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Three tied for lead after Round 1 of Kia Classic

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Cristie Kerr, Mo Martin and In Gee Chun are tied atop the leaderboard at 6 under after the first round of the Kia Classic in Carlsbad, Calif.

Kerr birdied her final two holes of the day to shoot 66, making seven total on the day with one bogey at the par-4 second hole. Martin had a bogey-free round with six birdies.

“I had a ton of really good shots today, which I had been doing pretty much for the last year,” Martin told lpga.com. “Just had a really good putting day. I’ve been waiting for a good putting week and I had a good putting day today. It was great.”

The trio is two shots ahead from a crowded group at 4 under which includes Moriya Jutinugarn, Hyo Joo Kim, Marissa Steen, Alison Lee, Karine Icher and Mirim Lee.

Defending champ Lydia Ko was T-81 after shooting 2-over 74.

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WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Day 3 recaps

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The final of three days of round-robin group at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play is underway at Austin (Texas) Country Club.

If you wish to keep track of the matches live, go right here. Below are recaps for each match from Day 3 in Texas. (We’ll update this page as these matches finish up.)

• • •

Group 11

Danny Willett (1-2) def. Russell Knox (1-2), 4 and 2

A tough three days for the defending Masters champion, but this at least gives him some good mojo going into Augusta. Willett never trailed in this match, and was 3 up by 14 tee. He conceded the 14th, but then he birdied 15 and 16 to win those holes and the match.

Bill Haas (2-1) def. K.T. Kim (2-1), 4 and 2

Haas needed a win to stay alive, and he got it. Another match where the eventual winner never trailed. After Kim squared the match with a birdie win on No. 6, Haas captured Nos. 8, 12 and 13 to take a 3-up lead. A birdie at 16 sealed the deal. The winner of this group is not clear yet, though, as Haas and Kim will go to a sudden-death playoff later Friday to decide who goes to the Round of 16.

Group 14

Phil Mickelson (3-0) def. J.B. Holmes (0-2-1), 6 and 5

Lefty can’t be stopped. After resounding victories on the first two days, Mickelson actually had his most dominant performance yet on Friday. A bogey-free glide for Mickelson, as he has yet to reach even the 16th hole this week. Mickelson cruises into the Round of 16.

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Haskins Award Watch List: March 23, 2017

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What a battle this is shaping up to be!

LSU sophomore Sam Burns and Oregon senior Wyndham Clark are neck and neck in the race for the 2017 Fred Haskins Award presented by Stifel. Burns may have the slight edge now, but there is still plenty of time for Clark – or someone else, for that matter – to make a run.

Remember coaches, players and media members can vote for the award. Voting begins on May 18, right after the conclusion of the NCAA regionals.

The Haskins Award is given annually to the best college player, as voted by players, coaches and media. Haskins Award winners over the years include such notable future professionals as Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Luke Donald, Graeme McDowell and Hunter Mahan.

Texas’ Beau Hossler won the 2016 Haskins Award, beating out Arizona State’s Jon Rahm and Stanford’s Maverick McNealy, the 2015 Haskins winner.

Here are my current top candidates for the 2017 Haskins Award:

• • •

1. Sam Burns

  • Year: Sophomore
  • School: LSU
  • Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking: 2
  • Results: Won, Louisiana Classics; Won, Western Refining College All-America Classic; T-1, David Toms Intercollegiate; second, The Prestige at PGA West; second, Ka’anapali Collegiate Classic; T-4, Valspar Collegiate; T-6, Carpet Capital Collegiate; eighth, Maui Jim Intercollegiate; T-9, Golf Club of Georgia Collegiate; T-9, General Hackler Championship
  • Scoring average: 69.41
  • The buzz: Burns may be second in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings, but he does have one more individual title and 21 more head-to-head wins against the top 50 than Clark does. Yes, Burns has played three more stroke-play events than Clark, but that actually helps him at this point, in my opinion, because he can claim he still hasn’t finished worse than T-9 in any of those events. Ten top 9s, including three winds and two runner-up finishes, is pretty impressive and definitely Haskins worthy. Plus, Burns has played the 73rd toughest schedule in the country compared to Clark’s 114th toughest. LSU has one more event left before the SEC Championship, so Burns could have as many as four more opportunities to pad his Haskins resume.

• • •

2. Wyndham Clark

  • Year: Senior
  • School: Oregon
  • Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking: 1
  • Results: Won, Arizona Intercollegiate; T-1, Wyoming Desert Intercollegiate; second, Nike Golf Collegiate Invitational; T-2, Bandon Dunes Championship; T-3, Paintbrush Intercollegiate; T-6, East Lake Cup (stroke play); T-10, Amer Ari Invitational; 2-0 in East Lake Cup match play
  • Scoring average: 69.16
  • The buzz: Clark is second on the list, but not by much. Like Burns, he hasn’t finished outside of the top 10 in any stroke-play events. He has lost to just 18 players all season, which leads the country among players who have played at least seven events, like Clark. His strength of schedule hurts him a tad, but Clark has plenty of time to win the Haskins – Oregon has three more tournaments before the Pac-12 Championship, including a home event, so that means potentially six more starts for Clark.

• • •

3. Collin Morikawa

  • Year: Sophomore
  • School: California
  • Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking: 6
  • Results: Won, ASU Thunderbird Invitational; T-1, Southern Highlands Collegiate; third, Alister Mackenzie Invitational; T-3, John Burns Intercollegiate; T-7, Querencia Cabo Collegiate; T-5 Gopher Invitational; T-9, Maui Jim Invitational; T-20, Arizona Intercollegiate
  • Scoring average: 69.33
  • The buzz: Two straight victories have rocketed Morikawa up this list. He has seven top 10s in eight starts and his 69.33 scoring average is impressive. Morikawa is 22-9-1 against the nation’s top 25, which helps him considering his strength-of-schedule rank is 137th. One thing that will hurt Morikawa, though, is that Cal is well below the .500 mark (54-74-2) and likely won’t qualify for a regional bid. So that means Morikawa has two more starts left this season, unless he qualifies for regionals and nationals as an individual, which is very possible.

• • •

4. Will Zalatoris

  • Year: Junior
  • School: Vanderbilt
  • Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking: 4
  • Results: Won, General Hackler Championship; T-2, Valspar Collegiate; T-2, Rod Myers Invitational; seventh, Nike Golf Collegiate; T-7, Querencia Cabo Collegiate; T-12, SunTrust Gator Invitational; T-24, Golf Club of Georgia Collegiate
  • Scoring average: 70.1
  • The buzz: Zalatoris made a big jump thanks to his victory at the General Hackler Championship and T-2 performance at the Valspar Collegiate. The T-24 at GC of Georgia hurts him slightly, but he has played the 34th toughest schedule in the nation and posted five top 7s, including a win and two seconds. Wake has two regular-season events left before the ACC Championship, so Zalatoris has potentially five more starts coming his way.

 

• • •

5. Maverick McNealy

  • Year: Senior
  • School: Stanford
  • Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking: 3
  • Results: Won, Nike Golf Collegiate Invitational; third, Gifford Collegiate (stroke play); fourth, Amer Ari Invitational; 16th, Southern Highlands Collegiate; T-18, The Prestige at PGA West; T-29, Golf Club of Georgia Collegiate
  • Scoring average: 69.82
  • The buzz: The 2015 Haskins winner has two more regular-season events, the Pac-12 Championships, plus NCAA regional and (potentially) NCAA Championships starts left, so he’s not out of the race just yet. His scoring average is still good and he’s ranked third by Golfweek for a reason. Him playing the 18th toughest schedule helps, as well. He’ll have to win at least two more times, though, to challenge Burns or Clark.

• • •

Next 5

  • Sean Crocker, Jr., USC
  • Matthias Schwab, Sr., Vanderbilt
  • Chandler Phillips, Soph., Texas A&M
  • Rico Hoey, Sr., USC
  • Norman Xiong, Fr., Oregon

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Haskins Award Watch List: March 24, 2017

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What a battle this is shaping up to be!

LSU sophomore Sam Burns and Oregon senior Wyndham Clark are neck and neck in the race for the 2017 Fred Haskins Award presented by Stifel. Burns may have the slight edge now, but there is still plenty of time for Clark – or someone else, for that matter – to make a run.

Remember: coaches, players and media members can vote for the award. Voting begins on May 18, right after the conclusion of the NCAA regionals.

The Haskins Award is given annually to the best college player, as voted by players, coaches and media. Haskins Award winners over the years include such notable future professionals as Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Luke Donald, Graeme McDowell and Hunter Mahan.

Texas’ Beau Hossler won the 2016 Haskins Award, beating out Arizona State’s Jon Rahm and Stanford’s Maverick McNealy, the 2015 Haskins winner.

Here are my current top candidates for the 2017 Haskins Award:

• • •

1. Sam Burns

  • Year: Sophomore
  • School: LSU
  • Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking: 2
  • Results: Won, Louisiana Classics; Won, Western Refining College All-America Classic; T-1, David Toms Intercollegiate; second, The Prestige at PGA West; second, Ka’anapali Collegiate Classic; T-4, Valspar Collegiate; T-6, Carpet Capital Collegiate; eighth, Maui Jim Intercollegiate; T-9, Golf Club of Georgia Collegiate; T-9, General Hackler Championship
  • Scoring average: 69.41
  • The buzz: Burns may be second in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings, but he does have one more individual title and 21 more head-to-head wins against the top 50 than Clark does. Yes, Burns has played three more stroke-play events than Clark, but that actually helps him at this point, in my opinion, because he can claim he still hasn’t finished worse than T-9 in any of those events. Ten top 9s, including three winds and two runner-up finishes, is pretty impressive and definitely Haskins worthy. Plus, Burns has played the 73rd toughest schedule in the country compared to Clark’s 114th toughest. LSU has one more event left before the SEC Championship, so Burns could have as many as four more opportunities to pad his Haskins resume.

• • •

2. Wyndham Clark

  • Year: Senior
  • School: Oregon
  • Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking: 1
  • Results: Won, Arizona Intercollegiate; T-1, Wyoming Desert Intercollegiate; second, Nike Golf Collegiate Invitational; T-2, Bandon Dunes Championship; T-3, Paintbrush Intercollegiate; T-6, East Lake Cup (stroke play); T-10, Amer Ari Invitational; 2-0 in East Lake Cup match play
  • Scoring average: 69.16
  • The buzz: Clark is second on the list, but not by much. Like Burns, he hasn’t finished outside of the top 10 in any stroke-play events. He has lost to just 18 players all season, which leads the country among players who have played at least seven events, like Clark. His strength of schedule hurts him a tad, but Clark has plenty of time to win the Haskins – Oregon has three more tournaments before the Pac-12 Championship, including a home event, so that means potentially six more starts for Clark.

• • •

3. Collin Morikawa

  • Year: Sophomore
  • School: California
  • Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking: 6
  • Results: Won, ASU Thunderbird Invitational; T-1, Southern Highlands Collegiate; third, Alister Mackenzie Invitational; T-3, John Burns Intercollegiate; T-7, Querencia Cabo Collegiate; T-5 Gopher Invitational; T-9, Maui Jim Invitational; T-20, Arizona Intercollegiate
  • Scoring average: 69.33
  • The buzz: Two straight victories have rocketed Morikawa up this list. He has seven top 10s in eight starts and his 69.33 scoring average is impressive. Morikawa is 22-9-1 against the nation’s top 25, which helps him considering his strength-of-schedule rank is 137th. One thing that will hurt Morikawa, though, is that Cal is well below the .500 mark (54-74-2) and likely won’t qualify for a regional bid. So that means Morikawa has two more starts left this season, unless he qualifies for regionals and nationals as an individual, which is very possible.

• • •

4. Will Zalatoris

  • Year: Junior
  • School: Vanderbilt
  • Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking: 4
  • Results: Won, General Hackler Championship; T-2, Valspar Collegiate; T-2, Rod Myers Invitational; seventh, Nike Golf Collegiate; T-7, Querencia Cabo Collegiate; T-12, SunTrust Gator Invitational; T-24, Golf Club of Georgia Collegiate
  • Scoring average: 70.1
  • The buzz: Zalatoris made a big jump thanks to his victory at the General Hackler Championship and T-2 performance at the Valspar Collegiate. The T-24 at GC of Georgia hurts him slightly, but he has played the 34th toughest schedule in the nation and posted five top 7s, including a win and two seconds. Wake has two regular-season events left before the ACC Championship, so Zalatoris has potentially five more starts coming his way.

 

• • •

5. Maverick McNealy

  • Year: Senior
  • School: Stanford
  • Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking: 3
  • Results: Won, Nike Golf Collegiate Invitational; third, Gifford Collegiate (stroke play); fourth, Amer Ari Invitational; 16th, Southern Highlands Collegiate; T-18, The Prestige at PGA West; T-29, Golf Club of Georgia Collegiate
  • Scoring average: 69.82
  • The buzz: The 2015 Haskins winner has two more regular-season events, the Pac-12 Championships, plus NCAA regional and (potentially) NCAA Championships starts left, so he’s not out of the race just yet. His scoring average is still good and he’s ranked third by Golfweek for a reason. Him playing the 18th toughest schedule helps, as well. He’ll have to win at least two more times, though, to challenge Burns or Clark.

• • •

Next 5

  • Sean Crocker, Jr., USC
  • Matthias Schwab, Sr., Vanderbilt
  • Chandler Phillips, Soph., Texas A&M
  • Rico Hoey, Sr., USC
  • Norman Xiong, Fr., Oregon

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WGC-Dell Match Play group scenarios

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There is one more round left of group play at the 2017 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

Some players are already eliminated. Some have already clinched a spot in the Round of 16. Some have withdrawn (Jason Day, Gary Woodland and Francesco Molinari). All, with the exception of the WDs, are required to play in Friday’s third round of group matches.

Here is a look at the scenarios for each of the 16 groups:

• • •

GROUP 1

If Dustin Johnson wins or halves Jimmy Walker … Johnson advances.

If Walker beats Johnson and Martin Kaymer beats Webb Simpson … Three-man playoff with Johnson, Walker and Kaymer.

If Walker beats Johnson and Simpson beats or halves Kaymer … Two-man playoff with Johnson and Walker.

Already eliminated: Simpson.

• • •

GROUP 2

Soren Kjeldsen clinched.

Already eliminated: Rory McIlroy, Emiliano Grillo, Gary Woodland (WD).

• • •

GROUP 3

If Pat Perez beats or halves Lee Westwood … Perez advances.

If Westwood beats Perez … Three-man playoff with Westwood, Perez and Marc Leishman.

Already eliminated: Jason Day (WD)

• • •

GROUP 4

If Jim Furyk beats Ross Fisher … Furyk advances.

If Furyk halves Fisher and Hideki Matsuyama beats or halves Louis Oosthuizen … Furyk advances.

If Fisher beats Furyk and Matsuyama beats or halves Oosthuizen … Fisher advances.

If Fisher beats Furyk and Oosthuizen beats Matsuyama … Two-man playoff with Fisher and Oosthuizen.

If Oosthuizen beats Matsuyama and Furyk halves Fisher … Two-man playoff with Oosthuizen and Furyk.

Already eliminated: Matsuyama.

• • •

GROUP 5

Scenarios coming soon…

• • •

GROUP 6

If Kevin Na beats or halves Chris Wood … Na advances.

If Wood beats Na and Justin Thomas halves Matt Fitzpatrick … Na advances.

If Thomas beats Fitzpatrick and Wood beats Na … Two-man playoff with Thomas and Na.

If Fitzpatrick beats Thomas and Wood beats Na … Two-man playoff with Fitzpatrick and Na.

Already eliminated: Wood.

• • •

GROUP 7

If Jon Rahm beats or halves Sergio Garcia … Rahm advances.

If Garcia beats Rahm … Garcia advances.

Already eliminated: Kevin Chappell, Shane Lowry.

• • •

GROUP 8

Alex Noren clinched.

Already eliminated: Bernd Wiesberger, Thongchai Jaidee, Francesco Molinari (WD).

• • •

GROUP 9

If Brooks Koepka beats or halves Patrick Reed … Koepka advances.

If Reed beats Koepka and Jason Dufner beats or halves Kevin Kisner … Koepka advances.

If Kisner beats Dufner and Reed beats Koepka … Two-man playoff with Kisner and Koepka.

Already eliminated: Reed, Dufner.

• • •

GROUP 10

If Tyrrell Hatton beats or halves Rafa Cabrera-Bello … Hatton advances.

If Cabrera-Bello beats Hatton and Jeunghun Wang beats or halves Charles Howell III … Two-man playoff with Hatton and Cabrera-Bello.

If Cabrera-Bello beats Hatton and Howell beats Wang … Three-man playoff with Hatton, Cabrera-Bello and Howell.

Already eliminated: Wang.

• • •

GROUP 11

If K.T. Kim beats or halves Bill Haas … Kim advances.

If Haas beats Kim and Danny Willett beats or halves Russell Knox … Two-man playoff with Haas and Kim.

If Haas beats Kim and Knox beats Willett … Three-man playoff with Haas, Kim and Knox.

Already eliminated: Willett.

• • •

GROUP 12

If Charl Schwartzel beats Paul Casey … Schwartzel advances.

If Schwartzel halves Casey … Two-man playoff with Schwartzel and Casey.

If Casey beats Schwartzel … Casey advances.

Already eliminated: Ben An, Joost Luiten.

• • •

Bubba Watson PGA Tour WGC Dell Match Play

GROUP 13

If Bubba Watson beats Thomas Pieters … Watson advances.

If Watson halves Pieters … Watson advances.

If Pieters beats Watson and Jhonattan Vegas beats Scott Piercy … Three-man playoff with Watson, Pieters and Vegas.

If Pieters beats Watson and Piercy beats or halves Vegas … Two-man playoff with Watson and Pieters.

Already eliminated: Piercy.

• • •

GROUP 14

If Phil Mickelson beats or halves J.B. Holmes … Mickelson advances.

If Daniel Berger beats Si Woo Kim and Holmes beats Mickelson … Two-man playoff with Berger and Mickelson.

Already eliminated: Holmes, Kim.

• • •

GROUP 15

If William McGirt beats or halves Andy Sullivan … McGirt advances.

If Sullivan beats McGirt and Branden Grace halves Brandt Snedeker … McGirt advances.

If Grace beats Snedeker and Sullivan beats McGirt … Two-man playoff with Grace and McGirt.

If Snedeker beats Grace and Sullivan beats McGirt … Two-man playoff with Snedeker and McGirt.

Already eliminated: Sullivan.

• • •

GROUP 16

If Brendan Steele beats Zach Johnson … Steele advances.

If Steele halves Johnson and Matt Kuchar beats or halves Tommy Fleetwood … Steele advances.

If Johnson beats Steele and Kuchar beats or halves Fleetwood … Johnson advances.

If Fleetwood beats Kuchar and Johnson beats Steele … Two-man playoff with Fleetwood and Johnson.

If Fleetwood beats Kuchar and Johnson halves Steele … Two-man playoff with Fleetwood and Steele.

Already eliminated: Kuchar.

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It wasn't pretty, but Phil Mickelson remains undefeated at WGC-Dell Match Play

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AUSTIN, Texas – With winds gusting beyond 30 mph at Austin Country Club on Thursday, it was a good day not to have to carry a scorecard in the pocket.

With that as a condition of play, Phil Mickelson buckled in and made sure to enjoy the challenge. Taking on young Daniel Berger on a day when conditions called for great creativity, Mickelson built an early lead and was able to protect it, winning easily, 5 and 4.

With the victory, Mickelson moved to 2-0. On Friday, he’ll take on his Ryder Cup teammate, J.B. Holmes. If Mickelson wins, he advances; should he lose, and should Berger (1-1) defeat Si Woo Kim, Mickelson and Berger would go to a playoff to determine who would advance to the weekend.

There are no beauty points at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. It’s simple: Win and move on. On Thursday, Mickelson made a double bogey at the par-4 ninth, hit a short pitch shot through the green and into the water at 12 (he saved bogey), and made one more bogey at the 304-yard 13th, usually one of the easiest holes on the course.

The biggest shocker was what happened at the par-5 12th, with Mickelson likely to win the hole by just making a par. He got greedy with his pitch, and a man with one of the best short games on the planet watched his shot with a 64-degree wedge land firmly and roll out into the water left of the green.

“I could have played into an upslope and stopped the ball, no problem,” he said. “I just couldn’t go at the pin. I didn’t think that was going to be an issue. … But it’s fun. We all now that. We all know that’s not the case.

“We’re not adding them up, if you will. We’re not saying that we shot 4 over, or 3 over, or 6 under. Nobody cares. It’s just how you do in your match.”

In his match, Mickelson was just fine. Through all the wreckage, Mickelson didn’t drop a single hole after Berger made birdie at the par-3 seventh. Berger also stumbled at No. 9, matching Mickelson’s double, and then deposited shots of his own into left-side water coming into the greens at Nos. 12 and 13. Mickelson, basically, just had to keep his ball dry and on land.

“I lost a little bit of focus today,” said Mickelson, who played solidly through his first eight holes. “I didn’t need to be perfect today.”

Ah, the beauty of match play. Mickelson, 46, is looking to land his first PGA Tour victory since winning the British Open at Muirfield in July of 2013. The Match Play never has been his strongest event; only once in a dozen previous visits has he made it as far as the quarterfinals, that being in 2004, when he was knocked out by Davis Love III. In fact, Mickelson showed up to Austin a year ago having not competed at the Match Play since 2011. His overall record in the event is now 20-12.

Asked for an explanation why he hasn’t had better results, Mickelson didn’t have a good answer.

“I love the tournament. I love playing in it,” he said. “Things happen. Sometimes you don’t play great. Sometimes, like last year, Patrick Reed is 8 under through 10, 12 holes (Reed defeated Mickelson, 5 and 4). I try not to put too much stock in the results.”

On Friday, conditions are expected to get even more challenging at Austin CC, with thunderstorms expected late in the morning. Tougher conditions than Thursday? Bring them on, Mickelson says.

You’d think a man who was brought up in Southern California and went to school in Arizona would be far more in tune with 85 degrees, calm and sunny. But Mickelson said as his career has progressed, so, too, has his desire to excel in all sorts of conditions. His victory at Muirfield in ’13, in a major in which he carried a dismal record, certainly is testament to that.

“I was terrible in bad conditions and weather and wind and whatnot early in my career,” Mickelson said. “As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned how to hit those shots. … Now I really relish the bad stuff, especially in match play when everybody is playing in the same conditions.”

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Michael Jordan once bet $300,000 on a single putt, says Charles Barkley

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Michael Jordan routinely bet six-figure sums on golf holes, at least according to his long-time pal Charles Barkley.

Barkley said Jordan once bet $300,000 on a single putt, and bets that big were common-place with M.J. on the golf course.

“He’s got so much money, a couple of hundred thousand dollars is nothing to him,” Barkley said Thursday on the Dan Patrick Show.

Watch part of Barkley’s interview here:

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Instruction: Accomplished junior Aden Ye focuses on swing sensations to groove a fast, repeatable motion

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Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the March 2017 issue of Golfweek Magazine.

(All photos by Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports)

• • •

Variety is the spice of life, and Holton Freeman believes it also is the key to improvement for top golfers.

Freeman challenges Wocheng (Aden) Ye, one of the top junior golfers in the country, to be as random as possible when practicing on the range. Constantly changing targets, clubs, shot shapes and trajectories – it’s an attempt to get Ye to focus more on feel and control than simply pumping a bucket-full of 5-irons at a distant flag.

“I really do not like it when he’s hitting the same club to the same target over and over,” said Freeman, a senior instructor at the Sean Foley Performance Academy at EaglesDream, where he has taught since 2012.

Freeman tries to get Ye out of his comfort zone on the course in practice rounds, as well. Ye might play a round with only four clubs, or a round hitting two balls with Ye playing the worst of the two.

“If he can make his practice as difficult as possible, playing in tournaments feels a little less difficult,” Freeman said. “Foley has really emphasized that. … It prepares you for adversity.”

Ye, who moved from China to the Orlando area three years ago, first made a name for himself by qualifying for the Volvo China Open at 12 years old, a European Tour record. He since developed into a blue-chip recruit, verbally committing to the University of Florida at 15 years old and ranking just outside the top 250 of the World Amateur Golf Ranking, an impressive feat for someone his age.

But even the best junior golfers in the country have flaws in their games. To help Ye correct his mistakes, Freeman does what he calls “feel drills” with his star pupil rather than having Ye practice repetitive specifics. Ye will sometimes work on the feel drills in a mirror to learn the positions and motions that Freeman wants.

“When you do (regular) drills, you might hit five shots that are worth something, and then after that the brain is not challenged anymore,” Freeman said. Instead, Freeman keeps Ye’s inquisitive mind engaged by switching things up to learn what proper swing sequencing feels like from any lie and under a wide variety of conditions.

• • •

THE STUDENT: WOCHENG (ADEN) YE

Age: 16

Height: 5 feet, 8 inches

Weight: 146 pounds

Hometown: Dongguan, China (now resides in Lake Mary, Fla.)

Credentials: Ranked eighth in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings. … Verbally committed to the University of Florida. … Won this year’s Foley Performance Academy at EaglesDream Junior Championship, his second AJGA title. … Fifth at 2017 CB&I/Simplify Boys Championship, his best AJGA invitational finish. … Played in the European Tour’s Volvo China Open at 12 years old, a tour record.

THE COACH: HOLTON FREEMAN

School: Sean Foley Performance Academy at EaglesDream, Timacuan Golf and Country Club, Lake Mary, Fla.

Credentials: In his fifth year with EaglesDream, which has partnered with former Tiger Woods coach Sean Foley. … Coaches several junior and college golfers, including Washington sophomore Carl Yuan, UCF freshman Bobby Bai, and juniors Tommy Cao, Amy Zhang, Mimi Chen and Ethan Dong. … Played two years of college golf at Coastal Carolina, from which he graduated in 2007. … Played mini-tours for several years before turning to instruction.

• • •

Smoother rotation

When Ye arrived in Florida, his swing included a rapid hip turn on the backswing, with the hips swaying away from the ball. His body would be completely rotated before his arms were even halfway up. On the downswing he would fling his hips forward and past the ball. His head would stay back, the club would drop into too much of an inside-out path with a tremendous amount of lag – too much and at the wrong angle – and he fought a hook.

Freeman has worked to help Ye tighten his hip rotation while focusing on his arms leading the backswing to the top, which has helped his swing sequence. Ye has tightened his hip turn dramatically, which has put him into a position to square the club with his arms on the downswing.

“We’re basically just trying to take the lag out of his swing,” Freeman said. “He played with too much lag.”

At the same time, Freeman doesn’t necessarily want Ye to slow down his hips on the downswing – a great source of Ye’s power – but to just control the rotation. Because he no longer over-rotates on the way back, he can speed through the ball with control.

• • •

Level through the ball

Before working with Freeman, Ye’s over-rotated hips on his backswing led to a quick hip slide forward at the top of the downswing, while his head would stay back in a tilted position through impact (pictured above). His hips and shoulders would turn up and to the left dramatically.

Freeman wants Ye to swing down and through impact more on the level with what is sometimes called a trunk release or an early release, reminiscent of Annika Sorenstam or Henrik Stenson. Instead of tilting, his hips and shoulders are more parallel to the ground through impact and his hands are more in front of his body.

Ye wants his downswing to begin with a slight squat of his legs, then he simply tries to turn his body as level as possible. His head releases forward instead of hanging back – when done properly it eliminates much of his spine tilt.

Freeman goes so far in practice as to put his hand on Ye’s head during the swing. Freeman will push forward (pictured at right) on the downswing to force Ye’s head to rotate through the ball.

• • •

Building stability

To help Ye feel what a proper release should be, Freeman will step in during practice swings and hold down Ye’s club after the impact position. As Freeman pushes down, providing resistance, Ye tries to swing up. It’s quite a workout.

Among several certifications Freeman has obtained, he has studied Tathata Golf, which uses fitness and motion training to teach golf. The academy doesn’t teach Tathata, which bills itself as a martial arts approach to golf, but Freeman said this drill utilizes several components of Tathata.

“When I hold the club (pictured), his core muscles are really engaged and really pushing back hard,” Freeman said. “It helps him become a lot more stable at impact, because his core is engaged, his legs are pushing down, his shoulders are working.”

• • •

Putting drills

In addition to using a computerized SAM PuttLab, which gives detailed readings of face and stroke angles, Freeman and Ye use a Vizio Mi Putting Template mat on the practice green.

The thin mat (pictured), built by a British company led by Phil Kenyon, has a line that indicates a slight arc for the backward and forward strokes. It also has smaller lines to indicate how far back the putter should go and what the face angle should be. Tees can be placed through multiple holes in the mat to correct a looping stroke, and there are other holes to create a gate drill in which the ball must roll through the tees.

“It really gives instant feedback,” Freeman said. “You can see exactly what you’re doing wrong and what you should be doing.”

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ANNIKA Award Watch List: March 23, 2017

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It’s time for another ANNIKA Award Watch List!

The ANNIKA Award Presented by 3M honors the player of the year in college women’s golf, as selected by a group of college golfers, coaches and members of the golf media.

This will be the fourth edition of the honor, with UCLA’s Alison Lee winning in 2014, Duke’s Leona Maguire taking the honor in 2015 and UCLA’s Bronte Law earning it in 2016.

The following players made the 11th edition of the ANNIKA Award Watch List based on a combination of play this season and potential based on results prior to the beginning of the 2016-17 college season.

With further ado, the third spring edition of the ANNIKA rankings for 2016-17:

• • •

1. Andrea Lee (Last time: 1)

Year: Freshman

School: Stanford

2016-17 Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking: 1

Results: WIN, Windy City Collegiate Championship; WIN, Peg Barnard Invitational; WIN, East Lake Cup; 2, Allstate Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate Championship; T-2, Stanford Intercollegiate hosted by Condoleezza Rice; T-11, Bruin Wave Invitational; T-23, Nanea Pac-12 Preview

The buzz: Read more about Lee here. She hasn’t competed since the end of February and doesn’t get back to action until March 27. In the meantime, nobody has done enough to catch her at No. 1.

2. Leona Maguire (Last time: 2)

Year: Junior

School: Duke

2016-17 Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking: 2

Results: WIN, Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge; 2, SunTrust Gator Invitational; 3, Windy City Collegiate Championship; T-3, ANNIKA Intercollegiate Presented by 3M; T-3, East Lake Cup; T-6, Darius Rucker Intercollegiate

The buzz: Maguire gets some breathing room at No. 2 after a runner-up finish at the Lady Gator. She had a golden opportunity to win, though, and let it slip by failing to hold a 36-hole lead. A victory wouldn’t have caught Lee yet, but it would have had Maguire knocking on the door.

3. Cheyenne Knight (Last time: 3)

Year: Sophomore

School: Alabama

2016-17 Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking: 3

Results: WIN, Darius Rucker Intercollegiate; WIN, Mason Rudolph Championship; T-3, The Landfall Tradition; 6, The Schooner Fall Classic; T-9, Ruth’s Chris Tar Heel Invitational; T-17, Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge

The buzz: Knight hasn’t played since the last Watch List and returns to competition at the Bryan National Collegiate next Friday. Two wins have her very much in the running for the ANNIKA, but she must keep charging.

4. Morgane Metraux (Last time: 4)

Year: Junior

School: Florida State

2016-17 Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking: 5

Results: WIN, Schooner Classic; WIN, The Dickson; WIN, Florida State Match-Up; T-2, Cardinal Cup; T-6, Florida Challenge; T-6, Notre Dame Clover Cup; T-14, Jim West Challenge; T-19, Cougar Fall Classic

The buzz: OK, she can’t win them all. After back-to-back victories, Metraux finished T-6 at the Clover Cup. It’s another top 10, though. She keeps her spot. To challenge for No. 1, the wins need to keep coming.

5a. Haley Moore (Last time: 5a)

Year: Sophomore

School: Arizona

2016-17 Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking: 6

Results: WIN, Allstate Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate; T-3 ANNIKA Intercollegiate; T-3, Dick McGuire Invitational; T-3, Mountain View Collegiate; T-5, Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge; T-7, Nanea Pac-12 Preview; T-12, Windy City Collegiate

The buzz: Moore isn’t slowing down. It was a distant T-3 last week at the Mountain View Collegiate, but it was a T-3 nonetheless. Despite playing a top-40 schedule, Moore still has zero finishes outside the top 12.

5b. Jennifer Kupcho (Last time: 5b)

Year: Sophomore

School: Wake Forest

2016-17 Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking: 8

Results: WIN, The Landfall Tradition; WIN, Ruth’s Chris Tar Heel Invitational; T-2, Dr. Donnis Thompson Invitational; T-4, Cougar Classic; T-8, Mercedes-Benz Collegiate Championship; T-47, Darius Rucker Intercollegiate; WD, Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge (doesn’t count in rankings)

The buzz: Again, if you don’t know what happened to Kupcho earlier this spring, please read up. Her first event after a freak concussion was a struggle, as Kupcho finished T-47. But a T-2 last week at the Dr. Donnis Thompson Invitational got her right back on track.

• • •

The spring season is in full swing. Here are some notable movers outside the top five.

UP

Maddie Szeryk, Texas A&M

A victory at the Dr. Donnis Thompson Invitational puts Szeryk at No. 9 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings. The junior has now finished first or second in her last three events.

Maria Torres, Florida

A home win at the Lady Gator was pretty special, but the senior didn’t rest on her laurels. She turned around and won the Briar’s Creek Invitational the very next week. Back-to-back victories means she has to be firmly on the radar.

Pimnipa Panthong, Kent State

The freshman has been huge for the Golden Flashes. A T-2 last week at the BYU at Entrada Classic was her fourth top-three finish of the season.

 

 

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Bubba Watson and the wonderful, amazing, very good day at WGC-Dell

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AUSTIN, Texas – Bubba Watson hasn’t played very well for several months, but that hasn’t dampened his love for the game.

Not one bit.

Watson had just finished off Scott Piercy, 4 and 3, in a dazzling display of power in Round 2 of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Thursday, and Piercy told him he still was going to play the remaining three holes.

“Hold on, I’ll join you,” Watson said.

And once they finished on the 18th green, Watson, whose match had been the first one off at Austin Country Club during WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, had a completely open afternoon in front of him. The possibilities were endless. So where was he headed?

“I’m going to watch the (TV) coverage,” said Watson, who is 2-0 this week, like some little kid about to visit the zoo. He was genuinely excited. “With the windy conditions, it’s going to be amazing.”

Amazing would be a pretty fitting way to describe Watson Thursday. The winds were howling past 25 mph in Austin, requiring a good deal of creativity, and Watson just kept producing quality – and jaw-dropping – shots.

He drove it next to the green at the 349-yard fifth (setting up the third of his five front-nine birdies), was just about green-high in two at the 598-yard sixth, and drove it 379 yards and across the road at the par-5 12th, leaving only 179 yards in. Birdie. On 15, Piercy, a long knocker himself, smashed a drive only to see Watson hit one 40 yards past.

At the short, 304-yard 13th, the wind was blowing hard into the faces of the players, so there was no getting home. Water lines the entire left side of the hole and fronts the green. The prudent play was something safe played to the fairway short and right. Nonetheless, Watson took out his mighty pink Ping driver and hit a low laser that cut about 30 yards and settled nicely down the fairway, leaving a short pitch.

“That was the coolest shot he hit, that tee shot at 13,” said Teddy Scott, Watson’s caddie of 11 years. “For a lefty who cuts it, if you spin it or block it at all, it’s in the water. He hit this low bullet-cut that was phenomenal.”

Piercy, for his part, could do little but shrug his shoulders. He’d play fairly well and make one lone bogey on the day (at the par-3 fourth), but on this day, he wasn’t going to stay with Watson. Few could.

“That was a total buzz saw,” Piercy said with a tinge of admiration.

“Normally if you shoot 3 or 4 under par in a 20 mph wind, that waxes a lot of guys. And I got waxed. He played great. His putter, it was like it was on tracks, perfect speed, right in the middle, time after time.”

Give Watson credit. His play has been not been to his usual standards, but he’s handled things very well, and been able to stay patient. Watson has not had a top-10 finish since September’s Tour Championship, and despite being ranked No. 7 in the world at the time, was left off the U.S. Ryder Cup team. (He’d make the trip anyway, volunteering as an assistant captain.)

He credits his better play this week in Austin to a small adjustment in ball position, both with his putting and with his long game. Brandt Snedeker gave him the putting tip, and Watson moved the ball back slightly in his stance after Scott watched him hit flop shots and told him, “I’ve never seen you chip like that.”

Watson, 38, a nine-time PGA Tour winner, said his swing also has been a little out of sorts off due to the “15 or 20 pounds” he has lost in recent weeks. It’s not as if Watson was carrying any weight to spare – he now looks as thin as a 1-iron – but he says he altered his eating habits for health reasons. He is down to about 172 pounds after weighing closer to 190 near the end of 2016.

What did he cut out of his diet?

“Oh, everything that tastes good,” he said. “Actually, I’m eating small meals more times. I threw in fish for the first time, a lot of chicken. Normally I don’t like eating on the golf course, but we made these little protein balls.

“No chips. I haven’t had a chip probably in three or four months. So it’s just things like that. The stuff everybody loves? I just cut it out. So I’m basically just bitter at the world.”

He laughed at the thought. These days, being a better man, not a bitter one, is much more a priority for Watson than being a better golfer, and it’s something that he has worked hard to pursue. The poor golf results? They really haven’t fazed him.

“He’s had success out here (in golf), Scott said. “He’d really like to work more on himself, and be a better light, a better example, to people. Because of that, I think it’s making it very easy for him to deal with adversity on the golf course.

“You realize there are things that are way more important than results.”

The timing for Watson to finally get his game in order could not be better, as the Masters looms just less than two weeks ahead. Watson already owns a pair of those coveted green jackets.

“I’m always thinking about Augusta,” Watson said. “If there’s a major – not a golf tournament, but a major – built for me, where I have a good shot at it, that’s it. That’s just common sense, right? Everybody knows a lot of the holes go the way that I want to shape it, and there’s not high rough.

“That U.S. Open … well, it gets a little tough.”

Watson has established his own pre-Masters ritual. One perk for a past champion at Augusta is that the competitor can play with a guest on the Sunday before the start of tournament week. So the last two years Watson has taken his wife, Angie, and there is a standing match: Watson and member Lee Slystinger, a Birmingham, Ala., businessman, against Angie and former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.

“We won the last two years,” Watson beamed proudly. “We have trophies and everything.”

This week, his goal is to survive his group – Watson, Piercy, Thomas Pieters (his Friday opponent, who is 1-1) and Jhonnaton Vegas, quite a powerful foursome. Just making it out of the group to the weekend, he believes, stands for something. And it will give him nice momentum heading to the Masters.

“Golf is a long – hopefully a long – sport for me,” he said. “So I’m not worried about this week, next week, two weeks … I’m worried about the next five years.”

Certainly, a few more match victories in Austin would be a nice place to start.

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