Tiger is back in Australia minus some of the buzz

By Associated PressNovember 10, 2010, 1:21 am

JBWare MastersMELBOURNE, Australia – The woman keeping score for Tiger Woods in the final round of the Australia Masters did well to contain her emotions. She looked down at the boy holding the sign with the scores and wanted to make sure he understood his good fortune.

“This,” she whispered to him, “is the holy grail in golf.”

Is it still?

Perhaps the broader question is will it ever be again?

Woods returned Down Under on Tuesday with a slightly subdued reception. There were still media at the airport, although Geoff Ogilvy did not recall the same kind of TV report he heard last year: “The plane has landed, but we haven’t seen him walk out of the plane yet!”

There were no helicopters hovering over the fairways, because Woods did not bother coming out to Victoria Golf Club. And when he tees off Thursday, he most likely will be playing before fewer fans.

The tournament sold out last year six weeks in advance – as much as Aussies love sports, most buy tickets the day of an event. Now, tickets are still for sale. Tournament official David Rollo said 55,000 tickets have been sold for the four rounds, and he would be disappointed if sales didn’t top 70,000. They topped 100,000 last year.

That’s to be expected, and not because of the year Woods had off the golf course.

The world’s No. 1 player had not been to Australia since the 1998 Presidents Cup. Since then, he had won 72 times around the world, 14 majors and was being debated as the greatest golfer of all time.

Now, he is No. 2 in the world and hasn’t won in 51 weeks.

“It’s easier to hype up someone who hasn’t been here for 10 years,” Ogilvy said. “He was here just last year. A lot has happened in Tiger’s life in the last 12 months, but I think if there is any lack of hysteria, it’s probably due to the fact that he was here last year rather than anything else. Don’t you think? You guys want me to say that his aura is all gone and he’s no good anymore. But I don’t buy that.”

It was Australia where the National Enquirer linked Woods to New York nightclub hostess Rachel Uchitel, and more allegations of infidelity came gushing out in the weeks following Woods’ middle-of-the-night car accident Nov. 27 outside his Florida home.

That scandal is what kept Woods out of golf for nearly five months and ultimately led to his divorce. It didn’t do much for his golf game, either, for this is the longest he has gone without winning.

Woods acknowledged as much last week after he tied for sixth in the HSBC Champions, which for him constituted progress. Reflecting on a summer of finishing back in the pack, he said, “I was dealing with a lot of things off the golf course in that period of time, which was the most difficult. I also was trying to play, which was tough.”

He was talking about constant meetings with attorneys while trying to work out a divorce settlement, which was official Aug. 23.

There has not been much talk about his personal life since.

If the mystique is missing, it has more to do with the scores he shoots than the secret life he was leading.

Cameron Percy played with Woods in the final round at Kingston Heath. Contacted about a month later, after seeing Woods’ image splashed across the TV worldwide for reasons no one ever imagined, Percy was asked what kind of reception Woods could expect if he returned to defend his title in Australia.

“I can’t see this being an issue,” Percy said last December. “Our biggest idol is Greg Norman—not much difference there. The golfing public just loves to watch his golf. We have athletes in trouble for one thing or another. Once they’re on the sporting field, it’s all right.”

That’s the problem.

There hasn’t been much about Woods’ game that has been worth watching.

Woods tied for sixth at Shanghai for the second straight year, with one big difference. Last year he was five shots off the lead; this year he was 12 shots behind. In his last eight tournaments, Woods has finished an average of 13 shots behind.

That’s the significance of the Australian Masters this year.

Woods has been a defending champion every year since he was at least 12, maybe longer. But if he doesn’t win at Victoria, a sandbelt course that he will not see until the pro-am Wednesday, an entire year will have passed without him hoisting a trophy. To what extent he can ever repair his image, it starts with winning.

Some think he is close.

Rickie Fowler played behind him at the Ryder Cup, when Woods played the final seven holes in 7-under par, and said, “It was pretty special. He looked like he was strutting around the course like I used to see on TV.”

Robert Allenby played behind Sunday at Sheshan International and thought he was “super close.”

“I think next year is going to be a great year for him,” Allenby said. “I have no doubt in my mind that he’ll win a major next year.”

Ernie Els played with him two rounds in Shanghai and another round in Boston.

“It looks like he’s in a better place,” he said.

Maybe so, but Woods is not where he wants to be, and certainly not where anyone is used to seeing him.

Fans at the Australian Masters might not turn out in droves because they just saw him a year ago.

Those who do might not recognize him now.

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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.

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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)

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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.”

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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)