Golf

NCAA Golf Championships and local stars take Rich Harvest Farms by storm

NCAA Golf Championships and local stars take Rich Harvest Farms by storm

 

The NCAA Men’s Golf National Championships are in full swing as teams have flocked from all across the country to compete at the pristine Rich Harvest Farms, in Sugar Hill, Ill.

The Championships, hosted by Northern Illinois, span from May 19-31 and include both individual and team competition for the men’s and women’s divisions.

In its first ever appearance at Rich Harvest Farms, the tournament will have no shortage of local talent.

The University of Illinois will be making its 10th straight NCAA tournament appearance led by Nick Hardy out of Northbrook, Ill. The Illini have had semifinal finishes in the last two years respectively, establishing themselves as an NCAA men’s powerhouse and looking to finally make it to the final round this year.

Other local golfers include:

Doug Ghim, Arlington Heights. -- University of Texas

Trent Wallace, Joliet. -- Illinois State University

Other top contenders at the tournament for team play are headlined by USC, Oklahoma State, and Vanderbilt. While for individual play Will Zalatoris out of Wake Forest leads the way, followed by Chandler Phillips out of Texas A&M and Travis Trace out of North Florida.

The men’s portion of the Championships began today at 3 p.m., but have dealt with delays due to inclement weather.

Last week saw women’s play wrap up on May 24 with Arizona State not only defeating local favorite Northwestern for their eighth national title in team play, but also saw Monica Vaughn take home the sixth individual title for the Sun Devils as well.

Men's play continues tomorrow through May 31 and can be seen on the Golf Channel along with the highlighted times below.

Golf Channel NCAA Men’s Golf Championships Coverage (all times ET)

Monday, May 29

Individual National Championship

4-8 p.m. (Live)

Tuesday, May 30

Quarterfinals, Team Match Play

11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (Live)

Tuesday, May 30

Semifinals, Team Match Play

4-8 p.m. (Live)

Wednesday, May 31

Team Match Play National Championship

4-8 p.m. (Live)

 

Fowler sits 3rd at Masters: 'Right where I'm supposed to be'

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USA TODAY

Fowler sits 3rd at Masters: 'Right where I'm supposed to be'

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Rickie Fowler can't think of a much better position to be in at the Masters — or a better time to try to win his first major championship.

Fowler was part of a four-way tie for the lead when the third round started Saturday. He shot a steady 1-under 71 to remain in striking distance, a stroke behind co-leaders Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia.

"It's going to be fun," Fowler said of Sunday's final round. "I'm looking forward to it. This is by far the best I've felt in a major."

The 28-year-old has had some big moments in golf, winning prestigious tournaments like the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship and The Players Championship and Deutsche Bank Championship in 2015. He's had his chances in the four majors, too, particularly in 2014 when he was among the top five at all four majors, including a tie for fifth behind winner Bubba Watson at Augusta National.

This week, Fowler feels even more ready to take that elusive step of becoming a major champion.

A smiling Fowler said he is in a good place physically and mentally not only about his golf game, but about life in general.

"I feel great on the golf course," he said. "It feels like I'm right where I'm supposed to be."

Fowler spent his time in the next-to-last group hitting fairways and greens. He made birdies on the 13th hole — his third of the tournament on the par 5 — and 15th to inch within a shot of the top. He closed with difficult, par-saving 7 footers on the 17th and 18th holes.

Fowler knows he faces a daunting leaderboard Sunday, from Rose and Garcia ahead of him, to 2015 Masters champion Jordan Spieth, who is in a three-way tie for fourth behind him, to 2013 Masters winner Adam Scott, who is seventh at 3 under.

He believes it will be a thinking-man's game Sunday, particularly on the back nine.

"I think it's going to be tough for someone to really run and distance themselves too much, with the possibilities of what you can do on the back nine," he said.

Fowler believes he has prepared every part of his game for this moment. He's worked with teachers Butch and Claude Harmon, trained regularly to stay in shape and concentrated on making the right dietary choices to stay healthy. The end goal is to play championship golf, something he thinks he'll do on Sunday.

"We've put a lot of work in," Fowler said, "and it's nice to see it pay off."

Rickie Fowler joins 4-way tie at the top in Masters

Rickie Fowler joins 4-way tie at the top in Masters

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) -- Rickie Fowler only wanted to make sure the wind didn't blow him away over two tough rounds at the Masters. More than just survive on Friday, he posted a 5-under 67 that gave him a share of the lead for the first time in a major.

He has plenty of company.

Sergio Garcia, Thomas Pieters and Charley Hoffman joined him in the largest 36-hole logjam at Augusta National in 44 years.

And the fun is just starting.

The wind began to subside as the pines cast long shadows across the course late in the afternoon, and the forecast is close to perfection for the rest of the weekend, with mild temperatures and hardly any wind.

That won't make it any easier, as survival gives way to what could be a shootout among some of golf's biggest stars.

Fifteen players were separated by a mere five shots going into the weekend, a group that includes Adam Scott and Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson, and even 57-year-old Fred Couples.

"I knew the first two days would be tough. We really needed to make sure we could fight through it and stay in the tournament," Fowler said. "We're in a good spot. It's going to be a fun weekend. We're going to see a lot of good golf and battle it out."

Fowler began his move early by holing a bunker shot for eagle on the second hole, and even a bogey from the water behind the green on the par-5 15th green didn't ruin his day. He bounced back with a birdie and stayed in the lead.

Garcia, playing his 70th consecutive major and still looking for that first victory to define an otherwise strong career, wasn't the least bit bothered by seeing the wrong score for him on a leaderboard behind the 13th green when a penalty for a lost ball was mistakenly attributed to him. He fired a 3-iron across the water and into the wind to the 15th green for a two-putt birdie and shot 69.

Pieters made an eagle on the par-5 13th on his way to a 68. Hoffman was simply happy to join them. His four-shot lead was gone in 11 holes, and he steadied himself the rest of the way to limit the damage to a 75.

The leaders were at 4-under 140.

Hoffman will be in the final group going into the weekend at the Masters for the second time in three years, with one big difference. Two years ago, Hoffman was five shots behind Spieth in what turned out to be a runaway for the young Texan.

This time, the Masters appears to be up for grabs.

The last time there was a four-way tie for the lead at the halfway point of the Masters was in 1973, when Bob Dickson, Gay Brewer, J.C. Snead and Tommy Aaron were tied at 3-under 141. Aaron went on to claim his only green jacket.

Hoffman had a chance to keep his distance until he ran off five bogeys in a six-hole stretch, including a three-putt from 4 feet at the par-5 eighth. His lead was gone when he sprayed another tee shot into the trees at No. 11. He played 1 under the rest of the way, though he still was 10 shots worse than his score on Thursday.

"Everybody was talking about how great that round was yesterday, but it was pretty easy to me - making putts, hitting good, solid golf shots," Hoffman said. "Today I think I sort of felt how hard it was for everybody else in this wind when you got out of position."

Garcia only really got out of position on the scoreboard.

His tee shot on No. 10 clipped a tree and shot back into the fairway, while Shane Lowry also hit a tree and couldn't find it. All three were wearing dark sweaters during the search, and the scorers were confused with who lost the ball. Garcia made bogey, dropping him to 3 under. A few holes later, however, it was changed to 1 under on the scoreboard, and Garcia pointed to the board behind the 13th green.

It eventually was fixed, though that was of no concern to the 37-year-old Spaniard.

"The most important thing is I knew where I stood," Garcia said.

And he knows the score that everyone talks about - 70 majors as a pro without a victory, and enough close calls to make him wonder if he'll ever get it done. Garcia has never seriously contended in the Masters, however, so while this is 19th appearance at Augusta, being part of a 36-hole lead is new territory.

It's too early to think about how a green jacket would fit him - not with 36 holes left, not with so many quality players around him.

"That would be the best thing that could happen to me," Garcia said.

William McGirt (73) was two shots behind. The group at 1-under 143 included Olympic gold medalist Justin Rose (72), Couples (70) and Spanish rookie Jon Rahm, who had a 70 and looms as a threat to become the first Masters rookie to win since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979.

Spieth, undone by a quadruple bogey in the opening round, started slowly and finished strong with birdies on the 16th and 18th for a 69. Scott, the 2013 Masters champion, also had a 69 and joined Spieth at 144.

And right there with them was Mickelson, who can become the oldest Masters champion. Mickelson was one shot behind until he sputtered down the stretch with three bogeys and two par saves over his last five holes for a 73.

"If I can have a good putting weekend, I'm going to have a good chance," he said.