Major Issues Major Pressure

By Randall MellJuly 8, 2009, 4:00 pm
2009 U.S. WomenBETHLEHEM, Pa. ' The U.S. Womens Open is strangely different this week.
 
Some of the worlds best players will actually feel as if theyre escaping pressure when they step inside the ropes Thursday morning, or that theyre escaping the kind of pressure they arent comfortable with for the kind of pressure they crave.
 
Theyll reach the first tee leaving behind relentless questions about the future of the LPGA and their embattled commissioner to immerse themselves in what could be one of the most demanding tests of their time.
 
Saucon Valley Country Clubs Old Course is a beast at 6,740 yards. Its the second longest layout in the history of the championship with greens that roll and twist in confounding contours.
 
I think Sunday afternoon, after everything is done, theres going to be a lot of mentally tired players, eight-time LPGA winner Paula Creamer said.
 
Stress and strain have mounted on and off the course with news early in the week that key LPGA players delivered a letter to their organizations board of directors asking for the resignation of commissioner Carolyn Bivens. The discontent is focused on the loss of title sponsors and a shrinking schedule.
 
Ochoa didnt dispute her involvement in the preparation of the letter when she stepped before assembled media Wednesday.
 
Everybody has been talking about it, and we, as players, want to be more involved in what is happening, and we want to see the tour going in a better direction, said Ochoa, the worlds top-ranked player. Hopefully, things will start moving in a good direction, because we are worried that were losing tournaments and we want to get back on a good track.
 
One player after another entering the media room this week has been asked about the controversial letter.
 
I want to perform and do my best, just leave everything else outside, Ochoa said.
 
Bivens was scheduled to attend the championship on Thursday, but tour officials confirmed that she has canceled her appearance.
 
The U.S. Womens Open is all about stress and pressure and overcoming adversity. Its about survival. Its a theme that fits this entire LPGA season with pros worried about their tours future.
 
Saucon Valley, though, will demand their full focus.
 
Its a phenomenal, classic U.S. Open course, said Christina Kim, a two-time LPGA winner. Immaculate condition, long course, nasty rough, challenging greens, tests every club in the bag. Its all of that, and its fair.
 
Ochoa, 27, believes the routing favors her left-to-right ball flight as she bids to regain her status as the tours most dominant player.
 
Ochoa arrived for last years U.S. Womens Open having won six times on the season. She enters this year having won twice. When Jiyai Shin claimed the Wegmans LPGA two weeks ago for her second victory of the season, she moved into first place on the Rolex Player of the Year points race and on the tours money list.
 
A two-time major championship winner, Ochoa wasnt a factor in the years first two majors.
 
Competition is tough, we all know that, Ochoa said. We know good players are coming, and its getting better and better. Im just trying to practice harder and harder. Ive already won two tournaments this year, but Im not at the top. I want to make sure I continue playing and getting better, every week being consistent, so that at the end of the year, Im at the No. 1 position, the way I like.
 
Ochoa is looking to win her first U.S. Womens Open.
 
Creamer, 22, is looking to claim her first major in her 21st start in one. Shes paired with Ochoa and In-Kyung Kim in the first two rounds.
 
Hopefully, we can feed off each other and make a lot of pars and birdies, Creamer said.
 
If this championship really is about overcoming adversity, Creamers fully prepared, despite her limited practice regimen.
 
After starting the season with a mysterious stomach malady, Creamer began feeling better last month, only to injure her left thumb. She was unable to defend her title at the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic last week because of inflammation of the thumb joint. She has received two cortisone shots over the last week.
 
My thumb feels much better, Creamer said. A lot of ice and Advil are my two favorite things right now.
 
In her first four seasons on tour, Creamer never withdrew from an event. She has withdrawn from three this season.
 
Its been frustrating, Creamer said. It feels like a character building year, because Ive been through a lot.
 
Its been the hardest year Ive had out here. I thought 06 was because I didnt win, but Id rather go through that year than this.
 
The way Saucon Valley is set up, nobodys likely to escape hardship this week.
 
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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

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    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)