Farnsworth captures Illinois Women's Open

Writing from Romeoville, Illinois

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Mistwood Golf Club goes all out for the Phil Kosin Illinois Women’s Open, its signature event. That includes live scoring online and a crew manning leader boards on the course.

All of which was superfluous to Alexandra Farnsworth of Nashville, Tenn.

“There’s a lot of leader boards out here, I really focused on not looking at them, and I really think it paid off,” Farnsworth said Wednesday.

By staying in her own world, the Vanderbilt senior managed to fire a 5-under-par 67 to win the 23rd IWO, finishing at 8-under 208 and beating fellow amateur Hannah Kim of Northwestern and Chula Vista, Calif., by two strokes. Pros Vivian Tsui of Canada and Samantha Postillion of Scottsdale, Ariz., who grew up in Hinsdale, tied for third at 5-under 211, and split first and second money to collect $4,250 each.

Addison’s Dana Gattone, heading into her senior year at Illinois, was the low Illinois resident, scoring 1-under 71 for 2-under 214.

Farnsworth, two strokes behind 36-hole leader Tsui, was in the penultimate group, which played into her hands.

“I like coming from behind, and it was definitely a help to myself,” Farnsworth said. “It made me focus on myself. I could kind of tell (she was leading) because of the group of carts around us.”

Farnsworth scored six birdies, offset by a bogey on the par-3 14th. But she birdied the holes before and after to get to 8-under, while Kim birdied the 15th and 17th after her bogey on the 14th.

Kim went out in 3-under 33, but a double-bogey 6 on the par-4 10th put her into catch-up mode. She scored 2-under 70 for 6-under 210.

“That created a mental block for me,” Kim said of the double-bogey. “It was hard for me to get back to getting birdies. I just tried to play my game and get the putts rolling in again.”

Farnsworth had been winless in college play, and hadn’t hoisted a trophy since high school. She said she put more pressure on herself than she should have last year, thinking she had to hit certain scoring standards to realistically have a shot when she turns pro. That changed a few weeks ago after talking with friends.

“This breakthrough really, really means a lot to me,” Farnsworth said. “It’s frustrating being in the hunt a lot and not being able to pull through. I think I’ve learned from experience to focus on myself, don’t worry about the other people, and that really helped.

“I’m fully back to enjoying the game again.”

Postillion’s check was the biggest of her young career. She bogeyed the 14th and 15th holes, but birdied the par-3 17th to score 2-under 70 and get back into the tie with Tsui for low pro. Tsui also bogeyed the 14th, but played the last four holes in each par to finish at 72 for 211.

“For the most part, I handled the adrenalin well,” Postillion said. “Other than one hole today (the 15th, a sculled chip), I played a lot of great golf. I was never too worried about making bogeys and I was always patient about making birdies. It did not feel like a grind.”

Tim Cronin


Canada’s Tsui leads IWO, chased by Argentina’s Cammisa

Writing from Romeoville, Illinois

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Good players come from all over to tee it up in the Illinois Women’s Open, and the top of the leader board proves it, with three continents and four countries represented.

Vivian Tsui, who followed yesterday’s 67 with an even-par 72 and leads at 5-under 139 entering the final round, is from Markham, Ontario, by way of North Carolina State.

Lili Cammisa, whose 3-under 69 put her in a three-way tie for second, is from Argentina, and played her college golf in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Amateur Tess Hackworthy, tied with Cammisa at 4-under 140 after consecutive 70s, hails from Madison, Wis. and goes to Wisconsin.

Hannah Kim, entering her senior year at Northwestern and at 140 after a bounce-back 5-under 67, the day’s best round, is from Chula Vista, Calif., where she’ll play the U.S. Women’s Amateur later this year.

Samantha Postillion and amateur Alexandra Farnsworth, at 3-under 141, are from Scottsdale, Ariz., and Nashville, Tenn., respectively, though Postillion was born in Illinois and lived here until a few years ago. Farnsworth jumped to a 74 after an opening 67.

The low Illinois residents are amateurs Chicago’s Lindsay Dodovich and Addison’s Dana Gattone, who are joined by Katja Pogacar of Ljubljana, Slovenia, and Ohio State, in seventh place at 1-under 143.

Kim’s round rocketed her up the standings. She was tied for 13th after her opening 73, which was her first competitive round since the Women’s Western Amateur. Practice and a summer class have taken up her time.

“Yesterday a lot of my putts weren’t dropping,” Kim said. “I hit all 18 greens in regulation and made one birdie. Today I hit it a lot closer.”

She made seven birdies as a result, including five birdies on the last seven holes, the longest a 24-footer on the par-4 12th hole that got her going.

“It was a bonus birdie for sure,” Kim said. “After that, they were all from three to four feet.”

Cammisa, who turned pro last year, is a two-time winner of the Argentina Women’s Amateur and a four-time winner at Nova Southeastern University in Daytona Beach, Fla. following five wins in three countries as a junior. Her best finish as a pro is a tie for seventh at the Brisbane Invitational over the northern hemisphere winter.

For that, she picked up $838.50. First prize at Mistwood is $5,000.

Samantha Postillion’s mother Kerry won the Illinois Women’s Open three times.

“I get more nervous watching than I did playing,” Kerry Postillion said Tuesday.

“It would be great to win one like my mom,” Samantha said after adding a 71 to an opening 70. “But, one shot at a time. I definitely hit it well enough today to go a lot lower. Putting, I was just kind of dying it at the hole. Tomorrow, I’ll be a lot more aggressive.”

The cut was at 6-over 150 and included 30 players. Defending champion Stephanie Miller (76-74) made it on the number. Ember Schuldt eagled the par-5 third hole for the second day running, but still missed the cut by two strokes.

Tim Cronin


Farnsworth, Tsui open IWO with 67s

Writing from Romeoville, Illinois

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Phil Kosin Illinois Women’s Open is a reunion of current and recent college players. And many of them congregate at the top of the leader board.

That includes co-leaders Alexandra Farnsworth of Nashville, who will be a senior at Vanderbilt in the fall, and Vivian Tsui of Markham, Ont., a graduate of North Carolina State chasing her third victory as a professional.

They scored 5-under-par 67 at Mistwood Golf Club on Monday, the leaders of a charge into red numbers that, if the calm conditions hold, could see record scores by the conclusion of play on Wednesday.

Farnsworth compared Mistwood’s look and conditioning to golf in Ireland, which should be music to the ears of owner Jim McWethy and architect Ray Hearn.

“My team took a trip to Ireland two years ago, and it feels exactly like that, without the wind,” said Farnsworth, a top-20 finisher in this year’s Southeastern Conference championship.

Farnsworth erased two bogeys from her card with five birdies and an eagle, that on the par-5 15th, a dogleg across the pond in the middle of Kelpie’s Corner. Driver and 6-iron on the hole, playing 430 yards in the first round, set up an 18-foot putt.

“I was hitting it great with my driver and really didn’t make any major mistakes all day,” Farnsworth said. “I’m happy. There’s a lot of strategy holes out here, like the 16th from the forward tee. I hit a 5-wood off the tee.”

That was one of her five birdies.

Tsui, finishing two hours later, scattered six birdies over card.

“The course really fit my eye,” Tsui said. “I feel comfortable here. That’s the main thing, coming to a golf course.”

She felt really comfy after opening with a birdie, and was 3-under after 10 holes. The only bogey of the day came on the 11th, but a binge of three birds in the next four holes moved her to a share of the lead with Farnsworth.

Tsui won a pro-am in Sydney, Australia in 2015, and the Canadian Women’s PGA last year. A victory at Mistwood would be her third in as many years for a player seeking playing status on the Symetra Tour.

“It’s tough, and I knew that going into this journey, but it’s all part of the process,” Tsui said. “There’s a lot of highs and lows, but shooting 67 today, that’s kind of the dream. Seeing those scores come is reinforcement that my hard work is paying off.”

Fledgling pro Jessica Porvasnik of Highland, Ohio recently graduated from Ohio State, and more recently won the Ohio Women’s Open, is one back at 4-under 68. Like Tsui, she’s seeking a path to the LPGA.

“I’ve had a couple of weeks off, just practicing,” Porvasnik said. “And I started off not so smart, hitting the water on No. 3. But I recovered for par. I’m just hoping to keep it in the ball park.”

Jessica Reinecke of Verona, Wis., a junior at Wisconsin, birdied three of her first five holes, and said she “tried real hard to stay patient” en route to a 3-under 69. Her only bogey was on the par-3 17th.

Ten players broke par and another pair were at par 72.

Defending champion Stephanie Miller opened with a 5-over 77.

“I’m not too happy,” Miller said. “It wasn’t all there. Didn’t make a lot of putts, lipped out a lot of putts.”

Tim Cronin


DeChambeau concocts a victory

Writing from Silvis, Illinois

Sunday, July 16, 2017

This one was for the golf nerds.

You know them. The guys who futz and fiddle in their basement, working on their grips, bending the shaft of their putter, testing every combination of swing weight in their $600 drivers they can think of.

You may be one of them.

Bryson DeChambeau is a golf nerd squared. He thinks in four dimensions when there are only three. He wears a Hogan cap when he might well wear a wizard’s hat decorated with stars and half-moons instead. If he designed courses, he would be Pete Dye.

Attention was paid, eyebrows were raised and his logic was questioned during his college and amateur career, when he debuted a set of irons all cut at 7-iron length. Like those who looked at the contraption of Orville and Wilbur Wright and said, “Boys, it’ll never fly,” DeChambeau was dismissed as a gadfly with a nutty idea.

In 2015, he won the NCAA Championship representing Southern Methodist, and the U.S. Amateur, the latter at Olympia Fields, with those same-length irons.

Earlier this season, futzing and fiddling with his swing, he missed eight straight cuts, the last at the U.S. Open, a 74-76 showing at Erin Hills.

After all the surety, there were doubts.

“Yeah, absolutely,” DeChambeau said. “It was more trial and error, right? I’m going to test this and see if it works. It was going more into a longer swing, trying to hit it harder and farther and maybe I could time it out, and it just didn’t work for me.”

So, it was back to square one.

“So I finally backed off that about four weeks ago and said, ‘Look, just go back to what you were doing in college. You did pretty well. Let’s see where it goes from there. Maybe I can understand a little bit more of what I was doing and why I played so well because of it.

“I gained immediate confidence back.”

With confidence came instant improvement. He tied for 26th in Hartford, 17th at Avenel, 14th at the Greenbrier, and alternately contended and lurked for the first three days of the 47th John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run.

Sunday, with a barrage of seven birdies in the last 11 holes, he overhauled leader Patrick Rodgers on the final holes and scored his first victory on the PGA Tour. DeChambeau’s 6-under-par 65 for 18-under 266 beat Rodgers by a stroke and Wesley Bryan and Rick Lamb by two.

No more doubts.

“Feels like a long time coming, even though I’m 23,” DeChambeau said. “It’s pretty special to win here at the John Deere.”

There were multiple reasons why beyond proving some detractors – including Nick Faldo – wrong. He’d been given a sponsor’s exemption to the Deere two years ago. And, he found out during the trophy ceremony, fellow SMU standout Payne Stewart’s first Tour win was at the Deere – when he debuted his plus-four look.

“That broke me,” DeChambeau said. He cupped his face in his hands, crying, when Deer chairman Sam Allen mentioned that Stewart, whom DeChambeau watched as a little kid, broke through at Oakwood Country Club in 1982.

He broke Rodgers at the end of the round almost without breaking a sweat.

DeChambeau was four strokes behind at daybreak, and dropped a stroke when he bogeyed the par 4 fourth. But his birdie binge began at the eighth with an 11-footer, and it never really stopped. And it needed to keep going. That bird moved him to 12-under, and he was still out of the top 10.

Birdies on the 10th and 11th opened the back nine properly, and at 14-under, he was in the neighborhood. So was a third of the field, with 26 players within three strokes when CBS hit the air at 2 p.m. At one point, after 50-year-old Steve Stricker completed an attack with 14 birdies in his last 30 holes and a final round 64 to jump to 15-under 269, he was tied for the lead with Rodgers, Wesley Bryan, Steve Stallings and Daniel Berger.

Stricker would eventually finish fifth. But DeChambeau kept coming, sinking a 10-footer for birdie on the 13th and a kick-in bird on the 14th. At that point, he was 14-under, but 14-under does not win the John Deere Classic. But 16-under can, and birdies on the last two holes got him there.

His hybrid from a downhill-sidehill lie from 259 yards out on the par-5 17th set up a two-putt birdie from 40 feet, but it wasn’t easy.

“Oh my!” DeChambeau smiled. “That first little putt, if you hit it three feet by, is off the green. I was a little tedious with it and left it three feet short.”

His four-footer hit the center of the cup.

“Sweet, huge,” he said.

His approach to the 18th was similarly stout, a 7-iron right over the flag to 14 feet behind the hole, which was cut in the traditional back-right spot, the pond looming as danger.

“I wasn’t trying to, either,” he said of attacking the pin. “I was able to take pretty aggressive line, but knew if I pulled it a little bit it wouldn’t go in the water because of the wind. So I pulled it just a little bit, pulled it enough to get close.”

And sank it, tying Rodgers, to a roar from the gallery, which might have numbered 19,000. Many were following Rodgers at the point, and, thanks to a misadventure on the 17th, he would soon be following DeChambeau.

Rodgers pulled his tee shot into the trees on the left, chipped out because he was stymied by a tree, hit the front of the green with his third but found the front bunker between his ball and the cup, and had to chip from one point of the green to the other. He lipped out the eight-footer for par and dropped to 17-under.

“I felt like I hit an OK putt,” Rodgers said. “I don’t really have a ton of regrets. I’m proud of myself for staying aggressive all day.”

At it turned out, Rodgers bogeyed the 14th and 17th holes – the 16th and 11th easiest on Sunday, respectively – and that was the difference. Pars on both, he wins. Par on either of the two, he’s in a playoff, even though DeChambeau birdied both.

“I didn’t make many bogeys this week, so to have two of them on some simple holes probably cost me the golf tournament,” Rodgers said.

He made seven bogeys in four rounds. DeChambeau made six.

Call it the revenge of the golf nerd.

Around Deere Run

The 64s of Stricker, Bryan and Morgan Hoffmann were the best rounds of the day. ... Local favorite Zach Johnson threatened but a bogey on the 15th left him at 67 and 269. ... DeChambeau’s score of 266 is the highest winning total since 2008, when Kenny Perry won a three-man playoff after scoring 16-under 268. ... DeChambeau won $1,008,000 from the purse of $5,600,000. ... Stanford’s Maverick McNealy won the low amateur title, scoring 9-under 275 to beat Illinois’ Nick Hardy by two strokes. ... The final round scoring average of 69.411 strokes was the lowest since 2013, while the four-round average of 69.753 was a hair higher than last year’s 69.743. ... There were only 14 rounds over par from the field of 73, including dew-sweeper Michael Kim, who played as a single and sped around in three hours. ... Nineteen players, the last being DeChambeau, took the Deere’s special nonstop charter to the Open Championship.

Tim Cronin


Rodgers takes lead into final round

Writing from Silvis, Illinois

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Some 25 years ago, responding to Pat Summerall in the CBS Sports booth, Ken Venturi nicknamed the third round of a golf tournament Moving Day.

“Pat, you either move forward or you move back,” Venturi said on countless Saturdays.

On this Saturday, Daniel Berger, Scott Stallings and Rick Lamb moved forward at TPC Deere Run more forcefully than anyone else. But Patrick Rodgers stayed in front, his 3-under-par 68 for 16-under 197 placing him two strokes ahead of Berger and Stallings entering Sunday’s final round.

Next to nobody moved back. This is the John Deere Classic, after all, where birdies are the fuel for the record numbers the tournament-connected charity operation raises. It raised over $10.5 million last year and was named the PGA Tour’s tournament of the year.

Because it is, because TPC Deere Run yields low scores with panache – Saturday’s scoring average of 68.185 was the lowest for Round 3 since the Deere moved from Oakwood Country Club in 2000 – because the early-week rain and Friday’s cool weather has kept the fairways soft, look for another truckload of low scores in the final round.

That will be fine with Rodgers, who won 11 times in college at Stanford and grabbed a title on the circuit, but has yet to hoist a trophy on the PGA Tour.

“I hope I get everybody’s best golf tomorrow and I hope I play just a little bit better,” said Rodgers, who will have an eagle eye on the leader boards dotting the course.

“Probably the most comfortable I feel any time on Tour is up here at the top of the leader board,” he added. “I had a lot of experience winning in college and amateur golf, and I expected to come out here and win right away. Probably my biggest frustrations as a pro have been not getting it done yet. Part of the frustration so far has been not having as many chances as I would like.”

Two untidy bogeys prevented an even better round, but Rodgers’ advantage was never really threatened. Local hero Zach Johnson and physics whiz Bryson DeChambeau, his playing partners for the day, each scored 1-under 70, failing to put runs together despite flashes of brilliance, such as Johnson’s chip-in eagle 2 at the par-4 14th.

While many in the gallery of about 18,000 followed that trio, the sustained pushes came from farther back. Berger was tied for 21st and seven strokes in arrears at the start of the round and scored 8-under 63 to climb to 14-under 199. Stallings was six back in a deadlock for 11th and fired a 64 to match Berger, two back of Rodgers.

“As long as I can keep doing the same things that I’ve been doing, I’ll have a shot,” Berger said. “I just tried to give myself as many chances as I could. With the soft conditions, you can attack the flags.”

Berger, with brilliant approach irons, birdied seven of the first 11 holes to rocket to 13-under, on the heels of Rodgers. He bogeyed the par-4 13th, but birdied the 14th – driving into a greenside bunker and getting up and down for a 3 – and 17th coming in to land at 14-under. His longest made putt was 12 feet, and the second longest was 9 foot-1. Eight made putts were from gimme range. Given that and his outlook, two strokes back is nothing.

“I’ve been nine shots back and lost in the playoff,” Berger said, recalling the 2015 Honda Classic, where Padraig Harrington triumphed. “I think as long as I’m standing, I’m going to have a shot.”

Stallings asserted himself with a back-nine 30 that included an eagle on the par-5 17th set up by an approach to 21 feet. The putt toppled in with its last erg of energy.

“I thought I left it short, to be honest,” Stallings said.

That followed four birdies earlier on the inward half. Unlike Rodgers, three-time Tour winner Stallings won’t be watching the leader boards.

“I could care less about that,” Stallings said. “I couldn’t even tell you some of the other guys on the leader board. “

Using the adage that anyone within five strokes of the leader can win, there are 17 players with a Sunday shot, including the 10 players tied for eighth at 11-under 202, a group including 2010 winner Johnson and lefty Rick Lamb, whose 8-under 63, featuring an opening 30 on Deere Run’s back nine, might have been even lower.

“You don’t really think about it, you just kind of keep going,” said Lamb, who was 4-under after five holes, 6-under after eight, and 9-under after 13. He bogeyed the par-4 ninth, his last hole, to settle for 63.

Johnson would have loved any number starting with a 6, but was saddled with a 70 via sloppy shotmaking.

“Just lazy, lazy swings, which is unfortunate,” Johnson said. “Im going to try to birdie them all tomorrow. See how that goes.”

Nicholas Lindholm is the forgotten man in fourth place at 13-under 200 after a 5-under 66, while DeChambeau, Jamie Lovemark and J.J. Henry are tied for fifth at 201.

Around Deere Run

Amateurs Nick Hardy and Maverick McNealy, grouped with Richy Werenski, each scored 2-under 69, are at 7-under 206, and are paired together again Sunday (9:22 a.m.). ... The secondary cut was to the low 70 and ties, so 73 players will play on Sunday off the first tee beginning with Michael Kim at 7:20 a.m. Eight players, including Davis Love III, were trimmed, but still get last-place money. ... Four players lead the birdie brigade with 19 each: Rodgers, Berger, Lovemark and Kevin Tway. ... It would have been nine sitting out the final round but gaining a paycheck, except Robert Garrigus was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard after his round. He’d gone out in 1-under 34, but his third-round score was zapped from the scoring computers after the gaffe, when he signed for a lower score on one hole than he’d made. He’ll get nothing and not like it. ... Kelly Kraft had the shot of the day, a recovery shot from the back walkway of the 18th hole Greenside Club after hooking his tee shot on the par-5 17th well left. He smacked the recovery shot, which had to clear a steel railing, 203 yards and managed to save par.

– Tim Cronin

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