Ultimate Match Play Championship Round 1 predictions

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2013, 12:30 pm

GolfChannel.com kicks off Round 1 of its Ultimate Match Play Championship this week, where you get to vote on who is the greatest of the greats. Our writers weigh in with their opening-round predictions. Click here for Ultimate Match Play Championship bios:


Match 1: (1) Jack Nicklaus vs. (16) Phil Mickelson

Mell: Nicklaus – Lefty will impress Jack with some abracadabra around the greens, but there’s no stopping the Golden Bear on his fantasy collision course with Tiger Woods.

Sobel: Nicklaus – Much like at an NCAA hoops opening-round game, the fans may be clamoring for the 16 seed to pull off the impossible. And much like one of those games, it won’t happen, as the top seed advances here.

Hoggard: Nicklaus – The game’s best short game is no match for the best player of all time, but it will be a close match that probably comes down to a wayward drive or misplayed recovery shot on the last hole for Lefty.

Lavner: Nicklaus – The greatest of all-time versus one of the greatest escape artists in the game’s rich history? Always take the former, especially when it’s a bulldog like Jack. Nicklaus wins, 3 and 2.

Gray: Nicklaus – The Golden Bear will be eager to assert – and reinforce – his position at the top of the bracket, and Lefty will have one errant drive too many.


Match 2: (2) Tiger Woods vs. (15) Seve Ballesteros

Mell: Woods – Tiger and Seve make this match look like Houdini vs. Harry Blackstone with their shot-making sorcery, but Woods pulls the win out of his deeper bag of tricks.

Sobel: Woods – The most intriguing matchup of the first round. Tiger has been known to get thrown off by a camera click; how will he deal with coins jangling in the opponent’s pocket? Seve takes him the distance, but expect Woods to survive and advance.

Hoggard: Woods – Seve gets up and down from 17 Mile Drive, from behind the lone cypress tree and a car park adjacent the Lodge, but it’s not enough to beat Woods at Pebble Beach, where he once won a U.S. Open by 15 strokes.

Lavner: Woods – Seve would bring his best gamesmanship for this duel, but Woods at his best dispatches the feisty Spaniard easily, 5 and 4.

Gray: Woods – Perhaps no match would feature two more fiery stares, but the edge goes to Woods, one of few players who can go toe-to-toe with Ballesteros in the scrambling department.


Match 3: (3) Ben Hogan vs. (14) Nick Faldo

Mell: Hogan – Faldo met and admired Hogan, but the Wee Ice Mon freezes out Faldo in first-round triumph.

Sobel: Hogan – Two words: 'Hello. Thanks.' That’s what each man will say to the other – one on the first tee, the other on the final green. In between, the the Hawk will be too much for Nasty Nick to handle; though, he may see some of himself in the youngster.

Hoggard: Hogan – Not a word is spoken between the two and the Hawk rifles his way to an easy Round 1 victory via a ball-striking clinic.

Lavner: Hogan – If Hogan is at the peak of his powers – in 1953, when he won three majors in what became known as the “Hogan Slam” – then even a former world No. 1 such as Faldo will fall short, 4 and 2.

Gray: Hogan – This match may not feature a missed fairway or green, but the battle of ball-strikers goes to the more seasoned veteran.


Match 4: (4) Bobby Jones vs. (13) Lee Trevino

Mell: Jones – The Merry Mex gives Jones the fight of his life, but Jones won’t let Trevino play giant killer this time.

Sobel: Jones – Jones co-founded Augusta National. Trevino abhorred it so much that he changed his shoes in the parking lot. This is your classic rivalry game, which means anything can happen, but expect Jones to pull it out in the end.

Hoggard: Jones – Legendary golf scribe O.B. Keeler will later call this match the “clash of the sneer and the smile,” but Jones gets the last laugh with a handy victory.

Lavner: Jones – Jones was one of the best amateurs the game has ever seen, winning six U.S. Amateurs during his abbreviated career, which is precisely the kind of match-play prowess that will overwhelm the “Merry Mex.” Jones wins, 5 and 4.

Gray: Jones – Unaffected by Trevino’s showmanship, Jones quietly goes about his game – one that turns out to be just as effective as it was in 1930.


Match 5: (5) Sam Snead vs. (12) Billy Casper

Mell: Snead – The sweet-swinging Snead has to knock some flagsticks down to hold off Casper and his magic putting stroke.

Sobel: Snead – The man atop the PGA Tour wins list faces off against perhaps the most underrated man in this entire tournament. This one comes down to a putting contest, as Snead goes side-saddle on the back nine to claim the victory.

Hoggard: Snead – The man who won 82 PGA Tour titles cruises to a first-round victory over Casper, who managed to win just 51 times in his prolific career. 

Lavner: Snead – Sweet-swinging Sammy was a prolific winner in his day, but even he would receive a stern test from one of the game’s most underrated players. Snead, though, squeaks out a close one, 2 up.

Gray: Casper – One of the most underrated players of all time strikes again, as Casper rallies to defeat Snead, who is undone by a balky putter.


Match 6: (6) Arnold Palmer vs. (11) Gene Sarazen

Mell: Palmer – With his blacksmith’s slash, Palmer survives yet another Sarazen double eagle to advance.

Sobel: Palmer – Expect the man known as The King to employ his usual aggressive style to victory – and don’t be surprised if he pulls off an upset or two in this tourney down the road.

Hoggard: Sarazen – The Squire secures the opening round’s upset special when he holes out a 4-wood for a double eagle at Pebble’s iconic closing hole.

Lavner: Palmer – In match play it’s all about momentum, and with the King’s record of seven majors and 62 PGA Tour wins, and the support of Arnie’s Army behind him, Palmer steamrolls to a 4-and-3 victory.

Gray: Palmer – Palmer’s advantage off the tee consistently gives him the upper hand, and he holes a few more birdies than Sarazen as a result.


Match 7: (7) Byron Nelson vs. (10) Tom Watson

Mell: Nelson – The master schools a favorite student in a classic matchup.

Sobel: Nelson – This will be as gentlemanly a match as we’ll ever see, as mentor and mentee square off less as rivals than friends. Watson used to visit Nelson’s ranch and has always had great admiration for him. A conceded 3-foot putt on the last will give Lord Byron the win.

Hoggard: Watson – Watson chips in from the rough behind the 17th hole for birdie to clip Lord Byron on a cold, windswept day that felt more like a British Open.

Lavner: Watson – Iron Byron won a remarkable 11 tournaments in a row in 1945, but one of the favorites has to lose sometime. Might as well be to Watson, who puts on a punishing ball-striking clinic to steal a 2-and-1 victory.

Gray: Watson – Watson’s timeless swing continues to pay dividends, as he rekindles images of the “Duel in the Sun” to edge out Lord Byron.


Match 8: (8) Walter Hagen vs. (9) Gary Player

Mell: Hagen  – Hagen lives up to his reputation, barely making his tee time, but in the end he’s still the toast of the town.

Sobel: Player – As Hagen hops out of his limo a minute before their tee time, Player will have already knocked out 1,000 sit-ups while waiting. Give me the guy who wants it more, as Player advances in the only first-round “upset” in the tournament.

Hoggard: Player – The Haig arrives 10 minutes before his tee time in a limousine, but it’s the Black Knight who scores the victory and celebrates his triumph by performing 200 sit ups on the 18th green.

Lavner: Hagen – No player has the stamina to hang with Hagen quite like Player, but it’s hard to dismiss Hagen’s match-play record in the 1920s. Hagen wins, 3 and 1.

Gray: Hagen – Though Player’s effort remains relentless, Hagen is able to show just why he is known as the best match-player of all time.

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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)