Running blog: WGC-Accenture Match Play Day 2

By Randall MellFebruary 23, 2012, 11:08 pm

MARANA, Ariz. – Day 2 of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship is underway at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain. GolfChannel.com senior writer Randall Mell is on site with a running blog of the second-round action. (Click for: Scoring, Day 1 running blog)

All times ET

6:08 p.m.: Matt Kuchar defeats Bubba Watson 3 and 2 to advance into the third round. Kuchar will meet Martin Kaymer.

Though Kuchar was 40 yards behind Watson’s drives all day, he wore out Watson with his iron play and short game. Kuchar also defeated the longer Watson in the third-place match here last year.

“You look to last year, and look at Luke Donald, short and steady player, goes on to win it, it can work,” Kuchar said. “I think length is always an advantage. And I think definitely an advantage around here. Bubba can just hit short irons into these greens and make them stop. I'm hitting longer irons and trying to land it on the front of the green and hope I catch the right hill or mound and hope it ends up in a good position. So, it’s a little more difficult, but you don't have to look very far to see what happened last year.”


5:56 p.m.: On the range before defeating Robert Karlsson 3 and 2, Lee Westwood watched his racehorse, Rerouted, finish second in Dubai.

“He’s a good horse,” Westwood said. “He just doesn’t win.”

Westwood said the horse finishes second a lot.

“I can relate to that,” Westwood cracked.

Westwood has his eye on a victory this week. He meets the Nick Watney-Tiger Woods winner in the third round. In 12 WGC-Accenture starts, this is the first time Westwood has advanced to the third round.


4:47 p.m.: Aussie John Senden on his stunning 6-and-5 rout of Jason Day, the No. 7 player in the world: “I had the pressure on him early. I had good putts on one, three and four and was 3 up. He sort of made the mistakes to force the match to go further and further my way.”


4:15 p.m.: Mark Wilson vs. Dustin Johnson will offer a severe contrast in styles Friday in the third round. Wilson ranks 159th in driving distance, averaging 280 yards per drive. Johnson ranks seventh in driving distance, averaging 306 yards per drive. Wilson’s tactician’s game prevailed last year, when he defeated Johnson in the first round in 19 holes.


3:51 p.m.: Stricker's scouting report of Mahan: 'Good match play player. He's in every hole, doesn't hit it crooked. His all-around game is good. We have been at it before, and we have been teammates before on a Presidents Cup team and Ryder Cup team. It's going to be tough. It's tough playing a friend, too. You have got to put that friendship aside for a day and try to beat him.'


3:41 p.m.: Hey, Hunter Mahan, no softening up the competition before moving in for the golf kill.  

Mahan on third-round opponent Stricker: “Steve has a great perspective on life because he was a great player early on and then he kind of oh lost it, kind of disappeared. Then he's worked his butt off to get back to this position and being a top-5 player in the world. It's pretty amazing. He's a great guy to talk to. He's so open, so nice. I mean, he's just a normal guy who plays golf for a living and that's it. There's no more – there's no celebrity to him whatsoever. He's a great guy to be around and has great energy.'

Hunter Mahan’s 5-and-3 rout of Y.E. Yang sets up a third-round match against Steve Stricker, who defeated Mahan in this event four years ago, winning in the second round in 20 holes. 


3:03 p.m.: Y.E. Yang never had a chance with the day’s first match closed out. Hunter Mahan birdied five holes in a row on the front side, six of the first eight on his way to a 5-and-3 runaway. Mahan's back in the third round, where he advanced last year before losing to Martin Kaymer. Mahan will get the Stricker/Oosthuizen winner.


2:56 p.m.: Kyle Stanley and Brandt Snedeker can’t seem to shake each other.

Their second-round match marks the third time they’ve played together in eight days. Snedeker, if you’ve forgotten, is the guy who won the Farmers Insurance Open when Stanley collapsed at the end.

Through four holes Thursday, they’re all square.

Stanley, if you’re keeping score, got the best of Snedeker in both their first- and second-round pairings at the Northern Trust Open last week. Stanley shot 74-68, Snedeker 75-70, but Snedeker (T-17) finished the tournament a shot better than Stanley (T-24).


2:21 p.m.: Ernie Els made his belly putter sing at the second, rolling in a delicate 5-foot downhill birdie putt to win the hole. He is all square now with Peter Hanson. Is there a more sentimental favorite than the Big Easy this week? The former No. 1 barely snuck into the field.


1:46 p.m.: Bubba Watson blasted his pink-headed and pink-shafted driver 330 yards down the middle at the second hole, 40 yards past Kuchar's driver. Kuchar, though, won the hole to go 1 up. Kuchar got up and down for par. Watson couldn't do the same from virtually the same position, though Watson was in longer grass.


1:37 p.m.: Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar are chatting up a storm early in their match. I didn't think Georgia and Georgia Tech grads did anything but talk trash to each other. Somebody alert Charlie Rymer. We are all square through one hole in this Bulldog/Yellow Jacket matchup.


1:21 p.m.: Bubba Watson just rocketed a hybrid at the first tee about 10 yards farther than Matt Kuchar hit his driver. Ouch!


1:10 p.m.: Ernie Els is on the practice putting green, looking pretty good with that belly putter as he prepares to meet Peter Hanson in about 40 minutes. Who would have thought Els would prevail so soundly Wednesday against world No. 1 Luke Donald, normally a fabulous putter? And who would have thought Els would putt so well on these severe greens? It bodes well not only for Els' bid to make it to this April's Masters, but to have a chance there. He said last week it ought to be banned, but I wonder if he will reconsider if it revives his game. Els is No. 68 in the world. He needs to climb into the top 50 over the next five weeks to earn a Masters' invite, or win a PGA Tour event before the Masters.


12:23 p.m.: There are some fabulous third-round possibilities, particularly on the right side of the bracket (Gary Player/Sam Snead brackets). Here is what is possible Friday, depending on the second-round outcomes:

Rory McIlroy vs. Keegan Bradley – Two young major championship winners.

Charl Schwartzel vs. Jason Day – Schwartzel says “the mind” is the most important club in the bag. Day worked some match-play “mind games” last year.

Tiger Woods vs. Lee Westwood – Tiger against the guy who ended his run at No. 1 in the world.

Matteo Manassero vs. Ryo Ishikawa – Youth isn’t wasted on the young. They’re the two youngest players in the field.


11:35 a.m.: The scorekeeper wished Steve Stricker a 'Happy Birthday' at the first tee. 'Shhhhhh,' Stricker told her. 'Don't tell anyone.' Stricker turns 45 today. He also leads off Accenture's second round, striping the first tee shot of the day down the middle in match against Louis Oosthuizen.


Watch live coverage of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship on Golf Channel, Thursday/Friday 2-6PM ET; Saturday noon-2PM ET; Sunday 8AM-1PM ET. NBC coverage can be seen live Saturday/Sunday, 2-6PM ET.

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Arizona grabs last spot with eagle putt, playoff win

By Ryan LavnerMay 22, 2018, 3:18 am

STILLWATER, Okla. – With her team freefalling in the standings, Arizona coach Laura Ianello was down to her last stroke.

The Wildcats began the final round of the NCAA Championship in third place, but they were 19 over par for the day, and outside the top-8 cut line, with only one player left on the course.

Bianca Pagdaganan had transferred from Gonzaga to compete for NCAA titles, and on the 17th hole Ianello told her that she needed to play “the best two holes of your life” to keep the dream alive.

She made par on 17, then hit a 185-yard 6-iron out of a divot to 30 feet. Not knowing where she stood on the final green, Pagdaganan felt an eerie calm over the ball. Sure enough, she buried the eagle putt, setting off a raucous celebration and sending the Wildcats into a play-five, count-four team playoff with Baylor at 33 over par.

Their match-play spot wasn’t yet secure, but Ianello still broke down in tears.


NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Team scoring

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Individual scoring


“Bianca is such an inspiration for all of us,” she said. “She’s the kind of kid that you want to root for, to have good things happen to.”

Arizona prevailed on the second playoff hole. As the 8 seed, the Wildcats will play top-seeded UCLA in the quarterfinals Tuesday at Karsten Creek.

Though the finish had plenty of drama, no teams played their way into the coveted top 8 on the final day of stroke-play qualifying.

Baylor came closest. The Bears barely advanced past regionals after a mysterious stomach virus affected several players and coaches. They competed in the final round with just four healthy players.

On Monday, Gurleen Kaur put Baylor in position to advance, shooting 68, but the Bears lost by three strokes on the second extra hole.

Arkansas finished one shot shy of the team playoff. The second-ranked Razorbacks, who entered NCAAs as one of the pre-tournament favorites, having won seven times, including their first SEC title, couldn’t overcome a 308-300 start and finished 10th. Player of the Year favorite Maria Fassi finished her week at 19 over par and counted only two rounds toward the team total.

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Kupcho gets redemption with NCAA title

By Ryan LavnerMay 22, 2018, 2:54 am

STILLWATER, Okla. – Driving from Chicago to Denver the night of the 2017 NCAA Women’s Championship, Mike Kupcho was worried about what the next two days might bring.

A few hours earlier, he’d watched his 20-year-old daughter, Jennifer, take a two-shot lead into the 71st hole at Rich Harvest Farms. With just 127 yards left for her approach, she hit her pitching wedge the one place she couldn’t afford to miss – short, in the pond – and then compounded the error with a three-putt. The triple bogey dropped her one shot behind Arizona State’s Monica Vaughn.

Kupcho conducted a series of teary interviews afterward, but she had no time to dwell on the heartbreaking finish. She hopped on a plane back home and competed in a 36-hole U.S. Open qualifier two days later.

“We were worried about how she’d react – I didn’t know what to expect,” Mike said. “I would have been a wreck.”

But Jennifer fired a 66 in the opening round, then a 72 in the afternoon to earn medalist honors.


NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Team scoring

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Individual scoring


“Well,” Mike said, “I guess she’s over it.”

Kupcho made it official Monday at Karsten Creek, claiming the NCAA title that should have been hers last May.

The Wake Forest junior won by two shots – the same margin she blew a year ago – for her fourth victory of the season, vaulting her into contention for the Annika Award.

“It’s just exciting to get here after everything I’ve been through,” she said.

Entering the final round in a share of the lead, Kupcho birdied the first but played Nos. 5-7 in 4 over par. It seemed like another collapse was brewing.

“I told her she’s going to have to face some adversity at some point,” said Wake Forest assistant Ryan Potter, who walked alongside her Monday. “There was a lot of golf to play, especially on a course like this.”

A birdie on 11 sent her on her way. She added a birdie on the drivable 12th, dropped another one on the par-5 14th and then canned a 60-footer for birdie on 16.

And so there she was again, two shots clear with two holes to go, when she stepped to the tee on the 17th. She piped a drive down the center, then flushed her approach directly over the flag, leading to a stress-free par. On 18, with water all the way down the left side, she nuked her second shot into the middle of the green for a two-putt birdie.

If there were any lingering questions about whether Kupcho could close, she answered them emphatically Monday. She carded five back-nine birdies for a two-shot victory over Stanford’s Andrea Lee (66) and Arizona’s Bianca Pagdaganan (72).

“Redemption,” Potter said. “She knew she could do it. It was just a matter of holding the trophy.”

After last year’s devastating finish, Potter tacked a photo on his closet wall of a victorious Arizona State team posing with the NCAA trophy. Each day was a reminder of how close they’d come.

“That sticks with you,” he said.

There were areas of Kupcho's game to shore up – namely chipping and bunker play – and she worked tirelessly to turn them into strengths. She built momentum throughout the season, culminating with a dominant regional performance in which she tied a school record by shooting 15 under, holed the winning putt to send her teammates to the NCAA Championship and became just the second player in history to win a regional in consecutive years.

“She’s interesting,” Potter said, “because the bigger the tournament, the bigger the stage, the better she plays.”

Indeed, Kupcho became the first player in a decade to finish in the top 6 in three consecutive NCAAs.

Here at Karsten Creek, she tied a women’s course record with a 7-under 65 in the opening round. And even though she backed up on Day 2, she played the last two rounds in 3 under to claim the title.

The one she kicked away a year ago.

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Kupcho wins NCAA title; final eight teams set

By Jay CoffinMay 22, 2018, 1:55 am

STILLWATER, Okla. – On one of the more nerve-racking days of the college golf season two important honors were up for grabs at Karsten Creek – the individual title, and the top eight teams attempting to qualify for match play.

Here’s the lowdown of what happened Monday at the women’s NCAA Championship:

Individual leaderboard (total scores): Jennifer Kupcho, Wake Forest (-8); Andrea Lee, Stanford (-6); Bianca Pagdanganan, Arizona (-6); Cheyenne Knight, Alabama (-5); Morgane Metraux, Florida State (-4); Jaclyn Lee, Ohio State (-3).

Team leaderboard: UCLA (+9), Alabama (+9), USC (+16), Northwestern (+21), Stanford (+28), Duke (+30), Kent State (+32), Arizona (+33).

What it means: Let’s start with the individual race. Wake Forest junior Jennifer Kupcho was absolutely devastated a year ago when she made triple bogey on the 17th hole of the final round and lost the individual title by a shot. She was bound not to let that happen again and this year she made five birdies on the last eight holes to shoot 71 and win by two shots. Kupcho is the first player with three consecutive top-six finishes at the NCAA Championship since Duke’s Amanda Blumenherst (2007-09).

The team race took an unexpected turn at the end of the day when Arizona junior Bianca Pangdaganan made eagle on the last hole to vault the Wildcats into an eighth-place tie, meaning they would enter a playoff with Baylor for the final spot in the match play portion of the championship.

The Wildcats got a reprieve because they played terribly for most of the day and dropped from third place to 10th at one point. In the playoff, Arizona ultimately defeated Baylor in an anticlimactic finish.

Best of the rest: Stanford played horribly the first round. So bad that it almost seemed like the Cardinal shot itself out of the championship. But they played steady over the next three days and ended with the fifth seed. This is the fourth year in a row that Stanford has advanced to match play.

Round of the day: USC shot a 5-under total on Monday, the best round of the day by six shots. They landed as the third seed and will play Duke in the quarterfinals.

Stanford sophomore Andrea Lee shot a 7-under 65, the best score of the day by three shots. Lee made seven birdies and no bogeys and vaulted up the leaderboard 11 spots to end in a tie for sixth place.

Biggest disappointment: Arkansas, the second-ranked team in the country, missed qualifying for match play by one shot. The Razorbacks shot a 20-over 308 in Round 1 and played only slightly better with a 300 in the second round. Consecutive 1-over-par 289 scores were a good try, but results in a huge miss for a team expected to contend for the team title.

Here are Tuesday morning's quarterfinal matchups:

Cut and not so dry: Shinnecock back with a new look

By Bradley S. KleinMay 21, 2018, 9:22 pm

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – The last time the USGA was here at Shinnecock Hills, it nearly had a train wreck on its hands. The last day of the 2004 U.S. Open was so dry and the turf so firm that play was stopped in the morning just to get some water on the greens.

The lessons learned from that debacle are now on display three weeks before Shinnecock gets another U.S. Open. And this time, the USGA is prepared with all sorts of high-tech devices – firmness meters, moisture monitors, drone technology to measure turf temperatures - to make sure the playing surfaces remain healthy.

Players, meanwhile, will face a golf course that is 548 yards longer than a dozen years ago, topping out now at 7,445 yards for the par-70 layout. Ten new tees have assured that the course will keep up with technology and distance. They’ll also require players to contend with the bunkering and fairway contours that designer William Flynn built when he renovated Shinnecock Hills in 1930.

And those greens will not only have more consistent turf cover, they’ll also be a lot larger – like 30 percent bigger. What were mere circles averaging 5,500 square feet are now about 7,200 square feet. That will mean more hole locations, more variety to the setup, and more rollouts into surrounding low-mow areas. Slight misses that ended up in nearby rough will now be down in hollows many more yards away.



The course now has an open, windswept look to it – what longtime green chairman Charles Stevenson calls “a maritime grassland.” You don’t get to be green chairman of a prominent club for 37 years without learning how to deal with politics, and he’s been a master while implementing a long-term plan to bring the course back to its original scale and angles. In some cases that required moving tees back to recapture the threat posed by cross-bunkers and steep falloffs. Two of the bigger extensions come on the layout’s two par-5s, which got longer by an average of 60 yards. The downwind, downhill par-4 14th hole got stretched 73 yards and now plays 519.

“We want players to hit driver,” says USGA executive director Mike Davis.

The also want to place an emphasis upon strategy and position, which is why, after the club had expanded its fairways the last few years, the USGA decided last September to bring them back in somewhat.

The decision followed analysis of the driving statistics from the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills, where wide fairways proved very hospitable to play. Players who made the cut averaged hitting 77 percent of fairways and driving it 308 yards off the tee. There was little fear of the rough there. “We didn’t get the wind and the dry conditions we anticipated,” says Davis.

Moving ahead to Shinnecock Hills, he and the setup staff wanted to balance the need for architectural variety with a traditional emphasis upon accuracy. So they narrowed the fairways at Shinnecock Hills last September by seven acres. They are still much wider than in the U.S. Opens played here in 1986, 1995 and 2004, when the average width of the landing areas was 26.6 yards. “Now they are 41.6 yards across on average,” said Davis. So they are much wider than in previous U.S. Opens and make better use of the existing contours and bring lateral bunkers into play.

This time around, with more consistent, healthier turf cover and greens that have plenty of nutrients and moisture, the USGA should be able to avoid the disastrous drying out of the putting surfaces that threatened that final day in 2004. The players will also face a golf course that is more consistent than ever with its intended width, design, variety and challenge. That should make for a more interesting golf course and, by turn, more interesting viewing.