Home of golf feels just like home to Woods

By Associated PressJuly 9, 2010, 10:05 pm

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – During the first week of January, when Tiger Woods was in therapy and no one knew when he was coming back or how he would play, Jack Nicklaus looked at 2010 as a big year for Woods’ pursuit of major championships.

“If Tiger is going to pass my record, this is a big year for him in that regard,” Nicklaus said at the start of the season.

It was more much about “where” than who, when or how.

Augusta National for the Masters. Pebble Beach for the U.S. Open. St. Andrews for the British Open. Woods has won half of his 14 majors on those courses, just as Nicklaus finished his career having won half of his record 18 majors on the same three.

Woods tied for fourth in the first two majors.

The Old Course at St. Andrews, however, is where Woods really feels at home.

He played his first British Open on these ageless links as a 19-year-old amateur and made the cut. He first won the career Grand Slam at St. Andrews in 2000 with a record score to par (19-under 269) for an eight-shot victory. He returned in 2005 to win by five shots and reaffirm his dominance in the game.

Such is his affection for the Old Course that Woods was asked last month which would be the ideal rotation for him to play the four majors. Without hesitation, Woods replied, “I’d probably pick St. Andrews all four times.”

The only question is what kind of game he brings to the home of golf.

In the majors, Woods looks like he is getting close. Having not competed for five months, Woods had a chance to win on the back nine on Sunday at the Masters and tied for fourth. Then at the U.S. Open, playing in the second-to-last group on Sunday, he made five bogeys on the opening 10 holes and tied for fourth.

But in every other tournament, Woods has looked like any other player.

There was that missed cut at Quail Hollow with the highest 36-hole score of Woods’ career. There was the neck injury that caused him to withdraw from The Players Championship. In the two other U.S. PGA Tour events where he played all four rounds, Woods finished a combined 26 shots out of the lead.

“Just call it one of those things,” Woods said. “Tried just the same in every one. For some reason, those two (majors) have been my best results.”

What to expect from him at St. Andrews?

“Yeah, it’s probably hard for me to answer,” Phil Mickelson said. “I probably have as good a guess as you do.”

The No. 1 world ranking, which has belonged to Woods over the last five years, will be up for grabs at St. Andrews between Woods and Mickelson, as it was at the U.S. Open.

Mickelson has never fared well in golf’s oldest championship, his only top-10 coming in 2004 when he finished one shot out of a playoff at Royal Troon. He thinks he’s close to solving it, saying that he put too much spin on the ball in recent years. If he has learned the secret to the links, this might be an opportunity to win more than one major in a year for the first time.

Otherwise, sorting out the favorites for this British Open is not that easy.

Woods made it predictable the last two times he played because he was on top of his game, driving it well enough to take the bunkers out of play, and putting with the precision required on double greens that could leave putts as long as a football field.

“If Tiger plays the way he did in 2000 and 2005, yes, he is” the man to beat, said Colin Montgomerie, the runner-up to Woods in 2005. “It depends on how he is to cope with the situation he finds himself in. But at the same time, he’s played two majors now since he came back to play, and he’s finished fourth in both of them.

“So it would be a tough guy to bet against him on a course that is entirely suited to his strength, which is putting.”

Americans have won five of the last six times at St. Andrews, with John Daly somewhat of a surprise in 1995. They don’t see a golf course like this anywhere in the world. Then again, neither does anyone else.

“People who don’t like it, don’t understand it,” Scott Verplank said. “But if you understand it, then it’s brilliant.”

No one is ready to rule out Woods, who will try to become the first player to capture the British Open three times at St. Andrews. And while he failed to break par in any round at his last event in the AT&T National – the first time that has happened in 11 years – he said he made progress simply by getting another tournament under his belt, and driving the ball better than he had all year.

“I can’t wait to get over there,” he said. “I’m looking forward to getting my lines, my feel, my numbers. I love playing the golf course, and we’ll see how the weather is. You never know.”

The forecast is for periods of rain throughout the week, meaning this could be a “green” British Open. There have been years, especially at St. Andrews, where it was so dry and brown that the fairways were running faster than the green.

The defending champion is Stewart Cink, one of the least celebrated Open champions in recent years not because of how he won, but because of whom he beat. Tom Watson, on the verge of becoming golf’s oldest major champion at age 59, missed an 8-foot par putt on the final hole at Turnberry and then never had a chance in the playoff against Cink.

Can he do it again? History is against him.

Watson is America’s greatest links champion, having won the claret jug five times, on five courses. Even so, the one Scottish links that Watson failed to win was St. Andrews. He came close in 1984, losing on the final holes to Seve Ballesteros.

The Spaniard, sadly, won’t be returning for one of the highlights of the week – the Champions Challenge, featuring past Open champions in a four-hole competition on Wednesday. Ballesteros, still recovering from a brain tumor, has been deemed not fit enough for travel, and perhaps for the emotional response he would surely have received.

After that, all eyes turn to Woods and his attempt to restore some normalcy to his game, and perhaps to make more history at St. Andrews. To some players, he is still the favorite.

“There’s no doubt,” Padraig Harrington said. “If Tiger hits form at all … he’s comfortably the favorite to win any of the majors, and St. Andrews sets up very well for him. He’s the No. 1 player at getting the ball to finish closest to where it lands out there, and St. Andrews requires that so much because of the firmness of the greens and how tight the pin positions will be. He’s well capable of winning without hitting his very best form.

“Is he about to hit that? I wouldn’t write him off, that’s for sure.”

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Arizona caps an improbable journey with a title

By Ryan LavnerMay 24, 2018, 3:49 am

STILLWATER, Okla. – Five hours before the final match at the NCAA Women’s Championship, Arizona coach Laura Ianello sat cross-legged on a couch in the Holiday Inn lobby and broke down four times in a half-hour interview.

It’s been that kind of exhausting season.

From poor play to stunning midseason defections to a stroke-play collapse, Ianello has felt uneasy for months. She has felt like she was losing control. Felt like her carefully crafted roster was coming apart.

So to even have a chance to win a NCAA title?

“I know what this team has gone through,” she said, beginning to tear up, “and you don’t get these opportunities all the time. So I want it for them. This could be so life-changing for so many of them.”

A moment that seemed impossible six months ago became reality Wednesday at Karsten Creek.

Arizona continued its magical run through the match-play bracket and knocked off top-ranked Alabama to capture its third NCAA title, with junior Haley Moore – who first rose to fame by making the cut at an LPGA major as a 16-year-old – rolling in a 4-footer to earn the clinching point in extra holes.

All throughout nationals Arizona was fueled by momentum and adrenaline, but this was no Cinderella squad. The Wildcats were ranked ninth in the country. They won twice this spring. They had four medalists. They were one of the longest-hitting teams in the country.

But even before a miracle end to NCAA stroke play, Arizona needed some help just to get here.

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Team scoring

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Individual scoring

On Christmas Day, one of the team’s best players, Krystal Quihuis, texted Ianello that she was turning pro. It may have been a gift to her parents, for their years of sacrifice, but it was a lump of coal in Ianello’s stocking.

“I was absolutely heartbroken,” she said. “It was devastating.”

Even more bad news arrived a few weeks later, when junior Gigi Stoll told Ianello that she was unhappy, homesick and wanted to return to Portland, Ore. Just like that, a promising season had gone off the rails.

Ianello offered her a full release, but Stoll looked around, found no other suitors and decided to remain with the team – as long as she signed a contract of expected behavior.

“It was the most exhausting two months of my life,” Ianello said. “We care so much about these freakin’ girls, and we’re like, Come on, this is just a small, little picture of your life, so you don’t realize what you’re possibly giving up. It’s so hard to see that sometimes.”

Stoll eventually bought in, but the rest of the team was blindsided by Quihuis’ decision.

“We became even more motivated to prove we were a great team,” said junior Bianca Pagdanganan.

It also helped that Yu-Sang Hou joined the squad in January. The morale immediately improved, not least because the players now could poke fun at Hou; on her fourth day on campus she nearly burned down the dorm when she forgot to add water to her mac-and-cheese.

Early on Ianello and assistant Derek Radley organized a team retreat at a hotel in Tucson. There the players created Oprah-inspired vision boards and completed exercises blindfolded and delivered 60-second speeches to break down barriers. At the end of the session, they created T-shirts that they donned all spring. They splashed “The Great Eight” on the front, put the state of Arizona and each player’s country of origin on the sleeves, and on the back printed their names and a slogan: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

“I can’t think of anything else that better embodies this team,” Radley said.

This spring, they rallied together and finished no worse than fourth in a tournament. Through three rounds of stroke play here at the NCAA Championship, they used their distance advantage and sat third in the standings. Then they shot 17 over par in the final round, tumbling outside the top-8 cut line.

They were down to their final chance on the 72nd hole, needing an eagle to tie, as Pagdanganan lined up her 30-footer. She dramatically drained the putt, then gathered her teammates on the range.

“This means we were meant to be in the top 8,” she said. Less than an hour later, they beat Baylor in the team playoff to earn the last match-play berth.

Ianello was so amped up from the frenetic finish that she slept only three hours on Monday night, but they continued to roll and knocked off top-seeded UCLA in the quarterfinals, beating a pair of Player of the Year contenders, Lilia Vu and Patty Tavatanakit, in the process. In the afternoon semifinals, they jumped all over Stanford and won easily.

It was a cute story, the last team into the match-play field reaching the final match, but a stiffer challenge awaited the Wildcats Wednesday.

Alabama was the top-ranked team in the country. The Tide were a whopping 110 under par for the season, boasting three first-team All-Americans who were so dominant in their first two matches that they trailed for only two of the 99 holes they played.

Ianello already seemed to be bracing for the result on the eve of the final match.

“Win or lose,” she said, “this has been a hell of a ride.”

But their wild ride continued Wednesday, as Hou won four holes in a row to start the back nine and defeat Alabama’s best player, Lauren Stephenson, who had the best single-season scoring average (69.5) in Division I history.

Then sophomore Sandra Nordaas – the main beneficiary after Quihuis left at the midway point of the season – held on for a 1-up victory over Angelica Moresco.

And so Arizona’s national-title hopes hinged on the success of its most mercurial player, Moore. In the anchor match against Lakareber Abe, Moore jumped out to a 2-up lead at the turn but lost the first three holes on the back nine.

By the time Radley sped back to help Moore, in the 12th fairway, she was frazzled.

“But seeing me,” Radley said, “I saw a sense of calm wash over her.”

Moore played solidly for the rest of the back nine and took a 1-up lead into the home hole. She didn’t flinch when Abe hit one of the shots of the entire championship – a smoked 3-wood to 12 feet to set up a two-putt birdie and force extras – and then gave herself 4 feet for the win on the first playoff hole. She sank the putt and within seconds was mobbed by her teammates.

In the giddy aftermath, Ianello could barely speak. She wandered around the green in a daze, looking for someone, anyone, to hug.

The most trying year of her career had somehow ended in a title.

“At some moments, it felt impossible,” she said. “But I underestimated these young women a little bit.”

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Pac-12 continues to dominate women's golf

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 24, 2018, 3:04 am

Arizona's national women's golf championship marked the fourth consecutive year in‌ which the women's Division I national title was won by a Pac-12 Conference team. All four championships were won by different schools (Stanford, 2015; Washington, 2016; Arizona State, 2017; Arizona, 2018). The Pac-12 is the only conference to win four straight golf championships (men or women) with four different schools.

Here are some other statistical notes from the just-concluded NCAA Div. I Women's Golf Championship:

• This is the second time that Arizona has won the national title the year after rival Arizona State won it. The last time was 1996.

• Arizona now has three women's golf national championships. The previous two came in 1996 and 2000.

• Arizona is only the sixth school to win three or more Div. I women's golf championships, joining Arizona State (8), Duke (6), San Jose State (3), UCLA (3) and USC (3).

• Arizona's Haley Moore, who earned the clinching point on the 19th hole of her match with Alabama's Lakareber Abe, was the only Arizona player to win all three of her matches this week.

• Alabama's Kristen Gillman and Cheyenne Knight also went 3-0. Gillman did not trail in any match.

• Since the match-play format was instituted in 2015, Arizona is the lowest seed (8) to claim the national title. The seeds claiming the national championship were Stanford (4) in 2015; Washington (4) in 2016; and Arizona State (3) in 2017.

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High school seniors win U.S. Amateur Four-Ball

By Associated PressMay 24, 2018, 1:44 am

TEQUESTA, Fla. - The 18-year-old Hammer, from Houston, is set to play at Texas next fall. Barber, from Stuart, Fla., also is 18. He's headed to LSU.

''Growing up watching U.S. Opens and U.S. Amateurs on TV, I just knew being a USGA champion is something that I desperately wanted,'' said Hammer, who qualified for a U.S. Open three years ago at 15. ''And to finally do it, it feels incredible. It feels as good, if not better, than I thought it would. And especially being able to do it with Garrett. It's really cool to share this moment.''

Hammer and Cole won the par-4 eighth with a birdie to take a 2-up lead. They took the par-4 10th with a par, won the par-5 13th with an eagle - Barber hit a 4-iron from 235 yards to 3 feet - and halved the next two holes to end the match.

''Cole didn't want me to hit 4-iron,'' Barber said. ''He didn't think I could get it there. I was like, 'I got it.' So I hit it hard, hit pretty much a perfect shot. It was a crazy shot.''

The 32-year-old Dull is from Winter Park, Fla., and the 42-year-old Brooke from Altamonte Springs, Fla.

''Cole Hammer is a special player,'' Brooke said. ''Obviously, he's going to Texas (and) I'm not saying he is Jordan Spieth, but there are certain things that he does.''

In the morning semifinals, Hammer and Barber beat Idaho high school teammates Carson Barry and Sam Tidd, 5 and 4, and Brooke and Dull topped former Seattle University teammates Kyle Cornett and Patrick Sato, 4 and 3.

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Watch: Pumped up Beef deadlifts 485 lbs.

By Grill Room TeamMay 24, 2018, 12:19 am

Andrew "Beef" Johnston has been playing some solid golf on the European Tour this season, and he is clearly pumped up for one of the biggest weeks of the year at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

Judging from the video below, Beef will have no problems lifting the trophy on Sunday as he reportedly deadlifted 220 kg ... (Googles kilogram to pounds converter, enters numbers) ... that's 485 lbs!

@beefgolf with a new deadlift PB 220kg ! #youcantgowronggettingstrong

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