Notes Nicklaus Sorenstam makes co-bid for Olympic course
Nicklaus said he and Sorenstam have written a letter to the International Golf Federation requesting they be considered as architects of the first Olympic golf course since 1904.
“I think this is a very functional partnership,” Nicklaus said. “I hope we can work a deal.”
There figures to be no shortage of architects. Henrique Lavie, commissioner of the Tour de las Americas, said last month that already some dozen course design companies have shown an interest.
“There’s not a public course in Brazil,” said Nicklaus, who agrees with Lavie that it is imperative for the public to have access to the golf course long after the Olympics leave Rio de Janeiro, “even if it’s a resort.”
Nicklaus said one potential site already has been identified. If selected, he said he and Sorenstam would collaborate on the strategy of each hole – Nicklaus from championship tees for the men, Sorenstam with women in mind.
“I’ll be surprised if they don’t select us,” Nicklaus said. “But I’m sure other people are interested.”
Nicklaus Design has 341 courses open for play in 34 countries, with Nicklaus directly involved in the design of 271 courses. He said with the Olympics only six years away, the IGF would have to make a decision on an architect “pretty quick.”
Not so fast, said David Fay, who represents the USGA on the federation. The first step is to find an executive director for the IGF, the group recognized by the IOC. He said officials hope to find one by the end of the year.
Ty Votaw, the PGA Tour’s executive vice president of communications and international affairs, is leading the IGF until it hires a director. He said a couple of sites have been considered, but the entire process is in the early stages.
“It’s still possible we could use an existing course,” Votaw said.
If a golf course is to be built, the IGF would pick the architect, but the host committee in Rio would pick up the cost, much like building a stadium or arena for other sports.
Fay confirmed that IGF members – representing all the major golf organizations – received the Nicklaus-Sorenstam letter.
“It was a very nice letter,” he said. “When you get a letter from two Hall of Famers, that will get a lot of attention. But there definitely will be a process to go through. Sometimes there’s a feeling that you don’t want to Americanize the process. We’ve been very respectful of the fact, as we should be, that it is an international game.”
PLAY MORE GOLF: Going into the 2009 season, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem encouraged players to add a tournament to their schedule out of consideration to title sponsors in a tough economy.
The plea now stands a decent chance to become policy.
One proposal being formulated for the policy board would require top players to add one tournament from a short list of events that traditionally have weak fields. Still to be determined is how to define a “top player,” whether it’s the world ranking or FedEx Cup standings.
Other questions that emerged from meetings last week at the Memorial is what happens if all the top players pick the same tournament, the penalty for those who don’t play and whether a top player adding one tournament will take another tournament off his schedule.
Even so, board member Brad Faxon said, “I don’t see any big hurdles.”
The board is expected to have a proposal to consider at its next meeting in July.
SEVE’S DOG: In an interview with Golf Digest magazine, Seve Ballesteros mentioned the number of champions who have sent him notes or called him while he recovers from a brain tumor.
Arnold Palmer sent him a picture of a dog.
Actually, it was a photo of the King’s dog, named “Mulligan.”
“Because the doctors saved my life, they say now I use my mulligan,” Ballesteros told the magazine. “So Palmer’s picture says, ‘Here’s a Mulligan for you.”’
The Spanish great, however, decided to get a dog of his own to ease the loneliness. He acquired a Labrador puppy, and after watching Phil Mickelson’s inspiring victory at the Masters, Ballesteros decided to name the dog, “Phil.”
TWO YEARS IN PARADISE: One of the best perks of winning on the PGA Tour is starting the year at Kapalua, although not everyone feels that way. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have not played the last five years, and some Europeans (Padraig Harrington) don’t go because it is their offseason.
This year, the field was only 28 players.
The PGA Tour is moving closer to giving a two-year exemption to the SBS Championship for PGA Tour winners. How close? Joe Ogilvie said PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem has brought it up to the Players Advisory Council six consecutive meetings.
That would make for a deeper field at Kapalua, and most players on Maui tend to stay another week to play the Sony Open in Honolulu, even though it had its strongest field this year.
Then again, it may mean the tournament must provide more hotel rooms at the Ritz-Carlton.
Ogilvie understands the concept, but he questions whether Finchem is going about it the right way.
“The first thing Tim says is that we need a stronger field,” Ogilvie said. “The players say, ‘You’ve got to be kidding. This is the best tour in the world and these are all tournament winners.’ If I were Tim, I’d send green sheets (player newsletters) to the wives and say, ‘Look, we want to give your husband a two-year exemption to Maui.”’
It first came up when Kapalua was missing popular players such as Ernie Els and Sergio Garcia. Oddly enough, Els is opposed to the idea.
“Stupid,” Els said. “It’s the silliest thing ever. They’re just going to kill another golf tournament. It’s a special event the way it is. Everybody knows on Tour that if you win, you get invited to Kapalua. It gives the player one hell of an incentive. To screw that up would be very silly. There’s a tradition. It’s a tournament of champions.”
DIVOTS: Ernie Els is preparing for the U.S. Open by taking his father, Nils, to play at Shinnecock Hills, Merion, Sebonac and Pine Valley. … Lake Merced in San Francisco has been selected to host the U.S. Girls Junior Championship next year. … Only 23 players earned a spot in the U.S. Open by going through local (18 holes) and sectional (36 holes) qualifying, the fewest number since 2002.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Phil Mickelson has finished ahead of Tiger Woods in the last six tournaments they have played together.
FINAL WORD: “That’s just lots of long grass away from being almost the best course I’ve ever played.” – Geoff Ogilvy on Oakmont Country Club, which held its eighth U.S. Open in 2007.
Alabama faces 'buzzsaw' Arizona for NCAA title
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.
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.
Pairings, tee times set for championship match
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)
Women's NCAA finals: Arizona vs. Alabama
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.
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.”
NCAA DI Women's Champ.: Scoring, TV times
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.
- Finals: Alabama vs. Arizona
- Semifinals: Alabama def. USC, 3.5-1.5
- Semifinals: Arizona def. Stanford, 4-1
- Quarterfinals: Alabama def. Kent State, 4-1
- Quartefinals: USC def. Duke, 3.5-1.5
- Quarterfinals: Arizona def. UCLA, 3-2
- Quarterfinals: Stanford def. Northwestern, 3-2
- Individual stroke play
TV Times (all times ET):
4-8PM: Match-play finals (Click here to watch live)