Stat attack!: Shriners Hospitals for Children Open review

By John AntoniniOctober 20, 2014, 3:27 am

Ben Martin’s first PGA Tour win at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas didn’t exactly come out of nowhere. The third-year PGA Tour player finished 76th in the 2014 FedEx Cup standings, with three third-place finishes. Twice last season Martin led or shared the lead after 36 holes only to fall back on the weekend, with his third-round 71 at the RBC Heritage and his Saturday 73 at New Orleans dropping him from the top spot.

At TPC Summerlin, Martin used Saturday to his advantage, matching his career-best round with a 10-birdie 62 that jumped him from T-5 to the lead. He closed with a 68 Sunday to finish at 20-under 264, edging hard-charging Kevin Streelman by one stroke. Martin’s Saturday number was one of the best moving-day scores by a PGA Tour winner recent in recent years and one the best third-round scores the last 25 years in Las Vegas.

Lowest third-round scores by a PGA Tour winner: 2010-2014

 Score Player Tournament
 60 Carl Pettersson 2010 RBC Canadian Open
 61 Scott Piercy 2011 Reno-Tahoe Open
 62 Ben Martin 2014 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open
 62 Jimmy Walker 2013 Open
 62 Nick Watney 2011 AT&T National
 62 Steve Stricker 2010 John Deere Classic

Best third-round scores in the Las Vegas Open: 1991-2014

 Score Player Year Finish
 59* Chip Beck 1991 (at Sunrise CC) T-3
 62* John Cook 1992 (at TPC Summerlin) Won
 62* Joel Edwards 2002 (at TPC Canyons) T-9
 62* Lee Janzen 2002 (at TPC Canyons) T-24
 62* Bob Estes 2002 (at Southern Highlands) MC
 62  Cameron Percy 2010 (at TPC Summerlin) T-2
 62 Ben Martin 2014 (at TPC Summerlin) Won
 62 Jimmy Walker 2014 (at TPC Summerlin) T-4

*Prior to 2004, the Las Vegas Open was a five-round tournament.

Memories in Vegas

What do Martin and Tiger Woods have in common? Like Martin, Woods got his first PGA Tour victory at Las Vegas, beating Davis Love III in a playoff in 1996. First-time winners weren’t uncommon in the 1990s, when the tournament was a five-round affair – Jim Furyk also hoisted his first trophy here in 1995 – but since the tournament went to four rounds (and became a fall series event), first-timers have been plentiful. Martin is the eighth player to make this event his first win in the last 11 years. Of that group, only Martin Laird, George McNeill and Troy Matteson have additional victories on the PGA Tour.

First-time winners on the PGA Tour at the Shriners: 2004-2014

 Year Player Career wins
 2014 Ben Martin 1
 2011 Kevin Na 1
 2009 Martin Laird 3
 2008 Marc Turnesa 1
 2007 George McNeill 2
 2006 Troy Matteson 2
 2005 Wes Short Jr. 1
 2004 Andre Stolz 1

Amateur hour

Martin was a U.S. Amateur finalist in 2009, losing in the final to Ben An at Southern Hills. He is the third U.S. Amateur runner-up since 2000 who has gone on to win on the PGA Tour. If that doesn’t sound like much, consider that only one U.S. Amateur champion since 2000 has won on Tour. (For comparison, five of the U.S. Amateur champs in the 1990s went on to win PGA Tour events. Only one runner-up in that time (Tom Scherrer) would win on Tour as a professional.)

U.S. Amateur finalists since 2000 with PGA Tour victories

 Player PGA Tour wins Amateur record
 Ben Martin 2014 Shriners Hospitals Open 2009 U.S. Amateur runner-up
 Michael Thompson 2013 Honda Classic 2007 U.S. Amateur runner-up
 Ryan Moore 3 wins, most recent 2013 CIMB Classic 2004 U.S. Amateur champion
 Hunter Mahan 6 wins, most recent 2014 Barclays 2002 U.S. Amateur runner-up

Return to prominence

Defending champion Webb Simpson made a valiant effort at a second straight win in Las Vegas, shooting 15-under 268 to finish T-4, five strokes back of Martin. He is one of just four Vegas winners in the last 25 years to finish in the top 10 the following year. No player has won twice in a row since Jim Furyk in 1998 and 1999.

Defending champs at Las Vegas who finished in the top 10: 1990-2014

 Player Victory year Following year
 Webb Simpson 2013 T-4, 2014
 Ryan Moore 2012 T-9, 2013
 Martin Laird 2009 T-2, 2010
 Jim Furyk 1998 Won, 1999

Simpson did shoot four rounds in the 60s at TPC Summerlin, giving him 13 such rounds in a row in Las Vegas. In addition to winning a year ago, he had four 60s in 2010 and finished with one in 2009. Simpson did not play the tournament in 2011 or 2012.

Webb Simpson’s career in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open

 Year Finish Scores
 2014 T-4 69-65-67-68—269
 2013 Won 64-63-67-66—260
 2010 T-4 66-66-64-68—264
 2009 Missed cut 73-69—142

Wonderful weekend

Poor Kevin Streelman. With five birdies on the back nine Sunday, the former Duke star put pressure on Martin, before eventually finishing second, two strokes back of the winner. But anyone who was paying attention knew Streelman never had a chance. You see, Streelman shot an opening-round, even-par 71. No player with a round in the 70s has won at Las Vegas since Furyk in 1999. In fact, Streelman is the first player to finish second at the Shriners with a round in the 70s since Matt Kuchar in 2008. But Streelman’s weekend rounds are worth mentioning. His 63-65—128 are among the lowest scores at the Shriners on Saturday and Sunday.

Best final 36-hole scores at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open: 2000-2014

 Player Year Scores Finish
 Rory Sabbatini 2001 63-64—127 T-2
 Kevin Streelman 2014 63-65—128 T-4
 Jason Day 2012 64-65—129 Fourth
 Cameron Percy 2010 62-67—129 T-2
 Ben Crane 2006 64-65—129 T-2
 David Frost 2004 67-62—129 T-7
 Rory Sabbatini 2002 64-65—129 T-5
 Jonathan Kaye 2000 67-62—129 T-3

Fabulous Finau

Tony Finau’s T-7 is also worth mentioning. The Tour graduate from Utah was making just his fifth PGA Tour start at Las Vegas. His first career top-10 finish came on the heels of a T-12 at the Open one week earlier. Finau is one of six players to finish in the top 20 in each of the first two tournaments of the 2014-15 season. Last year seven players accomplished this feat  - Robert Garrigus, J.J. Henry, Ryo Ishikawa, Will MacKenzie, Jeff Overton, Vijay Singh, and Jimmy Walker. Of that group, all but Henry qualified for the FedEx Cup playoffs.

Players with top 20 finishes at the first two events of the 2014-15 PGA Tour season

 Player Shriners
 Hideki Matsuyama T-3 T-10
 Martin Laird T-3 T-18
 Brooks Koepka T-8 T-4
 Hudson Swafford T-8 T-18
  Scott Brown T-12 T-10
 Tony Finau T-12 T-7
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NCAA DI Women's Champ.: Scoring, TV times

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 23, 2018, 11:00 am

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)

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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.”