Choi tops Toms in Players playoff

By Doug FergusonMay 16, 2011, 3:40 am
The Players ChampionshipPONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – K.J. Choi did everything demanded of the winner at The Players Championship.

Not only did he hit the island green on the 17th hole at the TPC Sawgrass, he did it three times in one day. With the tournament on the line, he got up-and-down for par from 80 feet on the final hole Sunday.

Despite everything Choi did to win, this Players Championship might be remembered as much for how it was lost.

David Toms, who hit 6-iron out of a divot and made an 18-foot birdie putt on the hardest hole to force a playoff, missed a 3 1/2 -foot par putt on the 17th to hand Choi the biggest win of his career.

“No excuses, no spike marks, no ball marks, no nothing,” Toms said of his three-putt bogey on the first sudden-death playoff hole. “Maybe a lot of pressure. But other than that, there was no excuse.”

On a hole designed to provide great theater – the island-green 17th – the finish fell flat.

Both players hit the green in the playoff, and the advantage went to Toms with a shot that settled about 18 feet away. Choi lagged his long birdie putt about 3 feet by the hole, and Toms thought he had a winner with his 18-foot putt until it slid by the cup and rolled 3 1/2 feet by the cup. Into the grain, slightly uphill, he didn’t strike it solidly and missed.

Choi tapped in his putt and pumped his fist, yet his heart felt for the 44-year-old Toms.

“As a fellow player, I felt very sorry for him,” Choi said. “Because I know how that feels. And I felt bad for him.”

Choi had reason to celebrate for his own feats. Winless on the PGA Tour for three years, he took the outright lead with a 10-foot birdie on the 17th in regulation, saved par on the 18th with a putt from just in side 5 feet to close with a 2-under 70 and kept his nerves steady.

The South Korean lived in Jacksonville briefly when he first came to America and once practiced at the TPC Sawgrass, although he said his game wasn’t good enough then to break par.

Now, Choi is The Players champion, a winner of the biggest event on the PGA Tour.

“For me to shoot under par every day on this course this week, it’s like a miracle, to be honest with you,” Choi said.

Choi won for the eighth time in his PGA Tour career, picked up $1.71 million from the biggest purse in tournament golf, moved to No. 15 in the world and all but assured himself a spot on the Presidents Cup team.

Toms, winless in five years, had an easy time taking away positives. He was the 36-hole leader, finished the rain-delayed third round Sunday morning only one shot behind and spent some five hours with his name atop the leaderboard in the final round.

And his birdie on the 18th – one of only four birdies on the hardest hole at Sawgrass in the final round – he hit 6-iron out of a divot to 18 feet and forced a playoff.

“It was the best putt I’ve had in an awful long time,” Toms said.

Even so, it’s hard to get past a pair of mistakes.

The first one came on the par-5 16th, when he had a one-shot lead over Choi and tried to reach the green in two. His approach found the water, and Toms wound up making bogey. This is the guy famous for laying up on the par-4 18th at Atlanta Athletic Club when he won his lone major 10 years ago at the PGA Championships.

Toms was trying to put pressure on Choi.

“I thought I could hit the shot,” he said.

And then came the putt, when part of him already was thinking about going to the second playoff hole that decided the tournament. One consolation for Toms, along with knowing his game is close, is that he moved to No. 46 in the world and can avoid U.S. Open qualifying if he can stay there one more week.

Toms also finished with a 70, joining Choi in the playoff at 13-under 275.

So many other players felt they also squandered chances, none more than U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell and Nick Watney.

McDowell, who had a one-shot lead when the third round concluded Sunday morning because of rain delays, lost his way after an errant tee shot into the trees on the sixth hole. He hit four shots into the water the rest of the way and closed with a 79.

Watney was in control late in the third round until playing a three-hole stretch in 4-over par, then fell behind with consecutive bogeys at the turn in the final round and could never catch up.

Paul Goydos, who lost a playoff to Sergio Garcia in 2008 when the tour decided to make the 17th the first playoff hole, closed with a 69 to finish alone in third. 

Luke Donald never got on track, but still managed a 71 for his seventh consecutive top 10. He tied for fourth with Watney (71) and moved to No. 2 in the world, giving England the top two spots in the world ranking.

Donald and McDowell wore an all-navy blue outfit in honor of Seve Ballesteros  – his famous Sunday colors – who died last week.

Toms took a share of the lead on the second hole and never trailed until the finish.

It was a long day for both of them – 32 holes for Toms, 27 holes for Choi, because of the rain-delayed third round that had to be completed Sunday morning.

One shot by McDowell, along with one wicked bounce, set the tone for the final round – for him and those chasing him.

With consecutive birdies amid several collapses, McDowell suddenly had a three-shot lead as he closed out the third round. From the right rough on the 18th, his ball took a hard hop short of the green, caught the slope with some speed and didn’t stop rolling until it tumbled over the edge and into the water. After a drop, he three-putted for double bogey to fall back to 12-under 204.

That one-shot lead didn’t last long, and neither did McDowell.

He drilled a 50-foot birdie putt on No. 5 to catch Toms, then crumbled with a tee shot into the trees on No. 6, a tee shot into the water on No. 7 and a peculiar decision to try to blast out from squarely behind a plant on the ninth. He made bogey on all of them, then dropped another shot into the water on the 13th, 17th and 18th.

What makes the final three holes so dramatic is that anything can happen. No one could have expected it would end the way it did.

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

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 23, 2018, 11:00 am

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)

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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.”