Mission possible

By Randall MellJuly 6, 2011, 10:00 pm

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Paula Creamer knows what it’s like to win the U.S. Women’s Open.

Yani Tseng appears to know what it’s like to win everything except the U.S. Women’s Open.

Creamer tees it up Thursday at The Broadmoor East Course looking to become the first American to win back-to-back U.S. Women’s Opens since Betsy King in 1989 and ’90.

Tseng’s tees it up there looking to complete the career grand slam.

There’s lots of desire, confidence and motivation in these two players and the fun of it is that they will be playing the first two rounds together at the U.S. Women’s Open. The duo is matched with U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Danielle Kang in a marquee grouping off Thursday at 3:36 p.m. ET.

“I love these types of pairings,” said Annika Sorenstam, who won the U.S. Women’s Open at The Broadmoor in 1995 and is the chairperson of this year’s championship. “It’s just a great pairing. I’m sure they’re going to be feeding off each other a little bit. They’re both very competitive, with totally different games.

“It’s kind of the next generation. With Yani, you see the international flavor [Taiwan], and you see the American star.”

Creamer, 24, may be the defending U.S. Women’s Open champion, but Tseng, 22, is the player to beat.

While Creamer is seeking to claim her first victory since last year’s U.S. Women’s Open, Tseng is looking to win her third consecutive LPGA start and seventh worldwide title this year. With Tseng’s reign at No. 1 in the Rolex World Rankings reaching its 21st consecutive week, she’s beginning to separate herself as the new dominant force in the women’s game.

“I think we're going to see more of her,” Sorenstam told assembled media Wednesday. “This is just a beginning. I think she's good for the face of the LPGA. Hopefully, the other players will keep up her pace, because it's going to be quite the competitive race the next few years.”

Juli Inkster, winner of two U.S. Women’s Opens, says she can see Tseng making history’s great players her rivals.

“You never think there’s going to be another Mickey Wright or another Annika Sorenstam or Lorena Ochoa, and all of a sudden, Yani comes around,” Inkster said. “Yani has Lorena’s power. I mean, she can bomb the ball. She’s got a lot of passion for the game. She wants to be the best. So, she could be here for awhile.

“If she stays healthy, she could break a lot of Annika’s records.”

There’s special motivation in that regard for Tseng, who idolizes Sorenstam and even bought Sorenstam’s former home in Orlando. The Broadmoor was home to Sorenstam’s first LPGA title, the U.S. Women’s Open in 1995.

All of this casts Creamer in an underdog role despite her defending champion status.

“You can't dwell too much about what's going on out there,” Creamer said of the Tseng pairing. “That's going to be the big key, just taking care of my own business. I've prepared a lot for this event, and I feel very good. I just have to get in my own world out there.”

Tseng and Creamer offer a classic contrast in styles.

Tseng’s a power player who can dominate when her putter’s hot.

Creamer seems designed to win U.S. Opens. She’s a straight driver with a strong iron game who hits a lot of greens in regulation.

Yes, Tseng’s still so young, but she has struggled in her four U.S. Women’s Open appearances. It’s the major that’s given her the most fits. In four starts in the championship, she’s missed the cut twice. Her tie for 10th, however, at Oakmont last year is a sign she’s figuring out how to play the toughest test in women’s golf.

“I always feel so much pressure on a U.S. Open course, it’s such a tough, tough course,” Tseng said. “I feel less pressure this week.”

Creamer knows how to dial in to U.S. Women’s Open mode. She hasn’t finished worse than a tie for sixth in her last three starts in the championship.

Who has the edge this week?

Sorenstam gives power players the edge. The Broadmoor, a big course, is playing as the longest U.S. Women’s Open in history at 7,047 yards. Even with the altitude, it plays long.

“It's more about the length and being able to hit shorter irons, higher irons into the greens to stop it,” Sorenstam said. “I think that's going to be the key.”

Creamer believes The Broadmoor – with its confounding greens, its difficult yardage calculations due to altitude and elevation changes – will create an exhausting mental challenge.

“If you lose your mind on one shot, it’s going to cost you big time,” Creamer said.

The fun of Thursday and Friday will be watching Tseng and Creamer match wits and skill to see who best positions themselves to win on the weekend.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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)

Getty Images

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.”

Getty Images

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)