Notes Poulters long walk Sharp-dressed man

By Associated PressSeptember 10, 2010, 4:30 am
BMW Championship

LEMONT, Ill. – Ian Poulter put the long walk between the 10th green and the 11th tee at the BMW Championship to good use.

Poulter, who needs a strong performance this week to advance to the Tour Championship, opened with a double bogey on 10 on Thursday. But he calmed himself down as he walked the 250 yards that separate 10 and 11, and went on to post the best score of the afternoon groups.

Poulter was third at 5-under 66, two strokes behind leader Matt Kuchar.

“I was glad it was a long walk from the 10th green to the 11th tee, that’s all I can say,” he said. “Double bogey is not how you want to start the third FedEx event. I suppose the only good way of looking at it is there’s 71 holes to go. I bounced back pretty good.”

Poulter made birdies on the long par 3s on the back nine, eagled the par-5 15th hole and chipped in on 18 from 20 yards for another birdie to make the turn at 4 under.

“I wasn’t really worried, I just didn’t want to start with a double. Especially on that easy of a hole,” Poulter said of the 10th, which produced just eight bogeys and two doubles Thursday.

And not in this tournament.

Poulter missed out on the Tour Championship at last year’s BMW by the slimmest of margins. He dunked his approach into the water on the final hole and made bogey, leaving him outside the top 30 by less than half a point, the smallest margin in the three-year history of the series.

Poulter came to the BMW in 44th place in the FedEx Cup standings, and estimated he needs a top-10 finish to make the Tour Championship in two weeks.

“They had to take it down to a decimal point. I don’t want no decimal points this year,” Poulter said. “I’m going to win this golf tournament and I want to win at East Lake and I want to go and enjoy myself at the Ryder Cup. So that’s my goal.”

There are putt-putt courses Phil Mickelson would enjoy more than Cog Hill.

Mickelson has made no secret of his dislike for Cog Hill, the longtime home of the Western Open that is now one of the rotating sites of the BMW Championship. His contempt has only grown since Rees Jones renovated it ahead of last year’s BMW.

“It’s interesting,” Mickelson said when asked his impressions of the course after shooting a 1-over 72 Thursday.

There was some thought Lefty might even skip the third round of the FedEx Cup. He’s at 14th in the standings after the first two events, and most likely would have made the Tour Championship even if he’d stayed home this week.

He’s here, but he skipped the pro-am to play at Butler National – a course clearly more to his liking.

“That’s in great shape,” he said. “The greens there were just pristine, and I had a nice, relaxing day.”

SHARP-DRESSED MAN: Ryan Moore’s snazzy duds drew as much attention as his score.

Moore did his best Bobby Jones imitation at the BMW Championship on Thursday, wearing a tie tucked beneath his black sweater.

“I bought it a couple of days ago,” he said. “I was just walking around a store and thought, `You know, I might wear some ties this week.’ Just sounded good. I saw the weather was only going to be about 70 to 75 degrees. I can definitely handle a sweater and tie in those temperatures.”

While most players sport clothes from major labels—Nike, Ashworth, Adidas, just to name a few—Moore is his own man. The 27-year-old’s outfits come straight from his personal closet, and he favors looks that are a throwback to the Jones and Sam Snead eras.

He’d even consider breaking out a tweed jacket if it was cold enough.

“Everywhere I go, anywhere I’ve worn it, fans love it,” Moore said of his distinctive look. “That was certainly not the purpose at all. I love this look. I love that golf used to have that look, and I like to wear it when I can, when weather permits. That’s just how I like to look. It’s not for attention or anything like that.”

No, Moore gets enough with his game. He closed with five straight birdies, and his 29 on the back nine is a Cog Hill record. At 6-under 65, he’s a stroke behind leader Matt Kuchar.

“That’s just golf,” Moore said. “Just a great way to finish.”

OUCH!: Scott Verplank promised Charlie Wi a steak dinner for getting him into the BMW Championship.

He might want to buy his doctor one, too.

Verplank said Thursday his achy left wrist feels better than it has in weeks after having a cortisone shot Monday night. Verplank has been struggling with tendinitis most of the year, and it got so bad last week he withdrew from the second round of the Deutsche Bank Championship because he could no longer grip the club through his swing.

“It wasn’t very good for the first five, six, seven holes. After that it wasn’t that bad,” said Verplank, whose wrist was bound tightly with white tape and then covered with a black wrap. “It hurt a lot less today than it did any other time in the last two or three weeks.”

Verplank played the first five holes at 4 over, and finished with a 76. That’s 12 strokes behind first-round leader Matt Kuchar.

Verplank figured his season was over when he left Boston. But Wi birdied the last hole Monday to bump Verplank up to No. 70 in the FedEx Cup standings and put him in the field for the BMW. His doctors told him he wouldn’t damage the wrist any further by playing, so Verplank got the cortisone shot, his first of the year.

There are no alternates in the playoffs, so it wasn’t as if Verplank deprived someone else of a spot in the field.

“I probably shouldn’t have come here. But nothing’s going to split, splinter, explode or tear,” Verplank said. “I’ve been playing with it all year, anyway.”

AYE, AYE CAPTAIN: Ian Poulter could have a future as a Ryder Cup captain.

Asked what he thought of Corey Pavin’s picks for the U.S. team earlier this week, the Englishman said they didn’t come as any surprise. Tiger Woods was all but a lock, and many figured Pavin would pick Zach Johnson and Stewart Cink, major champions who have already played Ryder Cups on the road.

Pavin’s last pick, though, was Rickie Fowler, the first PGA Tour rookie to make a U.S. Ryder Cup team.

“They were the four picks that I would have chosen,” Poulter said Thursday. “Guys were discussing it for a few days … and I think they were most people’s picks.”

WORLD RANKING: Phil Mickelson’s meltdown in the final round at the TPC Boston will make his road to No. 1 a lot tougher at Cog Hill.

For Mickelson to go atop the world ranking for the first time in his career, he would have to finish no worse than second place by himself, and that’s provided Tiger Woods finishes out of the top seven.

Mickelson can go to No. 1 with a win no matter what Woods does.

Steve Stricker also has a chance at the BMW Championship. He would have to win, and have Woods finish out of the top 17 and Mickelson finish worse than second.

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Arizona grabs last spot with eagle putt, playoff win

By Ryan LavnerMay 22, 2018, 3:18 am

STILLWATER, Okla. – With her team freefalling in the standings, Arizona coach Laura Ianello was down to her last stroke.

The Wildcats began the final round of the NCAA Championship in third place, but they were 19 over par for the day, and outside the top-8 cut line, with only one player left on the course.

Bianca Pagdaganan had transferred from Gonzaga to compete for NCAA titles, and on the 17th hole Ianello told her that she needed to play “the best two holes of your life” to keep the dream alive.

She made par on 17, then hit a 185-yard 6-iron out of a divot to 30 feet. Not knowing where she stood on the final green, Pagdaganan felt an eerie calm over the ball. Sure enough, she buried the eagle putt, setting off a raucous celebration and sending the Wildcats into a play-five, count-four team playoff with Baylor at 33 over par.

Their match-play spot wasn’t yet secure, but Ianello still broke down in tears.

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Team scoring

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Individual scoring

“Bianca is such an inspiration for all of us,” she said. “She’s the kind of kid that you want to root for, to have good things happen to.”

Arizona prevailed on the second playoff hole. As the 8 seed, the Wildcats will play top-seeded UCLA in the quarterfinals Tuesday at Karsten Creek.

Though the finish had plenty of drama, no teams played their way into the coveted top 8 on the final day of stroke-play qualifying.

Baylor came closest. The Bears barely advanced past regionals after a mysterious stomach virus affected several players and coaches. They competed in the final round with just four healthy players.

On Monday, Gurleen Kaur put Baylor in position to advance, shooting 68, but the Bears lost by three strokes on the second extra hole.

Arkansas finished one shot shy of the team playoff. The second-ranked Razorbacks, who entered NCAAs as one of the pre-tournament favorites, having won seven times, including their first SEC title, couldn’t overcome a 308-300 start and finished 10th. Player of the Year favorite Maria Fassi finished her week at 19 over par and counted only two rounds toward the team total.

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Kupcho gets redemption with NCAA title

By Ryan LavnerMay 22, 2018, 2:54 am

STILLWATER, Okla. – Driving from Chicago to Denver the night of the 2017 NCAA Women’s Championship, Mike Kupcho was worried about what the next two days might bring.

A few hours earlier, he’d watched his 20-year-old daughter, Jennifer, take a two-shot lead into the 71st hole at Rich Harvest Farms. With just 127 yards left for her approach, she hit her pitching wedge the one place she couldn’t afford to miss – short, in the pond – and then compounded the error with a three-putt. The triple bogey dropped her one shot behind Arizona State’s Monica Vaughn.

Kupcho conducted a series of teary interviews afterward, but she had no time to dwell on the heartbreaking finish. She hopped on a plane back home and competed in a 36-hole U.S. Open qualifier two days later.

“We were worried about how she’d react – I didn’t know what to expect,” Mike said. “I would have been a wreck.”

But Jennifer fired a 66 in the opening round, then a 72 in the afternoon to earn medalist honors.

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Team scoring

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Individual scoring

“Well,” Mike said, “I guess she’s over it.”

Kupcho made it official Monday at Karsten Creek, claiming the NCAA title that should have been hers last May.

The Wake Forest junior won by two shots – the same margin she blew a year ago – for her fourth victory of the season, vaulting her into contention for the Annika Award.

“It’s just exciting to get here after everything I’ve been through,” she said.

Entering the final round in a share of the lead, Kupcho birdied the first but played Nos. 5-7 in 4 over par. It seemed like another collapse was brewing.

“I told her she’s going to have to face some adversity at some point,” said Wake Forest assistant Ryan Potter, who walked alongside her Monday. “There was a lot of golf to play, especially on a course like this.”

A birdie on 11 sent her on her way. She added a birdie on the drivable 12th, dropped another one on the par-5 14th and then canned a 60-footer for birdie on 16.

And so there she was again, two shots clear with two holes to go, when she stepped to the tee on the 17th. She piped a drive down the center, then flushed her approach directly over the flag, leading to a stress-free par. On 18, with water all the way down the left side, she nuked her second shot into the middle of the green for a two-putt birdie.

If there were any lingering questions about whether Kupcho could close, she answered them emphatically Monday. She carded five back-nine birdies for a two-shot victory over Stanford’s Andrea Lee (66) and Arizona’s Bianca Pagdaganan (72).

“Redemption,” Potter said. “She knew she could do it. It was just a matter of holding the trophy.”

After last year’s devastating finish, Potter tacked a photo on his closet wall of a victorious Arizona State team posing with the NCAA trophy. Each day was a reminder of how close they’d come.

“That sticks with you,” he said.

There were areas of Kupcho's game to shore up – namely chipping and bunker play – and she worked tirelessly to turn them into strengths. She built momentum throughout the season, culminating with a dominant regional performance in which she tied a school record by shooting 15 under, holed the winning putt to send her teammates to the NCAA Championship and became just the second player in history to win a regional in consecutive years.

“She’s interesting,” Potter said, “because the bigger the tournament, the bigger the stage, the better she plays.”

Indeed, Kupcho became the first player in a decade to finish in the top 6 in three consecutive NCAAs.

Here at Karsten Creek, she tied a women’s course record with a 7-under 65 in the opening round. And even though she backed up on Day 2, she played the last two rounds in 3 under to claim the title.

The one she kicked away a year ago.

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Kupcho wins NCAA title; final eight teams set

By Jay CoffinMay 22, 2018, 1:55 am

STILLWATER, Okla. – On one of the more nerve-racking days of the college golf season two important honors were up for grabs at Karsten Creek – the individual title, and the top eight teams attempting to qualify for match play.

Here’s the lowdown of what happened Monday at the women’s NCAA Championship:

Individual leaderboard (total scores): Jennifer Kupcho, Wake Forest (-8); Andrea Lee, Stanford (-6); Bianca Pagdanganan, Arizona (-6); Cheyenne Knight, Alabama (-5); Morgane Metraux, Florida State (-4); Jaclyn Lee, Ohio State (-3).

Team leaderboard: UCLA (+9), Alabama (+9), USC (+16), Northwestern (+21), Stanford (+28), Duke (+30), Kent State (+32), Arizona (+33).

What it means: Let’s start with the individual race. Wake Forest junior Jennifer Kupcho was absolutely devastated a year ago when she made triple bogey on the 17th hole of the final round and lost the individual title by a shot. She was bound not to let that happen again and this year she made five birdies on the last eight holes to shoot 71 and win by two shots. Kupcho is the first player with three consecutive top-six finishes at the NCAA Championship since Duke’s Amanda Blumenherst (2007-09).

The team race took an unexpected turn at the end of the day when Arizona junior Bianca Pangdaganan made eagle on the last hole to vault the Wildcats into an eighth-place tie, meaning they would enter a playoff with Baylor for the final spot in the match play portion of the championship.

The Wildcats got a reprieve because they played terribly for most of the day and dropped from third place to 10th at one point. In the playoff, Arizona ultimately defeated Baylor in an anticlimactic finish.

Best of the rest: Stanford played horribly the first round. So bad that it almost seemed like the Cardinal shot itself out of the championship. But they played steady over the next three days and ended with the fifth seed. This is the fourth year in a row that Stanford has advanced to match play.

Round of the day: USC shot a 5-under total on Monday, the best round of the day by six shots. They landed as the third seed and will play Duke in the quarterfinals.

Stanford sophomore Andrea Lee shot a 7-under 65, the best score of the day by three shots. Lee made seven birdies and no bogeys and vaulted up the leaderboard 11 spots to end in a tie for sixth place.

Biggest disappointment: Arkansas, the second-ranked team in the country, missed qualifying for match play by one shot. The Razorbacks shot a 20-over 308 in Round 1 and played only slightly better with a 300 in the second round. Consecutive 1-over-par 289 scores were a good try, but results in a huge miss for a team expected to contend for the team title.

Here are Tuesday morning's quarterfinal matchups:

Cut and not so dry: Shinnecock back with a new look

By Bradley S. KleinMay 21, 2018, 9:22 pm

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – The last time the USGA was here at Shinnecock Hills, it nearly had a train wreck on its hands. The last day of the 2004 U.S. Open was so dry and the turf so firm that play was stopped in the morning just to get some water on the greens.

The lessons learned from that debacle are now on display three weeks before Shinnecock gets another U.S. Open. And this time, the USGA is prepared with all sorts of high-tech devices – firmness meters, moisture monitors, drone technology to measure turf temperatures - to make sure the playing surfaces remain healthy.

Players, meanwhile, will face a golf course that is 548 yards longer than a dozen years ago, topping out now at 7,445 yards for the par-70 layout. Ten new tees have assured that the course will keep up with technology and distance. They’ll also require players to contend with the bunkering and fairway contours that designer William Flynn built when he renovated Shinnecock Hills in 1930.

And those greens will not only have more consistent turf cover, they’ll also be a lot larger – like 30 percent bigger. What were mere circles averaging 5,500 square feet are now about 7,200 square feet. That will mean more hole locations, more variety to the setup, and more rollouts into surrounding low-mow areas. Slight misses that ended up in nearby rough will now be down in hollows many more yards away.

The course now has an open, windswept look to it – what longtime green chairman Charles Stevenson calls “a maritime grassland.” You don’t get to be green chairman of a prominent club for 37 years without learning how to deal with politics, and he’s been a master while implementing a long-term plan to bring the course back to its original scale and angles. In some cases that required moving tees back to recapture the threat posed by cross-bunkers and steep falloffs. Two of the bigger extensions come on the layout’s two par-5s, which got longer by an average of 60 yards. The downwind, downhill par-4 14th hole got stretched 73 yards and now plays 519.

“We want players to hit driver,” says USGA executive director Mike Davis.

The also want to place an emphasis upon strategy and position, which is why, after the club had expanded its fairways the last few years, the USGA decided last September to bring them back in somewhat.

The decision followed analysis of the driving statistics from the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills, where wide fairways proved very hospitable to play. Players who made the cut averaged hitting 77 percent of fairways and driving it 308 yards off the tee. There was little fear of the rough there. “We didn’t get the wind and the dry conditions we anticipated,” says Davis.

Moving ahead to Shinnecock Hills, he and the setup staff wanted to balance the need for architectural variety with a traditional emphasis upon accuracy. So they narrowed the fairways at Shinnecock Hills last September by seven acres. They are still much wider than in the U.S. Opens played here in 1986, 1995 and 2004, when the average width of the landing areas was 26.6 yards. “Now they are 41.6 yards across on average,” said Davis. So they are much wider than in previous U.S. Opens and make better use of the existing contours and bring lateral bunkers into play.

This time around, with more consistent, healthier turf cover and greens that have plenty of nutrients and moisture, the USGA should be able to avoid the disastrous drying out of the putting surfaces that threatened that final day in 2004. The players will also face a golf course that is more consistent than ever with its intended width, design, variety and challenge. That should make for a more interesting golf course and, by turn, more interesting viewing.