Byrd leads TOC flock with opening 67

By Doug FergusonJanuary 7, 2012, 3:36 am

KAPALUA, Hawaii – A new PGA Tour season began with a familiar name atop the leaderboard Friday at Kapalua.

Defending champion Jonathan Byrd ran off six straight birdies early in his round, then stalled on the back nine and settled for a 6-under 67 that gave him a one-shot lead in the Tournament of Champions.

Byrd hasn’t won since his playoff victory a year ago in the season opener. He felt a little uptight starting a new season, wanting to get off to a good start in breezy conditions on the Plantation Course.

But after two holes, he looked as comfortable as ever.

It must have felt as if last season never ended for Webb Simpson, a two-time winner who was second in the FedEx Cup and on the PGA Tour money list. Simpson played the last five holes on the front nine in 5 under and shot 68 to match Steve Stricker, Michael Bradley and Martin Laird.

Thirteen players in the 27-man field of PGA Tour winners broke par in gorgeous conditions along the cliffs of Maui. It’s the smallest field since this event moved to Kapalua, hurt by 11 players who didn’t or couldn’t make it to Maui, and by Lucas Glover having to withdraw Friday morning because of a sprained knee from a paddle board accident last Saturday.

Just like any new season, there was a degree of nervousness and uncertainty, starting with the defending champion.

“You’re never sure what you’re going to get the first round of the year,” Byrd said.

It was nearly a repeat performance from last year, when Byrd started his season with five birdies on the front nine, then holing out a wedge on the 10th for eagle to get to 7 under early in his round before he settled into pars.

This time, the culprit was a bad swing on the ninth fairway when Byrd tried to hit driver off the deck to reach the par-5 green into the wind, and instead found a bunker from 60 yards away that led to a bogey.

He was even more disappointed at the end of the round, when he three-putted for par.

“You’re leading the golf tournament and you walk off a hole embarrassed,” Byrd said.

Laird had some bad feelings early with consecutive bogeys early in his round, but bounced back with a 33 on the back nine for his 68. Stricker, the highest-ranked American in the world at No. 6, put his 5-iron into the gorge on the par-3 eighth for a double bogey, and then he rallied strong. He birdied four of his last five holes.

“I wasn’t very happy at the time,” Stricker said. “I knew if I could get a good, decent round in – I was thinking get 3 under or something like that – I’d be OK. But I got a couple more than that coming in.”

PGA champion Keegan Bradley, the only major champion in the short field, holed out a wedge from short of the ninth green for eagle that sent him to a 69. Only six players broke 70 on what appeared to be relatively good scoring conditions.

The mountainous course was built for trade wind, and while it was breezy, it was not severe. But there are so many newcomers to Kapalua – a dozen of the 27 players – that it takes time to sort out the wind, the slope and the grain on the green.

Scott Piercy arrived on Christmas – he has a vacation place in nearby Kaanapali – and played the Plantation Course plenty of times to get ready for the new season.

“I saved all my worst shots for today,” he said after rallying for a 70.

Gary Woodland drove into the native grass and had to take a penalty drop on the ninth hole. He had 224 yards, up the hill and into a strong wind, and thought he had to blast a 3-wood to have any hope of getting to the green. He blasted it, all right, over the green and into the bleachers, though he managed to escape with par.

Brendan Steele said he picked up on the nuances of golf courses fairly easily in his rookie season. This was unlike any of those courses, however.

“The wind, the grain, the slope … you can look pretty silly,” he said after a 76.

Byrd said he rarely plays well when he feels confident; he’s better off feeling uneasy about his game, and that’s about how he felt when he woke up Friday morning.

He chunked his opening tee shot and had to make a long two-putt for par, but his fortunes turned quickly. From about 120 yards into the wind on the third hole, he played an 8-iron back in his stance and played a low draw that spun close to the cup and settled about 5 feet away. That was the first of six straight birdies, and just like that, Byrd was back atop the leaderboard.

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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)