Great play puts Tigers greatness into perspective
It took so much out of him that Toms he is heading off to his lake home in Arkansas – a planned vacation – and he jokingly said he would go to his barber and “get something to cover this gray up.”
With that exhausting stretch came some perspective.
“When I said I feel like I’ve been leading for two weeks, that’s hard,” he said. “When Tiger was winning everything, I always said that was the most impressive thing to me was dealing with it every day. It is tough.”
Sometimes it takes others’ great play to gain a better appreciation of Woods.
There was one stretch at the end of 1999 and into the start of 2000 when Woods either won or was runner-up in nine out of 10 tournaments. During a three-week stretch in the summer of 2006, Woods won a major (PGA), a World Golf Championship (Firestone) and the Deutsche Bank Championship.
More perspective involves Luke Donald, playing the best golf of anyone this year.
Donald reached the final of the World Match Play Championship in Spain before losing to Ian Poulter. Even so, it was Donald’s eighth consecutive finish in the top 10, which includes a win at the WGC version of Match Play in Arizona, a playoff loss at Hilton Head and a late rally at the Masters.
Lee Westwood has two stretches of five straight top-10s on his two-year ledger that helped him get to No. 1 in the world. Vijay Singh, during his rise to No. 1 in the world, once had 10 consecutive finishes in the top 10 at the end of 2003 and into 2004.
And then there’s Woods.
He has posted at least eight straight finishes in the top 10 on eight separate occasions in his career, the longest stretch coming in toward the end of 2006 and early part of 2007 when he had 13 consecutive top-10s, including seven wins.
LANGER OUT: Bernhard Langer had such a big year in 2010 that he is eligible for eight major championships – all five on the Champions Tour and all but the PGA Championship on the regular tour.
Because of a wrist injury and a sense of fairness, however, Langer is missing the first three.
Surgery on his left wrist already kept him out of the Masters (two-time champion) and this week’s Senior PGA Championship. Next up would be the U.S. Open, although Langer has decided not to play.
Langer, who was eligible as the U.S. Senior Open champion, does not feel as though he can win at Congressional and did not think it was right to take a spot from someone who would have a better chance.
Instead, he will make his “major” debut this year in the British Open at Royal St. George’s, where he finished third in 1993.
TEE IT FORWARD: The U.S. Golf Association and the PGA of America are behind an initiative called “Tee It Forward,” which encourages golfers to play from a shorter set of tees that best matches how far they hit their tee shots.
The idea comes from Barney Adams, founder of Adams Golf, who believes the game will be more fun if players aren’t having to hit long irons or hybrids into every hole. He also thinks it will speed play and help lower scores.
The USGA and PGA of America are asking golfers to participate in this concept from July 5-17.
They have produced a chart that suggests which set of tees to use. For example, a player who hits it 275 yards should play a course between 6,700 and 6,900 yards, while someone whose drive on average goes 200 yards should play a course at 5,200 to 5,400 yards.
The distance chart speaks to the professional state of the game – for pro golfers, the recommended length of a course they should play is from 7,600 to 7,900 yards. According to the PGA Tour media guide, only one course (based on the scorecard) on Tour is longer than 7,600 yards – Cog Hill for the BMW Championship, which is listed at 7,616 yards.
FLAGSHIP COMPARISONS: The European Tour is at Wentworth this week for the BMW PGA Championship, its flagship event considered to be the equivalent of The Players Championship. It’s the first time Europe has had all four major champions (all of whom are European Tour members) in its field.
But there is one difference between the two events, beyond the prize fund ($9.5 million for The Players, $6.34 million for Wentworth).
It’s the roll call of champions.
Over the last 10 years, four winners at Wentworth have been ranked outside the top 200 in the world (Simon Khan, Scott Drummond, Ignacio Garrido and Andrew Oldcorn), and two others ranked outside the top 100 (Anders Hansen twice). Only one player inside the top 10 in the world has won since 2001 – Paul Casey, who was No. 7 in 2009.
Craig Perks was No. 203 when he won The Players in 2002. Since then, The Players had had three winners inside the top 10 (Phil Mickelson, Henrik Stenson and Davis Love III), and its lowest-ranked winner was Stephen Ames, who was No. 64 when he won in 2006.
STRANGE TERRITORY: Phil Mickelson now has the longest active streak of being among the top 10 in the world, which only further highlights the amazing run of Tiger Woods.
Woods fell out of the top 10 this week for the first time since April 6, 1997, the week before he won the Masters for the first of his 14 majors. He had been in the top 10 for 736 consecutive weeks.
Mickelson now has been in the top 10 for the last 381 weeks, a streak that began more than seven years ago. He would have to stay there for nearly seven more years – he’ll be closing in on 47 – to break Woods’ record.
Greg Norman has the second-longest streak at 645 successive weeks in the top 10, from when the world ranking debuted at the 1986 Masters until late summer in 1998. Back then, however, it was a three-year rolling period with very little movement. Second on the all-time list is Ernie Els at 448 weeks, from 2000 until the fall of 2008.
DIVOTS: Steve Pate makes his Champions Tour debut this week at the Senior PGA Championship. He doesn’t turn 50 until the opening round Thursday, and Champions Tour policy is for a player to turn 50 before the pro-am. This is run by the PGA of America, however, and it doesn’t have a pro-am. … The Administaff Small Business Classic on the Champions Tour has been renamed the Insperity Championship to reflect the title sponsor’s new corporate identity. The tournament is held Oct. 7-9 outside Houston. … University of California senior Pia Halbig has been selected for the Dinah Shore Trophy Award, given to a female college golfer who maintains at least a 3.2 grade-point average and a scoring average of 78 or under.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Ross Fisher is the only player from last year’s Ryder Cup who is not exempt for the U.S. Open.
FINAL WORD: “The trouble is that as a player, you’ve got all the information. But the people commenting only have some of the information.' – Padraig Harrington, asked what he thought about Bubba Watson’s criticism of Tiger Woods.
Alabama faces 'buzzsaw' Arizona for NCAA title
STILLWATER, Okla. – There was no way Laura Ianello could sleep Monday night, not after that dramatic ending at the NCAA Women’s Championship. So at 12:15 a.m., the Arizona coach held court in the laundry room at the Holiday Inn, washing uniforms and munching on mozzarella sticks and fried chicken strips from Sonic, her heart still racing.
Ianello got only three hours of sleep, and who could blame her?
The Wildcats had plummeted down the team standings during the final round of stroke-play qualifying, and were 19 over par for the day, when junior transfer Bianca Pagdanganan arrived on the 17th hole.
“Play the best two holes of your life,” Ianello told her, and so Pagdanganan did, making a solid par on 17 and then ripping a 6-iron from 185 yards out of a divot to 30 feet. There was a massive leaderboard positioned to the right of the par-5 18th green, but Pagdanganan never peeked. The only way for Arizona to force a play-five, count-four playoff with Baylor and reach match play was to sink the putt, and when it dropped, the Wildcats lost their minds, shrieking and jumping over the ropes and hugging anyone in sight.
Watching the action atop the hill, Alabama coach Mic Potter shook his head.
“I was really glad we didn’t win the tiebreaker for the No. 1 seed,” he said, “because they’re a buzzsaw with a lot of momentum.”
Given new life, Arizona dispatched Baylor by three strokes in the playoff, then turned its attention to top-seeded UCLA in the quarterfinals on Tuesday morning.
Facing two first-team All-Americans, the Wildcats beat them, too, continuing the curse of the medalist. In the afternoon, worried that the adrenaline would wear off, Ianello watched her squad make quick work of Stanford, 4-1.
“They’ve got a lot of great momentum, a lot of great team energy,” Stanford coach Anne Walker said. “They thought they were going home, and now they’ve got a chip on their shoulder. They’re playing with an edge.”
After a marathon doubleheader Tuesday at Karsten Creek, Arizona now has a date with Alabama in the final match of this NCAA Championship.
And the Wildcats better rest up.
Alabama looks unstoppable.
“They’re rolling off a lot of momentum right now,” Ianello said. “We know Alabama is a good team. But they’re super excited and pumped. It’s not the high of making it [Monday]; now they’ve got a chance to win. They know they have to bring it.”
Even fully rested, Arizona will be a significant underdog against top-ranked Alabama.
After failing to reach match play each of the past two years, despite being the top overall seed, the Tide wouldn’t be stopped from steamrolling their competition this time.
They roughed up Kent State, 4-1, in the quarterfinals, then frontloaded their lineup with three first-team All-Americans – Lauren Stephenson, Kristen Gillman and Cheyenne Knight – in their semifinal tilt against Southern Cal.
Potter said that he was just trying to play the matchups, but the move sent a clear signal.
“It gets pretty tedious when you never miss fairways and hole a lot of putts and your opponent knows that you’re not going to spray it,” Potter said. “That’s tough to match up against.”
They breezed to the first three points, draining any drama out of the semifinals. Of the 99 holes that Bama’s Big 3 played Tuesday, they trailed after only two.
“We’re always consistent,” Stephenson said, “and that’s exactly what you need in match play. Someone has to go really low to beat us.”
That Arizona even has that chance to dethrone the Tide seemed inconceivable a few months ago.
The Wildcats had a miserable fall and were ranked 39th at the halfway point of the season. On Christmas Day, one of the team’s best players, Krystal Quihuis, sent a text to Ianello that she was turning pro. Once she relayed the news, the team felt abandoned, but it also had a newfound motivation.
“They wanted to prove that they’re a great team, even without her,” Ianello said.
It also was a case of addition by subtraction: Out went the individual-minded Quihuis and in came Yu-Sang Ho, an incoming freshman whom Ianello described as a “bright, shining light.”
Because incorporating a top-tier junior at the midway point can be intimidating, Ianello organized a lively team retreat at the Hilton El Conquistador in Tucson, where they made vision boards and played games blindfolded.
They laughed that weekend and all throughout the spring – or at least until Pagnanganan made that last-ditch eagle putt Monday. Then tears streamed down Ianello’s face.
Folding uniforms after midnight, she regaled Alabama assistant coach Susan Rosenstiel with stories from their emotional day on the cut line, not even considering that they might face each other two days later for a national title. She was too delirious to ponder that.
“I feel like a new mother with a newborn baby,” Ianello said. “But we’re going off of adrenaline. This team has all the momentum they need to get it done.”
Yes, somehow, the last team into the match-play field might soon be the last team standing.
Pairings, tee times set for championship match
STILLWATER, Okla. – Alabama coach Mic Potter has three first-team All-Americans on this team. It’s little surprise that all three are going out first in the Crimson Tide’s championship match against Arizona Wednesday at Karsten Creek.
Potter tinkered with his lineup in both the quarterfinal victory over Kent State and the semifinal win over USC. But with the NCAA title on the line, this one was a no brainer.
“We don’t want to sacrifice anything,” Potter said. “We just want to give ourselves a chance to win every match.”
Arizona kept its lineup the same all day Tuesday in defeating Pac-12 foes UCLA and Stanford in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively. That meant junior Bianca Pagdanganan, the Wildcats grittiest player this week, was in the last match of the day. She won twice.
Now, with all the marbles riding on the championship match, Arizona coach Laura Ianello moved Pagdanganan up to the third spot to assure that her match is key to the final outcome.
Junior Haley Moore, Arizona’s best player all year, is in the fifth spot and will face Alabama senior Lakareber Abe.
“Win or lose tomorrow, this has been a helluva ride,” Ianello said.
Alabama (2) vs. Arizona (8)
3:25PM ET: Lauren Stephenson (AL) vs. Yu-Sang Hou (AZ)
3:35PM ET: Kristen Gillman (AL) vs. Gigi Stoll (AZ)
3:45PM ET: Cheyenne Knight (AL) vs. Bianca Pagdanganan (AZ)
3:55PM ET: Angelica Moresco (AL) vs. Sandra Nordaas (AZ)
4:05PM ET: Lakareber Abe (AL) vs. Haley Moore (AZ)
Women's NCAA finals: Arizona vs. Alabama
STILLWATER, Okla. – It’s the SEC vs. the Pac 12 for the women’s NCAA Championship; Alabama vs. Arizona, to be more specific.
Both the Crimson Tide and Wildcats cruised in their respective semifinal matches Tuesday at Karsten Creek. Alabama easily beat USC, 3-1-1; Arizona defeated match-play juggernaut Stanford, 4-1.
Alabama’s top three players, Lauren Stephenson, Kristen Gillman and Cheyenne Knight were unstoppable forces in both matches on the marathon day. Stacked in the top three positions in the semifinals all three won their matches on the 17th hole, making the last two matches inconsequential.
Arizona, the eighth seed, won as decisively as second-seeded Alabama, but needed a miracle to be in this position in the first place.
Junior Bianca Pagdanganan drained a 30-footer for eagle on the last hole of stroke play on Monday to get the Wildcats into a playoff against Baylor, which they won on the second hole. Then on Tuesday, presumably running on fumes, they downed top-seeded UCLA in the morning, then crushed Pac-12 foe Stanford in the afternoon.
Pagdanganan, Gigi Stoll and Hayley Moore each won both matches for Arizona on the hot, draining day.
“I don’t want to let them down so I do my best to rise to the occasion,” Pagdanganan said.
Said Arizona coach Laura Ianello: “How many players, when you tell them under pressure that you need them, can really handle it,” Ianello said about Pagdanganan. “This kid can.”
NCAA DI Women's Champ.: Scoring, TV times
The NCAA Division I Women's Golf Championship is underway at Kartsen Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.
After three days of stroke play, eight teams advanced to the match-play portion of the championship. Quarterfinals and semifinals were contested Tuesday, with the finals being held on Wednesday. Golf Channel is airing the action live.
- Finals: Alabama vs. Arizona
- Semifinals: Alabama def. USC, 3.5-1.5
- Semifinals: Arizona def. Stanford, 4-1
- Quarterfinals: Alabama def. Kent State, 4-1
- Quartefinals: USC def. Duke, 3.5-1.5
- Quarterfinals: Arizona def. UCLA, 3-2
- Quarterfinals: Stanford def. Northwestern, 3-2
- Individual stroke play
TV Times (all times ET):
4-8PM: Match-play finals (Click here to watch live)