my grave believing that they should be playing tomorrow in the elite eight."

"I feel horrible that was the consequence, but it doesn't effect the decision," Carter said regarding how the penalty stroke sent Texas A&M from getting a berth outright to match play into a playoff for one of the last spots that it ultimately lost.

When the playoff ended, the seeds shook out as follows:

No. 1 California vs. No. 8 Arizona State
No. 2 Georgia Tech vs. No. 7 UNLV
No. 3 Alabama vs. No. 6 New Mexico
No. 4 Texas vs. No. 5 Illinois

The Bears shot a five-under 275 on Thursday to pass second-round leader Georgia Tech and finish with a 16-under 824 total, six strokes better than the Yellow Jackets, who shot a two-over 282.

"I just couldn't be more proud of this group," said Cal coach Steve Desimone. "It's just pretty overwhelming in all honesty, and I know that emotion can only last for a little while because we have got to regroup for tomorrow. But right now we're going to enjoy this for at least a couple hours and then we have to get back to work."

Given the Bears' dominant run this season, avoiding the boys from Berkeley early in the match-play bracket was the preference for the schools that did advance, particularly Alabama, the No. 2 ranked team in the country at year's end. While the Crimson Tide finished tied for third with the Longhorns, the defending NCAA champions who beat 'Bama in the 2012 final, at seven-under 833, Alabama won a tie breaker to get the No. 3 seed and thus avoiding Cal until the championship match if both teams advance that far.

"I just told our guys that they are now in the national tournament, and I congratulated them," Alabama coach Jay Seawell said. "We played really well. … The last few holes are hard. I'd have liked to have seen us finish a little better, but that's all right. That's golf. We have a tee time tomorrow, so we look forward to that opportunity."



No. 1 California vs. No. 8 Arizona State
10 a.m.—Michael Weaver vs. Austin Quick
10:09—Joel Stalter vs. Max Rottluff
10:18—Max Homa vs. Trey Ka'ahanui
10:27—Michael Kim vs. Spencer Lawson
10:36—Brandon Hagy vs. Jon Rahm

No. 4 Texas vs. No. 5 Illinois
10:45—Julio Vargas vs. Thomas Detry
10:54—Toni Hakula vs. Charlie Danielson
11:03—Brandon Stone vs. Thomas Pieters
11:12—Kramer Hickok vs. Brian Campbell
11:21—Cody Gribble vs. Alex Burge

No. 2 Georgia Tech vs. No. 7 UNLV
11:30—Seth Reeves vs. Carl Jonson
11:39—Shun Yat Hak vs. A.J. McInerney
11:48—Bo Andrews vs. Nicholas Maruri
11:57—Ollie Schniederjans vs. Kevin Penner
12:06 p.m.—Anders Albertson vs. Kurt Kitayama

No. 3 Alabama vs. No. 6 New Mexico
12:15—Bobby Wyatt vs. Victor Perez
12:24—Trey Mullinax vs. Gavin Green
12:33—Scott Strohmeyer vs. Benjamin Bauch
12:42—Cory Whitsett vs. John Catlin
12:51—Justin Thomas vs. James Erkenbeck
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News & Tours

Cal's Homa claims NCAA individual title

By Ryan Herrington

Considering he attends an esteemed institute of higher learning in the University of California at Berkeley, you'd think senior Max Homa would be able to do the math. A 61, in golf terms at least, beats a 66.

Homa NCAA.jpegBut when the 66 comes in the final round of the NCAA Championship, securing the individual title and his squad's place as the No. 1 seed entering the match-play portion of the tournament, well perhaps we'll forgive the 22-year-old senior from Valencia, Calif., for adding some intangibles in the equation. A month after shooting an opening-round 61 en route to winning the Pac-12 title, Homa has a new favorite performance.

"I'm as excited as I can be. This is the biggest accomplishment of my life," Homa said. "Obviously the team [championship] would be much better, but right now it feels really, really good."

Homa's bogey-free performance at Capital City Club's Crabapple Course Thursday afternoon gave him a nine-under 201 total, three strokes better than half-dozen players, and made him the first Golden Bear to claim medalist honors at the national championship.

He did it to under some duress. His threesome twice missed their times at pace-of-play checkpoints on the front nine, leaving them susceptible to a potential slow-play penalty, a similar situation that Homa found himself in during the second round.
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News & Tours

Tiger outplayed by friend, playing partner Couples

By Dave Shedloski

DUBLIN, Ohio -- Tiger Woods has never won the Memorial Tournament without breaking par in the opening round. So to shoot a 1-under-par 71 Thursday at Muirfield Village GC would perhaps be the silver lining in a relatively frustrating day.

Related: Why Woods isn't looking past the Memorial

That he needed 30 putts spoiled a decent ball-striking round and got beat by playing partner Fred Couples, the 52-year-old Champions Tour player and U.S. Presidents Cup captain, certainly didn't make him happy, though he was able to joke about it at the end of a long, hot, windy afternoon.


"Yeah, he kicked my ass," Woods said of Couples, grinning.

"Can we say that word?" Couples said when the comment was relayed.

Well, if it fits.

Couples, who won the Memorial in 1998, snuck in a 15-foot par putt on the last to salvage a 2-under 70, while Woods bogeyed the final hole. A five-time winner of the Memorial, including last year, Woods seemed stuck in neutral throughout the day, mostly because the putter that has helped him to four PGA Tour wins already this year wasn't cooperating.

Related: Sergio adds his name to the list of regrettable interviews

"I didn't score very well to how I hit it," Woods said, figuring he should have been at least a few strokes better. "I just didn't make anything today. I thought I hit good putts. I misread a couple pretty badly. The one on 18, I thought it was going to go left and the end and ended up going right. That was not very good."

But playing alongside Couples, who has become a good friend, and Keegan Bradley was a bright spot. "We had a good time. It had its moments."

Perhaps most of those moments belonged to Couples, who had wanted to play with the No. 1 player in the world.

"I won't lie to you, I asked to see if I could get paired [with Woods]; it probably might be my last time playing with Tiger," said Couples, who withdrew from last week's Senior PGA Championship because his bad back flared up. "Maybe at Augusta I might get paired with him. If he can be leading after two rounds again, maybe I'll get a shot at him. So I was blessed to play with him. And my goal when I play with him always is to try to hit it solid and stay out of his way. And today was a good one. I did beat him."

Related: Tiger's on-course "bromances"

Couples also played with Woods in the first two rounds last year. Woods went on to win the tournament.

Woods, who begins the second round on the 10th tee at 8:26 a.m. Friday, trails Masters champion Charl Schwartzel by six strokes after Schwartzel converted nine birdies in a 65. Scott Piercy was next at 66.

Fourteen-year-old amateur Guan Tianlang bogeyed two of his final three holes for a 72, but that was far better than No. 2 Rory McIlroy, who struggled to a 78.

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News & Tours

UNLV, New Mexico wait and hope

By Ryan Herrington

The waiting game begins for UNLV and New Mexico, the two teams having wrapped up their third rounds of the NCAA Championship this morning at Capital City Club's Crabapple Course at two-over 842 for the tournament. Both are hoping their 54-hole score will be good enough to sneak inside the top eight and earn a berth into match play by day's end.

The Rebels shot a eight-under 272 Thursday, with senior Kevin Penner posting his third straight under-par round with a two-under 68. Penner finished the 54 holes at six-under 204, giving him a chance at the individual title as well as the afternoon wave begins play.

But the shot that UNLV fans will be remembering should the team advance is the eagle 2 from Kurt Kitayama on the 523-yard, par-4 ninth hole, his last of the day. Kitayama's approach his the flag stick and fell in the hole to give him a 67 for the day.

"I think today we just said heck, let's go play," said UNLV coach Dwayne Knight. "It's going to be a long afternoon, but I'm glad we've put ourselves in this position."

New Mexico, a dark-horse pick at the start of the week after winning five times during the 2012-13 season, including the Columbus Regional, shot its second straight under-par round (four-under 276). Sophomore Gavin Green posted a 66 to lead the charge. The Lobos put themselves in a tough spot after shooting an opening-round 12-over 292 that left them tied for 27th after 18 holes.


Along with Penner in the clubhouse at six-under 204 after the morning wave was Auburn's Dominic Bozzelli. The senior from Pittsford, N.Y., closed with a bogey-free 66 in his final college round playing in the same threesome with Penner.

"Coming into the day I was just trying to shoot a good round for my team," Bozzelli said. "We knew we needed birdies today."

Bozzelli started on the 10th hole and felt that playing the back nine first helped him as he tried to post a number for the afternoon wave can chase.

"There are a lot of guys that still have to play this afternoon," Bozzelli said. "We'll see what happens."
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