Looking for dominance in an era of parity on PGA Tour

By Doug FergusonAugust 24, 2011, 12:28 am

EDISON, N.J. – If the PGA Tour really wanted to put a positive spin on the playoffs, it could claim that three of the four FedEx Cup champions were voted player of the year.

That would be accurate, although it would require an asterisk.

Tiger Woods was so dominant in 2007 and 2009 that he virtually was a lock for player of the year before the playoffs even started. He already had won five times going into the FedEx Cup both those years, and no one was close to him.

In this era of parity, however, such a statement would no longer be misleading.

For the second straight year, the FedEx Cup is likely to decide who will emerge as the favorite for PGA Tour player of the year. Last season, there were five players who had two wins (no majors) going into the playoffs, and Jim Furyk wound up winning the FedEx Cup and player of the year on the strength of his one-shot victory at the Tour Championship.

This time, it’s more wide open than ever.

Five players again have two wins at the start of the playoffs - Nick Watney, Steve Stricker, Keegan Bradley, Bubba Watson and Mark Wilson - and picking up a third trophy, especially the FedEx Cup, would seem to provide an edge.

Bradley would have settled for rookie of the year at the start of his season. He suddenly has much more at stake after his playoff win at the PGA Championship two weeks ago. No one has ever been voted best player and rookie in the same season.

“You only get one shot at rookie of the year, and I really wanted to win it,” Bradley said Tuesday. “I hope I’ve done enough but there have been a lot of great players. As far as player of the year, it’s just an honor to be even talked about in that category. I still feel like I have a little more to go to do that.”

He would seem to be a slam dunk for rookie of the year, unless Masters champion Charl Schwartzel were to win over the next month. That would give the South African a major and a win against one of the strongest fields of the year.

Not to be overlooked is Luke Donald, who happens to be No. 1 in the world.

Donald has won three times this year, but only once in a PGA Tour event -  the Match Play Championship. Then again, he leads the money list by about $120,000 over Watney, and he has a slim lead over Stricker in the Vardon Trophy race for lowest scoring average. Donald has finished out of the top 10 only four times in 14 starts on the PGA Tour.

Throw in a FedEx Cup playoffs win and it might be difficult to ignore him.

“I’ve been working very hard the past week, and it’s nice to have certain things to chase after and focus on,” said Donald, who also is in position to become the first player to win money titles on the PGA Tour and European Tour in the same season. “It makes everything a little bit more meaningful.”

So many possibilities. So many contenders.

And so little dominance.

Most of that can be attributed to the demise of Woods over the last two years.

Woods has nine seasons when he won at least five times on the PGA Tour. Only three other players - Vijay Singh, Nick Price and Tom Watson - have won at least five times in a season dating to 1980.

Unless someone gets hot over the next month, this will be the second straight year that no one has won at least four tournaments. That’s how it was in the era before Woods, when golf lacked a dominant player.

A year ago, as Woods was going through the first winless season of his PGA Tour career, 15 players won a tour event for the first time. Of those 15 players, only Bubba Watson and Rory McIlroy won again this year.

There already have been 12 first-time tour winners this year, half of them rookies.

How many of them will win next year?

“It’s hard to be dominant,” Padraig Harrington said.

Harrington used the recent run in the majors as an example. This is the longest streak of first-time major champions - seven in a row dating to Phil Mickelson at the Masters last year. Harrington does not believe that’s unusual.

“Most people when they win a major, it is the first time win,” he said. “You can count - 125 people here - I’m sure you can count on one hand how many have won more than one.”

Of the 125 players who qualified for the FedEx Cup playoffs, 17 have won majors. But only five have won multiple majors - Mickelson, Harrington, Vijay Singh, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen.

“It is a rare occasion for a guy to win his second major,” Harrington said. “There’s a bunch of guys that are capable of winning, and they are winning. We will see more unheralded players win, but it’s not for their lack of ability. They are really talented, and you can see that going forward.”

What is a dominant player?

As usual, Woods set a standard that is close to impossible to match. Donald said as much when talking about his ranking. Perhaps one reason some people have an issue with Donald being No. 1 is that they expect all No. 1 players to look like Woods.

Harrington looks for dominance in opportunity - having a real chance to win on the back nine just about every week.

“And if you look at Tiger, four of the last 14 years, every major championship with nine holes to go … he had a chance of winning,” Harrington said. “That’s what dominating is to me.”

That’s what golf is lacking at the moment.

About the only thing this next month of golf will reveal is who wins the $10 million FedEx Cup, and who gets voted player of the year. But even in these times, that’s no gauge on the future.

It’s true that three of the last four FedEx Cup champions were voted PGA Tour player of the year.

It’s also worth noting that for now, the last three FedEx Cup champions - Singh, Woods and Furyk - failed to win a single tournament the following year.

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Arizona caps an improbable journey with a title

By Ryan LavnerMay 24, 2018, 3:49 am

STILLWATER, Okla. – Five hours before the final match at the NCAA Women’s Championship, Arizona coach Laura Ianello sat cross-legged on a couch in the Holiday Inn lobby and broke down four times in a half-hour interview.

It’s been that kind of exhausting season.

From poor play to stunning midseason defections to a stroke-play collapse, Ianello has felt uneasy for months. She has felt like she was losing control. Felt like her carefully crafted roster was coming apart.

So to even have a chance to win a NCAA title?

“I know what this team has gone through,” she said, beginning to tear up, “and you don’t get these opportunities all the time. So I want it for them. This could be so life-changing for so many of them.”

A moment that seemed impossible six months ago became reality Wednesday at Karsten Creek.

Arizona continued its magical run through the match-play bracket and knocked off top-ranked Alabama to capture its third NCAA title, with junior Haley Moore – who first rose to fame by making the cut at an LPGA major as a 16-year-old – rolling in a 4-footer to earn the clinching point in extra holes.

All throughout nationals Arizona was fueled by momentum and adrenaline, but this was no Cinderella squad. The Wildcats were ranked ninth in the country. They won twice this spring. They had four medalists. They were one of the longest-hitting teams in the country.

But even before a miracle end to NCAA stroke play, Arizona needed some help just to get here.


NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Team scoring

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Individual scoring


On Christmas Day, one of the team’s best players, Krystal Quihuis, texted Ianello that she was turning pro. It may have been a gift to her parents, for their years of sacrifice, but it was a lump of coal in Ianello’s stocking.

“I was absolutely heartbroken,” she said. “It was devastating.”

Even more bad news arrived a few weeks later, when junior Gigi Stoll told Ianello that she was unhappy, homesick and wanted to return to Portland, Ore. Just like that, a promising season had gone off the rails.

Ianello offered her a full release, but Stoll looked around, found no other suitors and decided to remain with the team – as long as she signed a contract of expected behavior.

“It was the most exhausting two months of my life,” Ianello said. “We care so much about these freakin’ girls, and we’re like, Come on, this is just a small, little picture of your life, so you don’t realize what you’re possibly giving up. It’s so hard to see that sometimes.”

Stoll eventually bought in, but the rest of the team was blindsided by Quihuis’ decision.

“We became even more motivated to prove we were a great team,” said junior Bianca Pagdanganan.

It also helped that Yu-Sang Hou joined the squad in January. The morale immediately improved, not least because the players now could poke fun at Hou; on her fourth day on campus she nearly burned down the dorm when she forgot to add water to her mac-and-cheese.

Early on Ianello and assistant Derek Radley organized a team retreat at a hotel in Tucson. There the players created Oprah-inspired vision boards and completed exercises blindfolded and delivered 60-second speeches to break down barriers. At the end of the session, they created T-shirts that they donned all spring. They splashed “The Great Eight” on the front, put the state of Arizona and each player’s country of origin on the sleeves, and on the back printed their names and a slogan: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

“I can’t think of anything else that better embodies this team,” Radley said.

This spring, they rallied together and finished no worse than fourth in a tournament. Through three rounds of stroke play here at the NCAA Championship, they used their distance advantage and sat third in the standings. Then they shot 17 over par in the final round, tumbling outside the top-8 cut line.

They were down to their final chance on the 72nd hole, needing an eagle to tie, as Pagdanganan lined up her 30-footer. She dramatically drained the putt, then gathered her teammates on the range.

“This means we were meant to be in the top 8,” she said. Less than an hour later, they beat Baylor in the team playoff to earn the last match-play berth.

Ianello was so amped up from the frenetic finish that she slept only three hours on Monday night, but they continued to roll and knocked off top-seeded UCLA in the quarterfinals, beating a pair of Player of the Year contenders, Lilia Vu and Patty Tavatanakit, in the process. In the afternoon semifinals, they jumped all over Stanford and won easily.

It was a cute story, the last team into the match-play field reaching the final match, but a stiffer challenge awaited the Wildcats Wednesday.

Alabama was the top-ranked team in the country. The Tide were a whopping 110 under par for the season, boasting three first-team All-Americans who were so dominant in their first two matches that they trailed for only two of the 99 holes they played.

Ianello already seemed to be bracing for the result on the eve of the final match.

“Win or lose,” she said, “this has been a hell of a ride.”

But their wild ride continued Wednesday, as Hou won four holes in a row to start the back nine and defeat Alabama’s best player, Lauren Stephenson, who had the best single-season scoring average (69.5) in Division I history.

Then sophomore Sandra Nordaas – the main beneficiary after Quihuis left at the midway point of the season – held on for a 1-up victory over Angelica Moresco.

And so Arizona’s national-title hopes hinged on the success of its most mercurial player, Moore. In the anchor match against Lakareber Abe, Moore jumped out to a 2-up lead at the turn but lost the first three holes on the back nine.

By the time Radley sped back to help Moore, in the 12th fairway, she was frazzled.

“But seeing me,” Radley said, “I saw a sense of calm wash over her.”

Moore played solidly for the rest of the back nine and took a 1-up lead into the home hole. She didn’t flinch when Abe hit one of the shots of the entire championship – a smoked 3-wood to 12 feet to set up a two-putt birdie and force extras – and then gave herself 4 feet for the win on the first playoff hole. She sank the putt and within seconds was mobbed by her teammates.

In the giddy aftermath, Ianello could barely speak. She wandered around the green in a daze, looking for someone, anyone, to hug.

The most trying year of her career had somehow ended in a title.

“At some moments, it felt impossible,” she said. “But I underestimated these young women a little bit.”

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Pac-12 continues to dominate women's golf

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 24, 2018, 3:04 am

Arizona's national women's golf championship marked the fourth consecutive year in‌ which the women's Division I national title was won by a Pac-12 Conference team. All four championships were won by different schools (Stanford, 2015; Washington, 2016; Arizona State, 2017; Arizona, 2018). The Pac-12 is the only conference to win four straight golf championships (men or women) with four different schools.

Here are some other statistical notes from the just-concluded NCAA Div. I Women's Golf Championship:

• This is the second time that Arizona has won the national title the year after rival Arizona State won it. The last time was 1996.

• Arizona now has three women's golf national championships. The previous two came in 1996 and 2000.

• Arizona is only the sixth school to win three or more Div. I women's golf championships, joining Arizona State (8), Duke (6), San Jose State (3), UCLA (3) and USC (3).

• Arizona's Haley Moore, who earned the clinching point on the 19th hole of her match with Alabama's Lakareber Abe, was the only Arizona player to win all three of her matches this week.

• Alabama's Kristen Gillman and Cheyenne Knight also went 3-0. Gillman did not trail in any match.

• Since the match-play format was instituted in 2015, Arizona is the lowest seed (8) to claim the national title. The seeds claiming the national championship were Stanford (4) in 2015; Washington (4) in 2016; and Arizona State (3) in 2017.

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High school seniors win U.S. Amateur Four-Ball

By Associated PressMay 24, 2018, 1:44 am

TEQUESTA, Fla. - The 18-year-old Hammer, from Houston, is set to play at Texas next fall. Barber, from Stuart, Fla., also is 18. He's headed to LSU.

''Growing up watching U.S. Opens and U.S. Amateurs on TV, I just knew being a USGA champion is something that I desperately wanted,'' said Hammer, who qualified for a U.S. Open three years ago at 15. ''And to finally do it, it feels incredible. It feels as good, if not better, than I thought it would. And especially being able to do it with Garrett. It's really cool to share this moment.''

Hammer and Cole won the par-4 eighth with a birdie to take a 2-up lead. They took the par-4 10th with a par, won the par-5 13th with an eagle - Barber hit a 4-iron from 235 yards to 3 feet - and halved the next two holes to end the match.

''Cole didn't want me to hit 4-iron,'' Barber said. ''He didn't think I could get it there. I was like, 'I got it.' So I hit it hard, hit pretty much a perfect shot. It was a crazy shot.''

The 32-year-old Dull is from Winter Park, Fla., and the 42-year-old Brooke from Altamonte Springs, Fla.

''Cole Hammer is a special player,'' Brooke said. ''Obviously, he's going to Texas (and) I'm not saying he is Jordan Spieth, but there are certain things that he does.''

In the morning semifinals, Hammer and Barber beat Idaho high school teammates Carson Barry and Sam Tidd, 5 and 4, and Brooke and Dull topped former Seattle University teammates Kyle Cornett and Patrick Sato, 4 and 3.

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Watch: Pumped up Beef deadlifts 485 lbs.

By Grill Room TeamMay 24, 2018, 12:19 am

Andrew "Beef" Johnston has been playing some solid golf on the European Tour this season, and he is clearly pumped up for one of the biggest weeks of the year at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

Judging from the video below, Beef will have no problems lifting the trophy on Sunday as he reportedly deadlifted 220 kg ... (Googles kilogram to pounds converter, enters numbers) ... that's 485 lbs!

@beefgolf with a new deadlift PB 220kg ! #youcantgowronggettingstrong

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