Players skipping TOC overshadowing those playing event

By Jason SobelJanuary 2, 2013, 11:38 pm

KAPALUA, Hawaii – There’s trouble in paradise. And it isn’t the blew-out-my-flip-flop, stepped-on-a-pop-top kind of trouble.

This week marks the beginning of the PGA Tour season, with the Hyundai Tournament of Champions taking place here on the island of Maui, against the backdrop of breaching whales, resplendent rainbows and abundant palm trees. If that doesn’t sound appealing enough, players are shuttled back and forth from the nearby Ritz-Carlton, which isn’t exactly a Motel 6.

“I was walking around near the hotel yesterday and I looked around and told my wife, ‘I want to be here every year,’ said Webb Simpson, who finished in a share of third place last year. “To be able to start your year in Hawaii, it doesn’t get any better.”

Even aesthetically challenged competitors can find beauty in the tournament’s format. After many of them had shut it down during the holidays, they can now enjoy the relaxed nature of this week’s four-round, no-cut, guaranteed money setup. Consider it the Tour’s version of a holiday bonus.

So where’s the trouble? Check the numbers.

Of the 37 players who qualified for this event by winning in 2012, only 30 are here, leaving the rest to cruise on back home.


Hyundai Tournament of Champions tee times | Featured pairings


That number may provide an above average percentage for greens in regulation, but it denotes a problem for what should – or at least could – be one of the crown jewels of the annual schedule. In effect, those here are being overshadowed by those who chose to stay away.

Especially because the Magnificent Seven is a who’s who list of special talents: Rory McIlroyLuke DonaldTiger WoodsJustin RoseSergio GarciaPhil MickelsonErnie Els.

If you’re scoring at home, that’s the top four players in the world ranking and three others who are 24th or better. They have accounted for 156 career PGA Tour victories and two dozen major championship titles.

In other words, they’re really good.

And none of them are here.

Aloha really does mean goodbye.

It’s easy to place blame on the players themselves for being too greedy/lazy/apathetic/inflexible. Choose your favorite adjective. But that is too narrow of a view. Many of those seven were competing into December and five retain membership on other tours, which requires widespread travel throughout the year.

The fact is, there are many other tournaments throughout the season for which all seven of those players will technically be eligible – including next week’s Sony Open – but won’t play due to other commitments or family priorities or simply needing a week of rest.

It’s also not as if this is a new issue, either. This tournament has been losing superstars on an annual basis for the past decade, yet has continued in its current form. All of which could translate to the Tour being labeled more inflexible than any of the players.

If anything, it’s a shared blame here, but there is no apparent solution.

Change the date? Change the venue? Offer more prize money? Increase the field size? Decrease it?

Quite frankly, none of those factors would ensure the A-listers return to this event. It says less about the TOC, though, than it does the rest of the schedule. When the likes of Woods and Mickelson first played this tournament, there were no World Golf Championship events, no FedEx Cup playoffs and less of an importance on other late-season global events.

“It is far to come,” Simpson explained, “but so is Abu Dhabi, Qatar – those places are pretty far, too. So I don’t know. I think the way the game is changing, it’s becoming more global. Guys are playing around the world more than they used to.”

As if to further complicate matters, this tournament will remain in its current slot going forward, despite the impending wraparound schedule. What it means is that PGA Tour winners during each calendar year will earn invitations to an exclusive event that will now fall as the seventh tourney of the season, but first of the actual year.

Still, it doesn’t solve any of the issues about getting those Magnificent Seven to the Aloha State.

“Our season is so long now. You basically play all year, right to the end of the year and I think guys need some time away,” said defending champion Steve Stricker. “It’s just a tough spot for some guys. Others, we love being here. I hear the field is better this year, so I think it’s going in the right direction.”

There’s still trouble in paradise, with so many elite players skipping the festivities. The other 30 who are here will just have to make do with four rounds earning guaranteed money adjacent to the mighty Pacific.

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NCAA DI Women's Champ.: Scoring, TV times

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 22, 2018, 11:28 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 have advanced to the match-play portion of the championship. Quarterfinals and semifinals will be contested on 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 action, beginning at 4 p.m. ET.

Scoring:

TV Times (all times ET):

Tuesday
11AM-conclusion: Match-play quarterfinals (Click here to watch live)
4-8PM: Match-play semifinals

Wednesday
4-8PM: Match-play finals

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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: