It wasn't the final round that rising UCLA sophomore Philip Francis was dreaming of to close the PGA Tour's John Deere Classic Sunday: a four-over 75 at TPC Deere Run in Silvas, Ill., left him at seven-under 277 for the tournament, dropping him from 11th to T-34. Still, my colleague John Antonini informed me that it was the third best finish of any of the 29 amateurs competing in PGA Tour events this year. Plus, the Bruin outpaced Jamie Lovemark, his crosstown rival from USC who finished T-74.
More importantly for UCLA fans looking for a repeat at next year's NCAA Championship was word from Francis that he will be returning to Westwood this September. The rumor mill has been cranking all summer that the 19-year-old AJGA standout was thinking of transferring to Arizona State, staying closer to his Scottsdale, Ariz., home.
"It's just talk," Francis told my colleague, Mike Johnson, this past weekend. "I've heard that too. I love UCLA. Me and coach [Derek Freeman] get along real well, and the team is awesome. We just won an NCAA Championship, so that's just talk."
Click here to link to photos of Francis and teammates being welcomed at the White House after winning their title.
Francis admitted to me at the NCAA Championship that it wasn't the easiest year for him as he made the transition from home-schooled high schooler to first-year college student on a large campus. At nationals in May, however, he seemed happy and sounded humbled, the 2006 U.S. Junior champion having learned that things aren't always going to come easy. Good to hear that rather than cut and run, Francis is going to stick around.