Numbers don't lie: Woods' game is all right

By Jason SobelMarch 12, 2013, 12:30 pm

The following is a question I received during a radio interview in advance of this past week’s WGC-Cadillac Championship:

“What’s wrong with Tiger Woods?”

I somehow muddled my way through a (hopefully) coherent response after being caught completely off guard at the insinuation that something was indeed wrong with Woods. Sure, he had finished T-37 at the Honda Classic just a few days earlier, which is obviously well below his standards. And yes, he lost in the opening round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship one week earlier; though in his defense, he didn’t make a single bogey against a red-hot Charles Howell III.

In his previous start, however, Woods won the Farmers Insurance Open in runaway fashion, playing his patented prevent defense in the final round for a triumph that was less dramatic than methodical.

Photos: Tiger wins Doral | Tiger through the years | Tiger's 76 Tour wins

How many majors for Woods in 2013?

That gave him one victory in three PGA Tour appearances this season, a 33.3 percent clip that even exceeds his career number of 26.5 percent as a professional entering the year.

If that stat sounds too amazing to be true, try this one on for size: Through four starts so far this season, that number has actually improved to a 26.9 percent win rate.

At the new House of Trump, he triumphed in much the same way again, parlaying a four-stroke 54-hole lead into a two-stroke victory that was really never in doubt. When weekend playing competitor Graeme McDowell was asked after the final round about chasing Woods, he admitted, 'The last time I thought I had a chance to catch him was probably (Saturday).'

End result? I don’t think I’ll be hearing that aforementioned question again anytime soon. While we’re at it, maybe we can finally stop with the incessantly annoying, “Is Tiger back?” queries, too.

He’s now won more PGA Tour titles than any other player since the beginning of last season. If he’s not back, then no one else is, either.

In fact, if we’re to analyze Woods’ recent accomplishments, there’s a lot more positive spin to place on them than those of the negative variety.

There are some who believe Tiger will never be considered the greatest player of all-time until the day he passes Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 career major championship titles. I include myself in that group, largely based on the reason that Woods includes himself in that group, as well.

Ask him about non-majors and he’ll contend that while winning clearly beats the alternative, his main intention is to have his game peak four times per year.

That said, if we use Woods’ 76th career PGA Tour win as an occasion to compare and contrast with the exploits of Nicklaus in all events, as opposed to just majors, it isn’t a fair fight. As already mentioned, Woods owns a 26.9 percent win rate as a professional. Nicklaus finished with a career percentage of 12.7, which although brilliant in its own right, looks paltry by comparison. Include only the years through his 37th birthday – Woods’ age right now – and the number is a much more impressive 19.9 percent, though it’s still a far cry from the only man in modern history who owns a better number.

It’s not as if Woods has played a lot fewer events, either; the insinuation being that cherry-picking his schedule would aid his overall percentage. Tiger competed in an average of 18.1 tournaments for the first 15 full seasons of his professional career, though that number includes campaigns limited due to injury, his father’s death and much publicized personal strife. Nicklaus, meanwhile, played just two more events each season, tallying an average of 20.2 for his first 15 seasons while never reaching 20 after 1970, the year he turned 30.

Toss in the fact that the majority of Woods’ starts come against only the most elite global competition and his historic number keeps sounding all the more impressive.

Now, it’s perfectly acceptable to claim that Woods’ full body of PGA Tour work be compared not with Nicklaus, but Sam Snead, the only man who owns a higher career victory total. Fair enough.

That doesn’t mean, though, that Woods will appear any less dominant. Here’s the only statistic you need to know for this comparison: Snead won his 76th career title the same week he turned 46 years old. Tiger was 37 years, 2 months and 10 days on Sunday, which means he could fail to win another tournament through the end of the 2021 season and still remain ahead of Slammin’ Sam’s victory pace.

In fact, Woods isn’t far from Snead’s individual total right now. Those 82 wins included five team victories – two apiece with Ralph Guldahl and Jim Ferrier; one with Vic Ghezzi. Remove them and Snead is mired at a mere 77, placing him just one ahead of Woods in tournament titles without a partner.

Keep all of this info in mind the next time someone asks, “What’s wrong with Tiger?” Every Sunday afternoon isn’t going to be a triumphant coronation, just like 73.1 percent of his previous Sunday afternoons on Tour.

Just because Woods doesn’t win isn’t reason for claiming that something is “wrong” with his game. If he proved anything on this particular Sunday afternoon, it’s that right now, something is very right.

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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.


TV Times (all times ET):

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