Notes: Why Britain has the best fans

By Doug FergusonJuly 16, 2011, 4:43 pm

SANDWICH, England – Gary Woodland was in the right rough on the 13th hole as he stared at the green, trying to figure out how to play his next shot. Then he broke into a big smile, and it had nothing to do with anything at Royal St. George’s on Saturday.

Beyond the green is a fence, and on the other side is Prince’s Golf Club.

It was pouring rain. The gusts topped 30 mph. And the club next door was filled with players in every fairway. Woodland smiled at the idea that while those competing at the British Open were suffering, these people were finding pleasure.

“I was shocked,” he said. “There’s no way back home people would be playing today. And it was packed over there.”

Even more impressive were the number of fans on such a miserable day.

Matt Millar was the first to play, in the worst of the weather, yet he was followed around by fans who took their hands off the umbrella long enough to applaud whatever good shots they saw.

“I just can’t believe how many volunteers, spectators, people who were just so encouraging. Would you spend your free weekend out there on this weather? There’s nowhere like it in the world, that I’ve seen,” Millar said. “That made it a lot easier to keep your head up and keep battling on.”

Rickie Fowler drew on the largest crowds, partly because he has treated the fans so well all week, and partly because he was playing with Rory McIlroy. Still, he was stunned to see bleachers full in the driving rain.

“I probably wouldn’t have been out there. I would have been home watching on TV,” he said. “It just shows you how great fans they are of golf to stick out in those conditions and the amount of people that were following our group.”

Most telling was Woodland’s adventure on the 14th hole.

After hitting his first tee shot out-of-bounds, Woodland’s next one went 50 yards to the left in grass so high that not even spectators walked there. A search party of nearly 40 people scoured the rough until they found the ball.

That begged this question: For an American who is not well known in these parts, who barely made the cut and was in the fourth group out, on the farthest end of Royal St. George’s, why were there that many people following him in the first place?

“These fans are unbelievable,” Woodland said. “For them to be out there watching, it was good to see.”

WHERE HAS HE BEEN? Having a half-dozen Americans among the top 12 on the leaderboard is not surprising.

Anthony Kim being among them was what caught so much attention.

Kim is having his worst year, with only one top 10 finish. He keeps saying that his game feels as though it’s good enough to compete, but disappears from the practice range to the first tee. But after an even-par 70 that was anything but even – 4 over his first eight holes, 4 under his last 10 – Kim was in a tie for seventh and only five shots behind.

“I’ve found my game, it’s just I haven’t brought it to the tournaments,” Kim said. “I’m excited that this is the tournament I brought it to. Other tournaments are very important, but to play well at major championships is what I work for. So to be able to put up some good rounds – probably my best rounds I’ve played all year at the British – is pretty rewarding.”

KEEPING DRY: Ryan Moore started out with six small towels and one big towel. After 18 holes, all of them were wet. Defending champion Louis Oosthuizen didn’t wear any extra layers except for his rain suit, and he kept his towels to four for the round.

That was the trick for the players who faced the worst of the weather in the morning—staying warm and staying dry.

“That’s why I just laughed, because I’ve never played in it like this,” Oosthuizen said. “Whenever you have social rounds and it just starts raining a little bit, you say, ‘I’m out of here, boys.’ But I couldn’t do that today.”

Oosthuizen shot 74.

WOODLAND’S RIDE: For a 25-hole stretch, Gary Woodland said it was the best golf he played all year.

It would be difficult to disagree.

Woodland appeared to be headed home early on Friday when he was 7 over at the British Open through four holes of the second round, and the wind was getting stronger by the minute. He made four birdies and no bogeys the rest of the way for a 68 to make the cut on the number, then looked even better Saturday morning in whipping wind and lashing rain.

Woodland was 2 under through 11 holes of the third round in the worst of the weather, five shots out of the lead. Then came a few bogeys, which was no shame on this day.

“The tee shot on 14 was the toughest shot out there for me today,” he said.

It turned out to be his undoing. His drive started some 30 yards left and rode the wind to the right out-of-bounds. Then came a tee shot into rough so deep that Woodland took a lob wedge and “swung as hard as I could” to get back to the fairway.

He did well to make a triple bogey, then came back on the next hole with another superb shot, this a 3-iron into the wind that bounded onto the green and touched the left edge of the cup as the gallery rose in the grandstands, thinking it might see an eagle.

From 7 over early Friday, Woodland played that 25-hole stretch in 6 under with no bogeys. On the last seven holes Saturday, he was 6 over and right back where he had started. He wound up with a 74.

But that start on Saturday?

“Some of the best golf I’ve ever seen,” said Ryan Moore, his playing partner.

RAIN READY: Matthew Millar of Australia didn’t mind playing alone as the first to tee off in the third round. He chose not to take a marker, not wanting anyone else to have to suffer through the conditions.

As for the weather? He was among the few looking forward to it.

Millar has spent the last few months playing alone in freezing, wet and windy conditions in his home city of Canberra to get ready for the British Open. What he found was 30 mph wind and a steady rain.

“It’s been quite cool back home. We’ve had quite a lot of rain and a lot of wind, so I’ve been practicing in that,” Millar said. “But you don’t spend five hours in it like we are doing here. This place is something else. It’s hard enough when it’s dry.”

He wound up with an 80.

COULD HAVE BEEN WORSE: Bo Van Pelt called Saturday the second-worst conditions he has ever faced.

The first was in Kansas.

His senior year in college, Van Pelt went to Prairie Dunes, a classic design by Perry Maxwell. It was blowing about as hard as it was Saturday, except that it was 40 degrees. And he had to play 36 holes.

“I was having a flashback to that,” Van Pelt said. “This is the second-worst day. But at least you’re playing in a major. This is what it’s all about. You come here and know this is part of the deal, and if you’re not going to embrace it, you might as well go home.”

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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)

Getty Images

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.”

Getty Images

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)