Poulter, Laird tied at Players; Woods 9 back

By Doug FergusonMay 10, 2012, 8:40 pm

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – The TPC Sawgrass would seem to be the last golf course where a player can relax. 

That might explain why Ian Poulter and Martin Laird were atop the leaderboard Thursday in The Players Championship at 7-under 65, even if their mood was for entirely different reasons.

Poulter finally moved into his new home at Lake Nona that took nearly three years to build and caused him enough grief that he said he could write a book. It took so long to unpack boxes last week that he barely had time to practice, but at least his head was clear.

''All of the hassle and stress is over, and I can just go out and play golf,'' Poulter said.

Laird recently parted with his longtime caddie, and hired a new looper who also is a friend and closer to his age.

''It was kind of nice to be out on the course and be able to chat away to someone that's my age and is like a friend as opposed to a caddie,'' he said. ''That definitely helped keep me a little more relaxed on the golf course, and it feeds through all parts of your game, down to your putting.''

It wasn't like that for everyone.

Four players withdrew with various injuries and high scores. Sunghoon Kang opened with a quintuple-bogey 9, followed with eagle-par-birdie and lost four shots over the last four holes. Jerry Kelly made four birdies and shot 82.

Tiger Woods brought a small degree of normalcy, not necessarily a good thing for him at Sawgrass. He has never broken 70 in his 15 years at The Players Championship, and he extended that streak with a sloppy 74. This might be costly, however, because it put him in a tie for 100th and put him in serious danger of missing the cut for the second straight week. He has missed only eight cuts in his career.

''Just one of those days,'' Woods said, and there seems to be a lot of those lately.

Poulter ran off four straight birdies around the turn and birdied all of the par 5s, key for this golf course. Laird was the only player without a bogey on his card. He made birdie on his final hole to catch Poulter, although his focus was more on his scorecard than the leaderboard.

''I knew I hadn't made a 5 all day, and that was kind of a little goal I had,'' said Laird, who finished on the par-5 ninth. ''Nothing to do with getting to 7 under. It was, 'I don't want to make a 5 all day.'''

They were a shot ahead of Blake Adams, with Ben Crane and Kevin Na another shot behind. The 11 players at 68 included Adam Scott, Matt Kuchar, Ben Curtis and FedEx champion Bill Haas. There were 27 players who shot in the 60s, and more than half the field broke par.

Woods was not among them. Not even close.

''I just didn't score,'' Woods said. ''It was frustrating in the sense that my good shots ended up in bad spots, and obviously, my bad shots ended up in worse spots.''

The conditions were ideal for scoring for those hitting it where they were aiming, and making their share of putts.

Adams ran off five straight birdies early in his round and kept the mistakes to a minimum. Na shot 30 on the back nine.

Sawgrass, though, punishes even the slightest mistakes.

Rory McIlroy, the world No. 1, was 2 under for his round until coming up just short of the island-green 17th and making double bogey. He wound up with a 72, while Phil Mickelson had a 71 in his first round after being inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. Lee Westwood had a 71, irritated only because of seven birdies on his card.

Poulter's new home looks more like a hotel, and it took about as long to build. It became such a headache for him that when asked to go over the problems he had with contractors, Poulter looked at his watch and said, ''How long you got?''

With that out of the way, his mind was free for golf, on a course that seems to suit him well. He was runner-up three years ago, four shots behind Henrik Stenson. But Poulter found the right recipe on a sunny, warm day at Sawgrass. His birdie putts on the par 5s were all within about 5 feet. When he started missing greens on the back nine, he chipped close for par. He hit 9-iron to a front pin on the island-green 17th to about 10 feet for birdie, then made it through the 18th without drama.

''I played really solid today and holed the right putts at the right times,'' Poulter said. ''I feel like I'm back to normal, and I feel like I'm out there playing the golf I feel I should be playing.''

Adams is playing this event for only the second time – he missed the cut last year with rounds of 72-76 – and hasn't been getting much out of his game this year. He told his caddie and coach that it was time to stop trying to hit the perfect shots and enjoy himself, and a 66 left him thrilled.

''I was just trying to make every putt,'' he said about his run of birdies.

Sawgrass took its share of victims, as usual.

The star group of the morning was Woods, Rickie Fowler and Hunter Mahan, the only player with two wins this year. None of them were particularly impressive. Fowler, the winner Sunday at Quail Hollow, failed to save par when missing greens; that killed his momentum and he shot 72, while Mahan hit two shots into the water on his way to a 74.

Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera played a solid round, if only golf were a 16-hole round. He went over the 11th green and into the water, leading to a double bogey. And then he reached the island-green 17th, which proved to his undoing. His first shot went into the water. Cabrera went to the drop area and saw two more balls sink to the bottom of the pond for a 9. He played those who holes in 8 over and shot 78. He withdrew for “personal reasons.”

Na opened with a 30 on the back nine was feeling good until his ball got stuck in a tree and never came down on the first hole, leading to a double bogey.

''I made the turn at 30 and I'm thinking, 'A few more on this side to have a chance for a course record. I don't know what the course record is – 63?'' he said. ''I figured if I got two or three more ... it was very doable. But right off the bat, I made double, so that was a pipe dream.''

It's dangerous to look ahead on this golf course. Poulter was tempted – not so much for the crystal trophy, but what he could do with the $1.71 million winner's check.

A new house, perhaps?

''I'll buy another car, for sure,'' he said. ''Ferrari Enzo. Been looking for one of them for a while.''

Getty Images

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.”

Getty Images

Pac-12 continues to dominate women's golf

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

Arizona's women's golf championship marked the fourth consecutive year in‌ which the women's Division I national title was won by a Pac-12 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.


NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Scoring and TV times

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Full coverage


• 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.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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

A post shared by ETPI (@etpi_performanceunit) on