No Experience No Problem for Lehman

By Mercer BaggsAugust 16, 2006, 4:00 pm
2006 PGA ChampionshipMEDINAH, Ill ' Tom Lehman was wondering why it took so long.
It took all of two questions, he said Wednesday. I thought that was for sure No. 1. Im actually a little disappointed.
Lehman, the U.S. Ryder Cup captain, met with the media on the eve of the 88th PGA Championship. But while he had plenty to say on this day, what he says this coming Monday will bear far more significance.
Davis Love III
Davis Love III is one of many players this week trying to earn his way onto the U.S. Ryder Cup team.
It is on that day, at 9:00 a.m. local time, that Lehman will reveal his two captains selections. And, as he said, it took all of two questions in this session to ask if one of those two picks might be used on himself.
Earlier in the year when I was playing extremely well, I thought this was possible, he said about being the first player-captain since Arnold Palmer in 1963. I was putting well and hitting it decently. Over the last three or four, five months, Ive hit it very well and putted very poorly. The Ryder Cup is all about the short game, really.
In some ways, I feel Id be a detriment to our team because my putting is streaky.
Lehman said he was cornered Tuesday by Chris DiMarco, who is currently sixth in the U.S. points standings and is all but a lock to make the team. DiMarco told him that he and other team members agreed that Lehman had to play if he qualified.
I go, Well, thats really nice, but I am the captain and I get to make that decision, Lehman said with a smile.
Lehman almost wrapped up a spot on his own team last week at The International. He lost in a playoff and moved to 19th in the current standings. A win would have put him in seventh place with just one qualifying tournament remaining.
The PGA Championship is the last chance for U.S. players to earn points for the Ryder Cup. The top 10 on the points list will automatically qualify for the team, which will try and win back the Cup from the Europeans Sept. 22-24 in Dublin, Ireland.
The European team will be finalized three weeks after the PGA.
As of now, the top 5 players on the U.S. list are guaranteed a spot on the team ' Tiger Woods; Phil Mickelson; Jim Furyk; Chad Campbell; and David Toms, who said Wednesday that he is nearly 100 percent healthy after dealing with a back injury. DiMarco is almost a certainty at sixth.
But the final four spots are up for grabs.
And the final four spots are currently held by would-be Ryder Cup rookies.
Vaughn Taylor, J.J. Henry, Zach Johnson and Brett Wetterich, respectively, occupy positions 7-10. Just beyond them are a few other players with no Ryder Cup experience: John Rollins at No. 11; Jerry Kelly at No. 13; and Lucas Glover at No. 14.
Lehman, however, isnt concerned that his team might consist of a quartet of first-timers.
Ive been saying all along, when it comes to the Ryder Cup, there was a time when Jack (Nicklaus) was a rookie, there was a time when (Tom) Watson was a rookie, there was a time when (Hale) Irwin, (Fred) Couples, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer ' they were all rookies at one time, he said.
So the idea of not having experience does not scare me at all.
Experience, Lehman said, isnt always a good thing ' not when that experience consists of nothing but defeat.
The U.S. has lost four of the last five Ryder Cup Matches, including an embarrassing 18 - 9 defeat on American soil two years ago.
But, the Yanks got big boost of confidence last year, when they won back the Presidents Cup over the International team. Lehman paid close attention to that contest and called it a very important victory for the Americans. He believes that the attitude the U.S. players displayed that week needs to transfer over in order for them to reverse the tide in this biennial competition.
When the American team won the Presidents Cup, I kind of felt like, you know what, thats one ' thats one off the list. Weve got one more to go. And so that was motivating to me, said Lehman, who has played on three Ryder Cup teams, including the last victorious squad in 1999.
To see them play well was important. To see the style in which they played was more important. They played very aggressively, they were loose, they had fun.
Enjoying oneself, Lehman believes, is essential to winning. Thats something he picked up from legendary basketball coach John Wooden when the two met earlier this year.
His whole things was, if you dont have fun, youre not going to love it, and if you dont love it, youre not going to work hard enough to be successful, Lehman shared.
The U.S. team has always seemed to play like they are afraid of losing something that they dont have, he added. The Cup isnt ours; its theirs. So that puts us in a different role, I think. We may be the underdogs.
That may well be the case given the Americans recent track record in the Ryder Cup. But, regardless of how many first-timers make this years team, they still have the top 3 players in the world in Woods, Mickelson and Furyk.
Thats important, said Lehman. Those guys are champions. I think they are going to bring that champion mentality to the rest of the team, whoever they might be.
Exactly. There are a myriad of possibilities, a bevy of players who could earn their way onto Lehmans team by weeks end.
The winner of the PGA will earn 675 points. Wetterich, currently in 10th place, has only amassed 746 points over the last two years. That means its possible for Robert Gamez, at 104th, to still make the team.
As for those with a more realistic chance, theyre trying their best to narrow down their focus to the immediate task at hand.
Theres one more week to win a tournament,' said No. 9 Johnson, who held the 54-hole lead at The International before ultimately finshing outside the top 10 and not earning any Ryder Cup points. 'Thats my thought process.'
Ive focused on (making the team) in the past and I didnt do well in tournaments. If I do well in the tournaments then the Ryder Cup takes care of itself, said No. 13 Kelly, who skipped the last two events to better prepare for this final trial.
No. 11 Rollins, who missed the cut while playing the first two rounds alongside Lehman last week, shares Kelly's approach. Im I focused on the PGA and trying to win the PGA. If I do that, then good things will happen,' he declared.
That, of course, is easier said than done.
Its tough. I just need to go play. Ive been thinking about points too much, said No. 15 Davis Love III, who has played on every Ryder and Presidents Cup team since 1993.
I know I can help out. I know I can add some experience. But you want to take the best players.
As to who Lehman will select with his two discretionary picks is anyones guess.
Even his.
Im going to be completely honest with you and say I dont have the first clue right now who Im going to pick, he said.
I dont want to sound like Im clueless about what Im looking for. Im just saying that theres about four or five or six guys that I think could really fit.
Which means Lehman will be as much spectator this week as competitor.
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    Rosaforte Report: What makes Wise so good, while so young

    By Tim RosaforteMay 23, 2018, 2:39 pm

    Is Aaron Wise the real deal?

    It may be too early to answer that question – or even make that proclamation; after all, the baby-faced 21-year-old had zero top-10s in his first 15 starts as a PGA Tour rookie. Now, one month after a missed the cut in the Valero Texas Open, Wise is being associated with phrases like “phenom” and “It kid,” thanks to a strong showing at Quail Hollow and a victory at Trinity Forest.

    But that’s how it works in this transient time of golf, where there’s always room to join the party and become one of the guys hanging out with Rickie Fowler. You watch: Next we will see Wise playing practice rounds with Tiger Woods, next to Bryson DeChambeau. It would be the wise thing to do.

    We really won’t know about Wise until he’s played some majors and established himself beyond this two-tournament stretch. Had he not turned pro, he would have been a college senior leading Oregon into the NCAA finals.

    But what we do know, based on the opinions of those closest to him, is that Wise has the “instinctual” and “emotionally strong” qualities of a great one – the “real deal” qualities, so to speak.

    From “knowing how to win” (college coach Casey Martin), to “being a natural in picking the right shot” (swing instructor Jeff Smith) to “the way he embraced mental training, very much like Tiger.” (sports psychologist Jay Brunza), Wise ranks high in all the nuances required of greatness.

    Asked if he was surprised with Wise’s second-place finish at the Wells Fargo Championship and win at the AT&T Byron Nelson, Smith said without hesitation, “Not at all. The tough part as a coach was tempering expectations. I have to keep reminding him over and over and over, you’re only 21 years old.”

    This week’s Fort Worth Invitational will provide further opportunity to gauge where Wise ranks in the spectrum of potential greatness. One of the elements that surfaced in his last two starts: While not physically imposing, the kid’s athleticism is a noticeable byproduct of the tennis he played during middle school and early high school growing up in Lake Elsinore, Calif. Wise was good enough to be “pretty highly ranked,” and was torn between a golf coach that wanted him to quit tennis, and a tennis coach that wanted him to quit golf.

    Golf won out, but what we have seen recently is Wise’s hand-eye athleticism at work, the ability of knowing what shot to hit and how to hit the off-speed and stroke-saving shots that are necessary under the gun. “He’s like a natural in the feel side of the game,” says Smith.

    In the mental game, there are even some intuitive comparisons to Woods drawn by Brunza, who started working with Tiger when he was 13. The best example, thus far, of those qualities was the fifth shot Wise holed for bogey to close out his third round at Wells Fargo. After whiffing his third shot and blading his fourth, it was the most meaningful shot in Wise’s short time in the big leagues.

    It was what Brunza would so aptly describe as “managing the nervous arousal level within.” Instead of being rattled, Wise chipped in for bogey. He would call it “huge,” and “awesome,” and made the promise that it would carry him into the final round – which it did.

    Wise closed with a 68 that Sunday and lost by two strokes to Jason Day, never appearing to be nervous or out of place. After a week off for not qualifying for The Players, that relaxed confidence carried over to Dallas, to the point where closing out a PGA Tour win for the first time felt like it did at the NCAAs, Canada and the Tour.

    “To not only compete, but to play as well as I did, with all that pressure, gave me confidence having been in that situation (with Day at Quail Hollow),” Wise said on “Morning Drive.”

    Wise was accompanied at Trinity Forest by his mother, who engaged in what Wise characterized as a joking conversation Sunday morning of just how much money Aaron would make with a win. It was a reminder of the short time span was between winning on Tour, at 21, and not being able the handle costs of playing on the AJGA circuit. Showing poise and patience with the last tee time, Wise did the smart thing and went back to sleep.

    Wise didn’t come on radar until he won the 2016 NCAA Men’s DI individual title and helped lead the Ducks to the team title.

    Playing mostly what Oregon coach Martin calls local events in Southern Cal hurt his exposure, but not his potential. “He came on really fast,” Martin remembers. “He was a very good junior player but wasn’t the greatest and he didn’t come from a ton of money so he didn’t play AJGA [much] and wasn’t recruited like other kids.”

    Instead of pursing pre-law at Oregon, Wise went to the tour’s development schools and won the Syncrude Oil Country Championship on PGA Tour Canada and the Air Capital Classic.

    Before Quail Howllow, there was nothing to indicate this sort of transcendent greatness. Statistically, none of numbers (except for being ninth in birdies) jump off the stat sheet. He’s 32nd in driving distance and 53rd in greens hit in regulation. But there are no strokes saved categories for the instinctual qualities he displayed on the two Sundays when he’s had a chance to win. “He’s a really cool customer that doesn’t get rattled,” says Martin. “He doesn’t overreact, good or bad.”

    Lately, it’s been all good.

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

    By Golf Channel DigitalMay 23, 2018, 11:00 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 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)

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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)