Notes: DJ finally ready to tee it up at Memorial

By Doug FergusonMay 29, 2012, 11:20 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – Dustin Johnson was on the putting green at Muirfield Village with his light blue shirt untucked. It was a sure sign that he had not been at a PGA Tour event in nearly three months, only it had nothing to do with a dress code.

''I forgot to pack my belts,'' he said.

Johnson last played at Doral the second week of March. Coming off minor knee surgery in the offseason, he tweaked his back early in the year and then injured it the weekend before the Masters while pushing a jet ski out of the water.

''And then when I went to try to play golf the next day, that was when I knew it was injured badly, and I was not going to be able to play,'' Johnson said.

He sat out for two months, wanting to make sure it was completely healthy.

Now, he has some catching up to do. Johnson was No. 4 in the Ryder Cup standings when the season began, and he helped himself with a few tournaments in contention at Pebble Beach and Riviera. Without having played since March, however, he is at No. 24. The top eight automatically qualify.

''Just have to play good golf,'' he said. ''Probably wouldn't hurt if I won a tournament between now and then. That would definitely help. I'm just going to have to get in contention a few times and have some high finishes and play good in the U.S. Open and PGA.''

Johnson's record in team play is 2-6-1 in the last Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, though he badly wants to be part of the Ryder Cup team at Medinah.

''I want to be on the team, and I'm going to do whatever I can to make it,'' he said. ''Obviously, having a couple months off hurts a little bit, but I've still got plenty of time to make the team.''

RYDER CUP SLIP: U.S. captain Davis Love III has not announced his assistants for the Ryder Cup in September. Fred Couples took care of that for him on Tuesday.

Couples was introduced as Presidents Cup captain for the third time, and he was asked if that hurt his chances of ever being a Ryder Cup captain.

''No, I really never looked at it that way,'' he said. ''I'm going to help Davis, I think.''

Then he paused and smiled.

''I don't know if that's out yet, but I believe he's pretty much put that out there.''

As the room erupted in laughter, Couples added, ''Davis, wherever you are. ...''

AMAZING GRACE: Branden Grace of South Africa is still trying to get acclimated to the big stages in golf, which sounds odd considering he has won more tournaments than any other player on the European and PGA Tour this year.

Grace won twice in South Africa, including a playoff win over Ernie Els, and then won the China Open and is No. 4 on the European Tour money list.

Even so, last week was a big one for him. He finished fifth in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, his second time this year competing against a field that featured the top three players in the world ranking. The other event was Doral, a World Golf Championship where he finished in the middle of the pack.

''My first time at Wentworth, actually, and I think not just for myself, but everybody wanted to see how I can perform on that big of a stage with Rory and Luke and Westwood and those guys in the field,'' Grace said. ''I really played well. I didn't play as well as I wanted to play. I played decent, got it around. But it was a good experience, and I'm just looking forward to this week.''

The week won't be as long as Grace expected.

He had signed up for the U.S. Open qualifier on Monday. But with his fifth-place finish at Wentworth, Grace moved up to No. 55 in the world.

The top 60 in the world on June 10 are exempt from qualifying. Based on the way he is playing, Grace is comfortable that he will be among the top 60 in two weeks, so he will skip the qualifier.

''The decision is made,'' he said. ''Should be good enough to get into the Open, and take it from there.''

Instead of 36 holes in Ohio, he will fly to south Florida and spend a week with good friends Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel to prepare for the U.S Open.

QUALIFYING COVERAGE: The Golf Channel will never be busier than on the Monday after the Memorial.

It is sending reporters and producers to 14 U.S. Open qualifying sites around the country, from Texas to Colorado, California to Ohio, Washington to Tennessee. Golf Channel is calling it ''Golf's Longest Day,'' and it will be covering stories from 7 a.m. to midnight with three dedicated specials and news updates throughout the day.

RYO CADDIE: Another tournament, another caddie for Ryo Ishikawa.

The Japanese star has switched to local caddies for his next five tournaments on Tour, which began last week at Colonial. This week at the Memorial, Ishikawa selected Adam Claytor, who came highly recommended by Muirfield Village members. Claytor played college golf at Ohio Wesleyan and is in his second year working at Muirfield Village, while playing mini tours when he can.

Hiroyuki Kato, who has caddied for Ishikawa throughout most of his young career, did not accompany him on the trip.

FOLLOWING FREDDIE: It would be unfair to say that Fred Couples speaks out of both sides of his mouth. It's just that when the words come out, they go in all sorts of directions. The latest example comes from his thoughts on the golf course before the Senior PGA Championship last week.

Try to follow along.

''It's maybe a little forgiving, but if you're off, you're going to struggle to make pars,'' he said. ''We're talking about the par 5s now. So to be honest with you, I don't remember where the par 5s are. I think maybe the fifth hole is a par 5. Well, I don't really know. It's hard. It depends what way the wind blows.''

DIVOTS: Luke Donald, the first player to win the money title on the PGA and European Tour in the same season, has been awarded an honorary life membership on the European Tour. Of the eight players awarded life memberships in the last three years, Donald is the only one who didn't win a major. ... Paul Spengler, executive vice president of Pebble Beach, has been given the Herbert Hoover Humanitarian Award by the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. ... Zach Johnson has won eight times on Tour but in only three states - four in Texas, three in Georgia, one in Hawaii. ... Only 15 players who are exempt and plan to play in the U.S. Open were at The Olympic Club the last time it was there in 1998. That includes Olin Browne, eligible this time as the U.S. Senior Open champion.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Of the 17 Americans who have won on Tour this year, 11 started the season in the top 50 in the world ranking.

FINAL WORD: ''He is a bit slower than the three of us.'' – Rickie Fowler, on Ben Crane being the only player from the ''Golf Boys'' video who hasn't won this year.

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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.


TV Times (all times ET):

4-8PM: Match-play finals (Click here to watch live)