The runner-up at the U.S. Amateur last summer, John Augenstein’s plan was to play in the Masters, finish out his senior season at Vanderbilt, play the U.S. Open at Winged Foot and then turn pro. That’s still the plan, with some notable changes.
Instead of turning pro, Augenstein is heading back to Vanderbilt for a fifth year of eligibility because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The question is how many seniors will join him.
“My four years at Vanderbilt were everything and more than what I dreamed they would be,” Augenstein said in a statement released by the school. “I am not content with how this year played out for myself and for my team. There is more work to do.”
The pandemic shut down sports, and the NCAA decided in late March to give players from spring sports an additional season.
Golf Channel reports that eight of the top 50 women in the Golfstat rankings are returning for an extra year of college competition, a list that includes Olivia Mehaffey of Northern Ireland, part of Arizona State’s national title team when she was a freshman; and Siyun Liu of Wake Forest.
Wake Forest was runner-up to Duke at the NCAAs in 2019 and was ranked No. 1 when the season ended. Liu graduated with a degree in finance.
“I just really want to win a national championship and finishing second place last year and ranking No. 1 in the country and then all of a sudden the season ending is just, I can’t leave like that,” Liu told the Winston-Salem Journal. “I need to have a good finish here.”
Augenstein could play another U.S. Amateur, still on schedule for August, before the U.S. Open is scheduled for Winged Foot on Sept. 17-20. The Masters was postponed until two weeks before Thanksgiving. The winner and runner-up in this year’s U.S. Amateur get invitations to next year’s Masters in April, as usual.
Another factor in returning to college is the absence of qualifying for the PGA Tour and LPGA Tour.
“I don’t have a place for them to go,” LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan said last week when asked about the immediate future of college seniors.
For some, the answer is back to school.
Rory McIlroy’s guest house in south Florida will be occupied for the next two weeks by his best friend. Harry Diamond also is his caddie, and it’s the only way he can return to work for the world’s No. 1 player.
McIlroy plans to play three straight weeks when the PGA Tour resumes its schedule June 11 at Colonial for the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas. After that is the RBC Heritage at Hilton Head and the Travelers Championship in Connecticut. And then Diamond returns home to Northern Ireland for two more weeks of quarantine.
“We have a guest house that he can quarantine in and make sure he does all the necessary things that he needs to do to caddie for the next few weeks,” McIlroy told BBC Sport. ”The only tough thing is he has to come over and quarantine here for two weeks and then it looks like he will have to quarantine for two weeks on the other side as well.
“So for a three-tournament stretch it is actually seven weeks for him, but hopefully some of those rules could be lifted between now and then.”
Without those rules being relaxed, McIlroy would need to find a different caddie for the Memorial as Diamond would not be able to get back and quarantine ahead of the tournament.
As for McIlroy traveling overseas, he remains undecided. He said he could see himself playing the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth if it’s moved to October. And he would consider other “big events” in the fall.
“I wouldn’t have concerns about traveling to Europe,” McIlroy said. “I think if you stick to the guidelines then I don’t see any reason why we should feel scared to travel.”
THIS WEEK IN HISTORY
More than a dozen players who have reached No. 1 in the world do not — or most likely will not — have the career of Phil Mickelson. It was 10 years ago this week at Colonial that Mickelson began a four-month run of his best shot to be No. 1.
He missed the cut.
Woods and Mickelson tied for fourth in the U.S. Open. Woods kept sliding, the year he returned from the implosion in his personal life and another change in swing coaches. Mickelson failed to capitalize, however. He had only one top 10 the rest of the PGA Tour season and two finishes in the top 20.
When he returned, there was a new No. 1 — Lee Westwood.
Mickelson had fallen to No. 4.
Justin Rose isn’t the first player to switch equipment in the prime of his career. At least his surprising move to Japan-based Honma only lasted a little more than a year.
Rose began his Honma endorsement in January 2019 when he was No. 1 in the world and won in his second start at Torrey Pines. That was his last victory, and he missed three cuts in four starts on the PGA Tour this year.
Rose was not using Honma equipment at Bay Hill, the final event before COVID-19 shut down golf.
Honma released a statement late last week saying both sides had agreed Rose will no longer be a brand ambassador.
“I am hopeful that during our time of partnership, we have laid the groundwork for Honma to continue to expand their brand,” Rose said. “We both feel it is the right time to pursue our own paths.”
What began as an idea at Spring Brook Country Club in Morristown, New Jersey, to get involved with hospitals has turned into a project much larger.
It led to ClubsHELP Foundation, which is asking golf clubs to adopt a local hospital and supply necessities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ernie Els got involved and over the last two months has been challenging other players — Jack Nicklaus, chief among them — and clubs to pitch in.
“When my management team told me about this initiative, I was right behind it straight away,” Els said. “It’s a shining example of how people all around the world are pulling together in this crisis to help vulnerable members of society and, of course, support the frontline healthcare staff who are literally putting their lives on the line for all of us.”
According to the foundation, just under 400 golf clubs are now enrolled in the program.
Els is a member of Old Palm Golf Club in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. He has partnered with Jupiter Medical Center, which is involved with his Els for Autism Foundation. Clubs can register at clubshelp.org.
The PGA of America says its Golf Emergency Relief Fund has given more than $4 million to some 3,300 individuals needing help — $500 in basic need grants, up to $1,500 for critical needs. Registration limits were reached within 24 hours of the fund opening. The PGA of America pledged $5 million to the fund, with matching contributions for gifts by third parties up to $2.5 million. … ESPN will air a one-hour special Saturday on Peloton’s first “All-Star Ride.” It features 16 athletes who are Peloton members, a list that includes Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Morgan Pressel and Bubba Watson. … The American Junior Golf Association resumes its schedule June 8 with restrictions such as one spectator per player (preferably a family member) and no removing flagsticks.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Phil Mickelson has finished ahead of Tiger Woods in four of the seven exhibitions they have played together — The Match in Las Vegas, twice in the Battle of the Bridges and the 2002 Skins Game.
“Let’s just say 10 is not what it used to be.” — Tiger Woods, asked to measure his back on a scale of 1 to 10.
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