RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) — Freshman Dragan Elkaz scored a career-best 25 points on seven 3-pointers, and UC Riverside ended the University of Hawaii men’s basketball team’s winning streak at five with a 75-71 win Saturday.
Jack Purchase scored a season-high 24 points to lead the Rainbow Warriors (11-6, 2-1 Big West Conference). Sheriff Drammeh added 15 points and eight rebounds, and Drew Buggs had nine points, nine assists — to go along with no turnovers — and six rebounds.
Dikymbe Martin scored 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting for the Highlanders (7-13, 1-3). Callum McRae had 12 points and five rebounds, and Ajani Kennedy had eight points and five rebounds.
UC Riverside had a 36-34 edge at the break and Martin, Elkaz and Kennedy each sank a 3-pointer in the opening minutes of the second half to push it to 51-45 with 14:53 to play. Hawaii closed to 70-68 with two minutes to go, but Martin replied with a layup and a jumper to make it 74-69 with 1:24 remaining.
The Rainbow Warriors return home this week to begin a four-game homestand, starting with a matchup Wednesday against UC Irvine.
HONOLULU — Matt Kuchar overcame three early bogeys that cost him the lead with flawless golf and two key birdies on the back nine to close with a 4-under 66 and win the Sony Open for his second PGA Tour title this season.
It wasn’t as easy as his four-shot victory over Andrew Putnam might indicate.
Having made only one bogey through 54 holes to build a two-shot lead, Kuchar had three bogeys in his opening five holes Sunday and fell one shot behind Putnam, and he had to make a 10-foot birdie putt at the turn to avoid falling two shots behind.
Kuchar caught him with an aggressive pitch up the slope on the par-4 10th hole. They remained tied with five holes to play when Putnam made bogey from a deep bunker left of the 14th green, and Kuchar made a pair of 12-foot birdie putts on the next two holes to seize control.
Just like that, his lead was three shots, making for a pleasant walk up the par-5 18th.
Kuchar became the first multiple winner on the PGA Tour this season, having ended a drought of more than four years when he captured the Mayakoba Classic in Mexico last November. It was only the second time in his career Kuchar has won twice in the same season. He won the Match Play Championship and the Memorial in 2013. Now, he has the meat of the season in front of him.
“I want to see how great this year can be,” Kuchar said.
He finished at 22-under 258, the third-lowest total in Waialae history behind the PGA Tour record of 253 by Justin Thomas in 2017 and Jimmy Walker’s 72-hole score of 257 when he won in 2015.
Putnam, who won his first PGA Tour title last summer at the Barracuda Championship, didn’t blink until that approach into the bunker that led to his lone bogey, and he couldn’t make enough putts to stay close to Kuchar the rest of the way.
He closed with a 68 and moved into the top 50 for the first time in his career.
Corey Conners of Canada, who got into the field through a Monday qualifier, had a 64-64 weekend and was among four players who tied for third, though none had a serious chance of challenging what amounted to a two-player race at the top.
Even so, the performance was big for Conner, who narrowly missed a full PGA Tour card last year. Along with his runner-up finish in the Sanderson Farms Championship last fall, he has nearly as many FedEx Cup points as last year when he finished at No. 130.
Marc Leishman (64), Hudson Swafford (64) and Chez Reavie (67) also finished in a tie for third.
Davis Love III, who first played the Sony Open in 1986, missed by one shot matching the lowest 72-hole score of his career. His 64-65 weekend gave him a tie for seventh, and he now heads off to Singapore with hopes of earning a spot in the British Open.
But this day ultimately belonged to Kuchar, who won for the ninth time in his career.
He ended the 2018 season earlier than he wanted, failing to reach the Tour Championship for the first time since 2009 and ending his streak of playing on eight straight teams in the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup.
He won again in Mexico in a Sunday much tighter than he would have preferred, and had a few nervous moments at the start at Waialae. He went long of the second green, leading to bogey. The other two were sloppy — a three-putt across the back of the fourth green, and a wedge into No. 5 that he was begging to get down as soon as it left his club. It hopped into the back bunker, and he missed an 8-foot par putt to lose the lead.
From there, however, Kuchar had a birdie chance on the final 13 holes he made.
Kuchar and Putnam were in a bunker short of the green on the par-5 ninth. Putnam went first and it rolled out to 2 inches for birdie. Kuchar came out weakly, but made the 10-foot birdie putt. They traded birdies on the 12th and 13th, and Kuchar took over from there.
“It was so uncharacteristic of me,” Kuchar said, referring to his three-putt and bad wedge on No. 5. “But I kept plugging along, and I knew good things were going to happen. … To win two out of three is crazy to comprehend.”
HONOLULU — Matt Kuchar kept another clean card and shot a 4-under 66 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Sony Open, a chance to win twice in one PGA Tour season for only the second time in his career.
Kuchar ended a four-year drought by winning the Mayakoba Classic in Mexico last fall, and there are a few similarities. He set a personal record for 54 holes in Mayakoba at 193. He went one better at Waialae Country Club at 18-under 192.
Both courses require keeping the ball in play, and Kuchar has done that well over three rounds. He has made only one bogey through 54 holes, and he only came seriously close to one on Saturday, saving par from the bunker on the par-3 17th.
“Good, steady golf,” Kuchar said. “It felt easy out there. I didn’t find myself in any trouble.”
Andrew Putnam was two shots behind after a 67.
Keith Mitchell had a 63 to pull within four shots, along with Chez Reavie, who fell back with three straight bogeys early on the back nine. Those were the only players within five shots of the lead, and all of them are chasing Kuchar.
“I anticipate needing another good score tomorrow,” Kuchar said. “I know I can’t coast.”
Kuchar is 2-2 when he has the 54-hole lead going into the final round.
The only other time Kuchar won twice in the same season was in 2013, when he won the Match Play Championship in Arizona in February and the Memorial in early June. That put him at No. 4 in the world, the highest he has been in his career.
Kuchar was sliding his way out of the top 50 toward the end of last year, when he failed to make a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup team for the first time since 2009. But he had a good session with his swing coach in Dallas, and it paid off two weeks later on the Gulf side of the Mexican coast.
This was more of the same.
Putnam, who won for the first time last year in the Barracuda Championship held opposite a World Golf Championship, did his best to stay in reach. They were tied through seven holes until Putnam made bogey on No. 8 and failed to birdie the par-5 ninth, the easiest hole at Waialae. Putnam missed an 8-foot birdie attempt on No. 18.
“Didn’t feel as easy as the first two days,” Putnam said. “Still played a good round. Still got a chance.”
Bryson DeChambeau had a 63 and led a large pack at 11-under 199, seven shots out of the lead for a slim chance at winning unless the leaders come back to the field. Also tied for fifth were Charles Howell III and 54-year-old Davis Love III, who had one of his better putting rounds.
Kuchar was at his best on a number of putts from the 50-foot range. He didn’t make any, but he didn’t leave himself any work for par. That added to the stress-free feeling of a round, and the overall control he feels in his game.
He never looks to be under stress, though Kuchar says looks can be deceiving.
“I’ve got gray hair,” he said with a laugh. “Listen, the game of golf is not easy. It’s not often you’re in full control. Those times you’re not in full control, you’re faced with a lot of situations where golf is going to find a way to stress you out and test you. I’ve been through it. But I enjoy the challenge even when you’re not playing well of trying to figure out shooting a score. I enjoy that challenge.”
Makenna Woodfolk had 19 points as the University of Hawaii women’s basketball team rallied for a 65-60 victory over UC Davis on Saturday afternoon at the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu.
Tia Kanoa scored seven of her 15 points in the fourth quarter, when the Rainbow Wahine outscored the Aggies 24-14. She also finished with eight rebounds and seven assists to help UH end a three-game losing streak and improve to 5-10 overall, 1-1 in Big West Conference play.
UC Davis took its biggest lead with 7 minutes, 26 minutes left in the game when Kourtney Eaton hit a 3-pointer to put the Aggies up 56-47. Courtney Middap quickly answered with a 3 for UH on the next possession, and the Rainbow Wahine climbed back to take a 59-58 lead on a pair of Leah Salanoa free throws with 2:52 remaining.
Hawaii went 6-for-6 from the line while holding the Aggies to a pair of free throws the rest of the way.
Morgan Bertsch led defending Big West champion UC Davis (9-6, 1-1) with 29 points. The Rainbow Wahine next host Cal State Northridge on Thursday.
HONOLULU — The easygoing vibe in Hawaii is a perfect fit for Matt Kuchar, who spends as much as a month at a time in the islands when his schedule allows.
The Sony Open is more about work than play, and he’s having just as much fun.
Kuchar ran off four birdies in five holes to start his second round Friday, handled the par 5s at Waialae Country Club again and finished with another round of 7-under 63 to take a one-shot lead over Andrew Putnam.
“To shoot 7 under back-to-back is unexpected, but awfully excited,” Kuchar said with the same smile he wears for most any occasion.
Kuchar was at 14-under 126, matching the lowest 36-hole score of his PGA Tour career. He also had a 126 in Las Vegas in 2008.
Putnam, playing in the afternoon, had a bogey-free 65 and was one shot behind. Chez Reavie (65) and Stewart Cink (62) were four behind.
Jordan Spieth had a short week after a long break from golf. In his 2019 debut, Spieth had a 66 and missed the cut by one shot. Needing to birdie the last four holes to qualify for the weekend, Spieth ran off two birdies, missed a 10-foot birdie putt and then narrowly missed chipping in for eagle.
“I loved the fight,” Spieth said. “I feel like I was trying to win the tournament trying to make the cut, which is not something I want to get used to.”
He returns in two weeks at Torrey Pines.
No one had a more memorable round than Reavie. He holed out for eagle three times from the fairway — a sand wedge from 101 yards on No. 10 at the start of his round, a 9-iron from 149 yards on No. 16 and a gap wedge from 135 yards on No. 6.
The PGA Tour only began keeping hole-by-hole records in 1983, and no one had ever made three eagles in one round on par 4s since then. Reavie didn’t think all that much about it until he piped a drive on No. 8 and hit a wedge that covered the flag.
“It was on a good line, and that was the only time it crossed my mind — ‘Wow, could we make another one?’ ” he said. “The other two, I just hit the shot I was trying to see and it was going at the hole. Never expected it to go in. It’s always a surprise when it disappears.”
So odd was this round that Reavie made more eagles than birdies, and the one shot that made him think the ball might go in the hole led to a par.
“Apparently, I need to go buy a lottery ticket today,” Reavie said.
That would be a good idea, except Hawaii doesn’t have a lottery. For now, he has to figure out how to make up four shots on Kuchar.
Cink made nine birdies in his round of 62. Marc Leishman (64) and Ted Potter Jr. (65) were at 9-under 131.
Canadian rookie leads Putnam by one stroke, Kuchar by two at Sony
By DOUG FERGUSON
The Associated Press
HONOLULU — Ocean views along the golf course seem to suit Adam Svensson.
A year after his victory in the Bahamas that paved his way to the PGA Tour, Svensson capped off a rookie round to remember Thursday with a 10-foot birdie putt on his final hole at Waialae Country Club for a 9-under 61 and a one-shot lead in the Sony Open.
“It was all a blur,” Svensson said. “I don’t even remember which holes I birdied.”
Throw in an eagle, too, a 6-iron on the par-5 ninth that he caught thin and was hopeful would clear the bunker. It did better than that, rolling out to 5 feet. But it was the back nine, as the wind began to calm, where the 25-year-old Canadian made his move.
It started with a 50-foot birdie putt on the 11th hole. He hit it to 2 feet on the 12th, holed an 18-foot birdie on No. 13 and finished his run with a 10-foot birdie on the 14th. A tough up-and-down from right of the green on the par-5 18th gave Svensson the lowest round of his professional career.
He did shoot a 61 while at Barry University, where he won the Jack Nicklaus Award in 2014 as the Division II player of the year.
His only significant victory as a pro was the second event last year on the Web.com Tour at the Bahamas Great Abaco Classic, and he held his position in the top 25 on the money list the rest of the year to reach the PGA Tour.
Andrew Putnam shot a 62 in the morning and looked tough to beat until Svensson came along.
It was the first time Putnam had played Waialae all week because of a bee sting, and it apparently didn’t bother him. He made birdie on half of his holes, none of them tap-ins, and took only 23 putts for the lowest score of his PGA Tour career.
Putnam had a four-shot lead among the early starters. By the end of the day, Matt Kuchar had a 63, and 75 players from the 144-man field were under par.
That did not include Jordan Spieth, who made his 2019 debut with a little rust, and it showed. He had to wait until his 16th hole, the par-3 seventh, for his first birdie of the year. And that was all he made in a round of 73 that left him needing a low round today just to make it to the weekend.
Putnam, among 23 players who were on Maui last week at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, made it all look so easy. This is his third year playing the Sony Open, so the course is not new to him. But it’s unusual for him not to at least get in a practice round.
He was poolside Tuesday when the bee stung him in the foot.
“I couldn’t walk, so I had to withdraw out of the pro-am,” he said. “I was just sitting around all yesterday and couldn’t even hit a shot. Yeah, kind of bizarre how it all worked out.”
HONOLULU — Jordan Spieth showed up in Hawaii three years ago hopeful that a new year would be more of a continuation than a fresh start. Back then, he was coming off two majors, five victories, the FedEx Cup and he was No. 1 in the world.
He’s in a different spot at the Sony Open this week at Waialae Country Club.
Spieth went through an entire year without a trophy for the first time as a pro. He didn’t have even a mathematical chance at the FedEx Cup because he didn’t make it to the Tour Championship for the first time. Spieth starts the year at No. 17.
So is this a fresh start or a continuation?
In his case, a little of both.
“Thinking of something as a fresh start, that you can throw away some of the struggles from last season, is beneficial,” he said Wednesday. “But I was doing really good work as the season went on where I was focusing my work, which was in the putting. So I don’t want to necessarily wash all that away. I was doing the right stuff. It’s then just a continuation of that work as I start to dial it in more and more.
“So yes and no,” he concluded. “I guess mentally, yes. But physically, no.”
He wasn’t even sure he was coming to Oahu until a few weeks ago. Spieth wasn’t eligible for the winners-only field at Kapalua. He got married over Thanksgiving weekend, which cut into a typical schedule of preparations for the new year. His expectations aren’t as high as they might be.
“Just after Christmas,” he said of his decision to play the Sony Open. “I had a good day practicing and said, ‘All right, I’m going.’ A couple of days after that it was, ‘Dang it, I’m not ready.’ Couple of days after that, ‘Yeah.’ I’m really glad I’m here, whether it goes well or not.”
The Sony Open starts today as the first full-field event of 2019, with 23 players who were at the Sentry Tournament of Champions last week. That includes Justin Thomas, who won at Waialae two years ago by opening with a 59 and breaking the PGA Tour’s record for 72 holes with a 253 total.
Patrick Reed also is in the field, the first time Reed and Spieth have been in the same tournament since the Ryder Cup, remembered as much for the European team’s lopsided victory as Reed blaming Spieth for them not playing together in France. Spieth and Thomas went 3-1 as partners, while Reed and Tiger Woods went 0-2.
“I was a bit surprised,” Spieth said about Reed’s post-Ryder Cup comments. “It didn’t bother me. I was just like, ‘Whoa.’ There was nothing lead up to that … nothing told me that was going to happen.”
He doesn’t expect any awkward moments, even if they’re paired with each other at some point. Reed generally gets along well with everyone inside the ropes, though he tends to practice by himself.
“It’s not like he’s ever been extremely cordial to individuals, anyway,” Spieth said. “I don’t think anything will be any different. … I don’t think anything will change with how we’ve talked to each other. It will be interesting if we’re competing on Sunday, what will be talked about outside of us. Between us, it won’t be anything extra than what there always is, which is peers trying to win a tournament.”
Spieth wants to win, more than anything else. And it really doesn’t matter who he beats.
His last victory was the British Open in 2017, the third leg of the career Grand Slam. His putting stroke got away from him early last year, and about the time he sorted that out, the long game was no longer reliable. More than not winning, Spieth rarely contended.
In his 23 events at stroke play, he missed the cut five times and finished at least 10 shots out of the lead at nine other tournaments.
And still was a fraction away from being a great year. He clipped a tree on the 18th hole at Augusta National with a chance to win another green jacket, and he had a share of the 54-hole lead at the British Open.
“If I play 18 and make birdie at Augusta and end up winning that day, then all of a sudden it’s looked at as one of the best years I’ve had in my career, and it’s all a difference of one hole,” he said. “That’s where you start look at it like … what can you get caught up in? I still had the opportunity to win two majors last year, which is the idea I want every year.”
Spieth does have one concern starting the new year. He already figured out he can’t play effectively while wearing his wedding ring.
“It’s just my putting,” he said. “When I’m cross-handed, kind of jams into my grip. Unfortunately, that means I’ll probably lose some rings.”
Orange crush: Tigers intercept Tagovailoa twice, shut out Tide over final 44 minutes
By RALPH D. RUSSO
The Associated Press
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — With stunning ease — and a freshman quarterback — Clemson toppled college football’s greatest dynasty again to become the first perfect playoff champion.
Trevor Lawrence passed for 347 yards and three touchdowns and the second-ranked Tigers beat No. 1 Alabama 44-16 on Monday night in the College Football Playoff national championship game.
In the fourth consecutive playoff meeting between the Tigers and Tide, Clemson evened the series and beat ‘Bama for the national championship for the second time in three seasons. Clemson is the first team in the AP poll era, dating back to 1936, to finish 15-0, and the first since the playoff started five seasons ago to get through a season unscathed.
“We’re gonna enjoy this one. We’ve got a nice spot to put it in our facility, right next to that other one,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “We’ve got twins!”
Alabama coach Nick Saban and the Tide (14-1) were looking for a sixth national championship in 10 years, trying to add to an already unprecedented run in the sport. Instead, Clemson crushed Alabama, becoming the first opponent to beat the Tide by more than 14 points since Saban became coach in 2007.
Swinney’s Tigers sealed their status as a superpower, no longer just 1A to Alabama’s 1.
“We’re 15-0, we beat the best team ever, nobody’s taking that away from us,” Clemson All-America defensive tackle Christian Wilkins said.
Two seasons ago it was Deshaun Watson dethroning the Tide with a last-second touchdown pass. Clemson’s new star quarterback didn’t need the late-game heroics. The long-haired Lawrence cut though Alabama’s defense with the help of another fabulous freshman. Justyn Ross made a juggling grab, a one-handed snare and broke a 74-yard touchdown about midway through the third quarter that made it 37-16 and had Swinney high-stepping down the sidelines.
Ross, who scored two touchdowns in the semifinal rout of Notre Dame, had six catches for 153 yards against his home-state team.
Swinney takes a different approach than Saban, running a more fun-loving program than Alabama’s all-business organization. But the results have been every bit as good. And on Monday night at Levi’s Stadium, in a championship game played more than 2,000 miles away from Clemson’s South Carolina campus, the Tigers were way too much for an Alabama team that had spent the season mauling its opposition. The Tide won their first 14 games by an average of 31 points per game.
Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa threw two crucial interceptions in the first half, the first returned 44 yards for a touchdown by A.J. Terrell to put Clemson up 7-0. The Tide came in scoring 48 points per game, but was shut out over the final 44 minutes by an opportunistic Clemson defense that stiffened in key spots.
Saban lamented numerous mistakes: blown coverages on third down (Clemson was 10 for 15), stall outs in the red zone and special teams mishaps, including a fake field goal that flopped on the first possession of the second half.
He laid the blame on himself. The Alabama program has set a championship-or-bust standard under Saban, but he didn’t want this season looked at as a failure.
“One game doesn’t define who you are,” Saban said.
Tagovailoa, the sophomore who came off the bench to win the championship game last year for the Tide, went 22 for 34 for 295 yards and two touchdowns.
“Good is not good enough,” Tagovailoa said.
The Heisman runner-up was also the second-best quarterback on the field in the championship game. Lawrence finished 20 for 32, and went 18 for 25 for 277 yards over the final three quarters.
The teenager who took over as the starter four games into the season raised the Tigers’ play, giving them an explosive offense to match a suffocating defense, led by All-American linemen Clelin Ferrell and Wilkins.
“It’s been an awesome journey,” Lawrence said. “It’s really unbelievable.”
Clemson hit Alabama with a 31-point first half, capitalizing on the Tide’s mistakes and unleashing Lawrence’s rocket arm.
Tagovailoa threw a second interception in the second quarter, this time into triple coverage, and Trayvon Mullen’s 46-yard return put Clemson in Alabama territory. That led to Travis Etienne’s third touchdown of the half, a 5-yard shovel pass from Lawrence.
With a chance to stamp itself as the best team in Saban’s remarkable 12 seasons at Alabama, the Crimson Tide played maybe the worst half of the coach’s tenure. The 15-point halftime deficit was the largest the Tide has ever faced under Saban.
Alabama seemed panicked in the third quarter, running a fake field goal into a waiting Clemson defense instead of kicking from 40. Three plays later, Lawrence faced down a pass rush and slung a pass to Ross, who was alone after Alabama defensive back Savion Smith went down with an apparent leg injury.
Ross sprinted away and the shocking rout was on.
“We’re just little old Clemson and I’m not supposed to be here,” said Swinney, the former walk-on at Alabama and receivers coach at Clemson who now has as many national titles as Hall of Famers Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno. “But we are here and I am here. How about them Tigers.”
SAN JOSE, Calif. — Alabama quarterback and Heisman Trophy runner-up Tua Tagovailoa said his sprained left ankle is feeling good two days before the top-ranked Crimson Tide play No. 2 Clemson for the national championship.
“I can only say we’re continuing to get better,” Tagovailoa said at media day on Saturday. “It’s trying to maintain the feeling of it feeling good. Just one more game then I can rest.”
Tagovailoa had surgery on his ankle after he injured it against Georgia in the SEC title game. The Saint Louis School graduate has been receiving almost nonstop treatment on his ankle since.
Offensive coordinator Mike Locksley said Tagovailoa, who also dealt with a knee injury this season, was as healthy as he has been in months.
“I thought last week we saw him healthy,” Locksley said.
Since the surgery, if Tagovailoa has not been practicing, he has been getting treatment.
“The guy’s getting treatment as we’re sitting here,” Alabama head athletic trainer Jeff Allen said. “He’s got an electric stem machine hooked up and he’s also got a portable ultrasound machine that helps increase blood flow. He sleeps in a cold compression unit every night to control swelling or any soreness he might get in practice that day. Just having a plan for literally every hour.”
There are 211 hours from the end of the Orange Bowl semifinal victory against Oklahoma until the championship game. During that time, Alabama had five two-hour practices.
“We can get 201 hours of treatment. What are we going to do during that time?” Allen said.
Allen said the physical therapy for Tagovailoa, who passed for 318 yards and four touchdowns against Oklahoma, was pretty much done before the Orange Bowl.
Tagovailoa’s performance in practice leading into the Oklahoma game, and then how he played, assured the medical staff that the sophomore could function the way he needed to in a game.
“We don’t need to focus on that as much now as we need to do pain control, swelling control, because we know from an agility and a functional standpoint, he’s ready to go,” Allen said.
CFP NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
Monday • At Santa Clara, Calif.
Clemson (14-0) vs. Alabama (14-0), 3 p.m. HST (ESPN)
The University of Hawaii women’s basketball team dropped to 4-10 on the season after a 72-68 loss to Cal State Fullerton on Saturday in Fullerton, Calif.
Amy Atwell hit four 3-pointers and finished with 25 points off the bench for the Rainbow Wahine, who were playing their Big West Conference opener. Lauren Rewers added 10 points, but Makenna Woodfolk was limited to four points on 2-of-7 shooting.
UH took its first lead of the game at 52-50 on an Atwell layup with 8:35 left in the game. The Rainbow Wahine led by as many as five points before Cal State Fullerton rallied.
Raina Perez had 23 points to lead the Titans (9-5, 1-0 Big West). Jade Vega added 17 points, Daeja Smith added 13 and Amiee Book had 11.