Laird captures Texas Open; McIlroy second

By Associated PressApril 8, 2013, 12:06 am

SAN ANTONIO – Martin Laird has spent the last six months on the driving range looking for answers to his struggling game.

The Scottish golfer finally found what he was looking for, and then some on Sunday - winning the Texas Open with a final-round 9-under par 63 to overcome a resurgent Rory McIlroy and some of the world's best along the way.

Laird, who entered the week 161st on the money list, tied the course record with his bogey-free effort. He punctuated the overall 14-under effort with birdies on the final three holes, earning a trip to next week's Masters and plenty of confidence in a recent swing change along the way.

''I came in here quietly confident, even though my record this year has been poor to say the least,'' Laird said. ''But golf's a funny game; doesn't matter what you did two weeks ago. It turns around pretty quickly.''

The win was Laird's third on the PGA Tour, his first since the Arnold Palmer Invitational in 2011.

He entered the week having missed four of eight cuts this year following a swing change last September, including a missed cut at last week's Houston Open. However, he shot a second-round 65 in that event after a four-hour range session - providing plenty of confidence that his game was finally starting to come together.

It did just that Sunday, and how.

Laird began the day four shots behind leader Billy Horschel, but he birdied five of his first eight holes to immediately jump into contention. His 7-foot birdie putt on No. 8 - one of only 22 putts in the round - put him into a tie with Horschel at 10 under.


Who's in: Masters field


He then held off a hard-charging McIlroy over the last few holes, including a stunning up-and-down for birdie out of the fairway bunker and off the fringe on No. 17. He capped the win with a 15-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th.

McIlroy, the world's No. 2, began the day at 6 under before posting a 66 to finish two shots back and finish second - his best finish of the year.

Horschel shot a 1-under 71 to finish in a tie for third with Jim Furyk and Charley Hoffman.

Furyk eagled the par-5 18th from 104 yards out to jump into third. The former U.S. Open winner had only four holes of practice on the Greg Norman-designed Course at TPC on Wednesday before rain washed him out, but he posted a final-round 69 to close out a steady week.

Horschel, who led after the second and third rounds, was unable to match the low rounds of his competitors and finished with a 1-under 71. The Florida native, who was second at last week's Houston Open and was borderline defiant earlier in the week about his chances of competing against former major winners, was seeking his first PGA Tour win.

''Everyone's going to have butterflies,'' Horschel said. ''I don't care if it's Tiger Woods or Joe Schmo at the golf course; you're going to have butterflies, and you have to learn how to deal with it.''

McIlroy, who only entered the tournament late last week, closed to within a shot of Laird when he sank a 13-foot birdie putt on the 204-yard par-3 16th to reach 11 under.

The former world No. 1 had struggled with his consistency for much of the year entering the week, but he made seven birdies on Sunday. It was exactly the kind of competitive final round McIlroy envisioned when he signed up in advance of next week's first major of the year.

He continued to struggle off the tee, hitting just seven of 14 fairways for the third time this week Sunday. However, he needed only 26 putts - by far his best effort on the greens for the week.

''I feel like my game's in really good shape going into next week,'' McIlroy said. ''A round like that gives me a nice bit of confidence.

''I thought if I got to 12 under today that might have been good enough, but Martin just played too good and holed so many putts. It was hard to keep up.''

While McIlroy's primary focus throughout the week was on preparing for Augusta National, Laird couldn't have imagined when the week began that he would join the former world No. 1 next week.

Laird earned this third straight trip to the Masters with his win, which he closed out with three straight birdies. That included the surprising up-and-down on No. 17 and finishing with a 15-foot putt for birdie on 18 - clinching a share of the course record, which was set in last year's opening round by Matt Every.

He became the first PGA Tour player to earn a trip to the Masters in the last week before the tournament since Johnson Wagner won the Houston Open in 2008.

Laird played at Augusta National the last two years following his win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in 2011, finishing 20th two years ago and 57th last year.

Well-known name or not, Laird overcame some of the world's best on Sunday.

''I know how good Rory is, but it doesn't matter if it's Rory or Jim or Billy, if someone's behind me making birdies like they were, I know I've got to keep making birdies,'' Laird said. ''That was a pretty strong leaderboard at the top there.''

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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.

Scoring:

TV Times (all times ET):

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