Howell Tops Mickelson in Nissan Playoff

By Associated PressFebruary 18, 2007, 5:00 pm
2007 Nissan OpenLOS ANGELES -- Charles Howell III finally ended that nasty habit of finishing second, making three clutch pars in a playoff that delivered a dramatic victory over Phil Mickelson in the Nissan Open on Sunday.
 
Howell closed with a 6-under 65 and got into a playoff when Mickelson bogeyed the 18th hole. Howell put away the two-time Masters champion with his third straight par save, holing a 3-foot putt on the 14th hole and raising his head to the sky in utter relief.
 
Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson was all smiles before another 18th hole meltdown. (WireImages)
'I said a prayer before I hit the putt,' Howell said, his voice cracking. 'I said, 'It's time. Go in.''
 
It was only the second victory of his career, and Howell had been haunted by nine runner-up finishes since winning the now-defunct Michelob Championship in the fall of 2002. He already had two runner-up finishes in four starts this year, including three weeks ago against Tiger Woods down the coast at Torrey Pines.
 
Mickelson, bidding for his second straight victory, had control throughout the playoff until coming up short of the green on the par-3 14th. He opted for putter, but it took a high hop leaving the blade and stopped 10 feet short. The par putt missed to the right.
 
Howell also was short, but his chip came out nicely just beyond the cup.
 
'I had every chance on the back nine to create some separation and not give anyone a chance,' said Mickelson, who twice missed putts inside 4 feet and closed with a 68. 'I felt like I had the tournament in my grasp and let it go.'
 
They finished at 16-under 268.
 
Ernie Els (67), Jim Furyk (67) and Robert Allenby (68) tied for third, three shots out of the playoff.
 
Els and Allenby both had chances to catch Mickelson along the back nine of a mostly sunny afternoon, but the Big Easy was tripped up by three bogeys, while Allenby fell back with a three-putt from 60 feet on the fringe at the 15th.
 
Howell earned $936,000 and is atop the PGA TOUR money list for the first time in his career. Aside from finally getting his hands on another trophy, Howell accomplished his first goal of 2007. The victory all but assures he can return to the Masters in April because the Augusta native will climb into top 25 in the world ranking.
 
Along the way, he exorcised a few demons.
 
It was four years ago at Riviera where Howell lost a three-shot lead, then missed a 5-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole and lost to Mike Weir. This time, he got past No. 10 in the playoff with an unlikely par. He clipped the trees when he tried to chip off the cart path, then got up-and-down from about 80 feet for par with a superb chip with just the right pace.
 
And while putting has been his nemesis during his drought, he holed one big putt after another -- from 8 feet for par on the 18th in regulation to keep the heat on Mickelson, from 6 feet for par on the 18th to extend the playoff, and the 3-footer on 14 that must have looked like a mile.
 
'It's been a long time,' Howell said. 'I'm speechless.'
 
Coming off a five-shot victory at Pebble Beach where he tied the tournament scoring record, Mickelson got a couple of breaks that he thought would carry him to a comfortable victory.
 
His flop shot on the 10th was heading into the back bunker when a tuft of kikuya grass, cut like a Marine's flat top, stopped it on the edge. Instead of scrambling for par, he used a utility club to knock in a 20-footer for birdie and lead by two shots.
 
Then on the 12th, his approach bounced off Humphrey Bogart's tree -- the sycamore left of the green where the actor used to watch the tournament -- and caromed onto the green instead of down into a ravine. Those breaks were wasted, however, by missing two short putts and failing to make par on the final hole.
 
'I'll look back and see a lot of opportunities,' Mickelson said. 'On a good note, it's better to get those out of the way early.'
 
Howell trailed by as many as five shots early in the final round and was still four behind with eight holes remaining, seemingly playing for second place. But he pecked away, and his fortunes turned quickly when he knocked in a 30-foot birdie on the 16th, then two-putted from the fringe for birdie on the 17th.
 
In the group behind, Mickelson's momentum again was slowed by a short putt.
 
He missed a 2-foot par putt on the 13th hole for the second straight day, then failed to take advantage of a great shot on the par-3 16th. His 8-iron hopped onto the green and rolled to 4 feet, but the birdie putt stayed right of the cup.
 
Tied for the lead, Mickelson took it right back with a big drive that left him only a hybrid from 255 yards into 25 feet on No. 17 for a two-putt birdie. And he was presumably in good shape in the left rough on the 18th.
 
Howell kept his hopes alive by curling in his 8-foot par putt to post at 16 under, forcing Mickelson to make par to win.
 
Mickelson hit 8-iron from 204 yards, trying to get the ball to the front of the green and let it roll to the back, but it failed to clear a mound leading to the 18th green, and his chip came out flat to 18 feet. The putt never had a chance, sending both players back to the 18th for a playoff that lasted three holes and produced a huge win for Howell.
 
Asked which was more meaningful, the Nissan Open or '02 at Kingsmill, the 27-year-old didn't hesitate.
 
'This one,' he said. 'Because of the five-year gap between them. It's been a long, long time since I won a title.'
 
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard
  • Full Coverage - Nissan Open
     
    Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
  • Getty Images

    Alabama faces 'buzzsaw' Arizona for NCAA title

    By Ryan LavnerMay 23, 2018, 2:00 am

    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.


    NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Scoring and TV times

    NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Full coverage


    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.

    Getty Images

    Pairings, tee times set for championship match

    By Jay CoffinMay 23, 2018, 1:02 am

    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)

    Getty Images

    Women's NCAA finals: Arizona vs. Alabama

    By Jay CoffinMay 22, 2018, 11:49 pm

    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.


    NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Scoring and TV times

    NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Full coverage


    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.”

    Getty Images

    NCAA DI Women's Champ.: Scoring, TV times

    By Golf Channel DigitalMay 22, 2018, 11:30 pm

    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.

    Wake Forest junior Jennifer Kupcho won the individual title. Click here for live finals action, beginning at 4 p.m. ET.

    Scoring:

    TV Times (all times ET):

    Wednesday
    4-8PM: Match-play finals (Click here to watch live)