Par 5 Major Questions for Men and Women

By Randall MellMarch 29, 2011, 5:38 pm
Setting the agenda for the week ahead with five questions for the majors and one major precursor ...

Just how wide open are the first majors for the men and women in 2011?

Yani Tseng
Yani Tseng is seeking her second consecutive major and second consecutive Kraft victory. (Getty Images)
Yani Tseng arrives at the Kraft Nabisco Championship holding the No. 1 ranking for a seventh consecutive week, but she’s the fourth player to hold the top spot over the last year.

It feels as if anyone in the top 10 right now has a legitimate chance to become No. 1.

That’s a sea change for the women’s game when you consider that just two players (Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa) held the top spot the first four years of the Rolex World Rankings.

The men’s game is even more wide open.

Sandra Gal’s breakthrough victory at the Kia Classic last week was notable because you don’t get a lot of unexpected winners in the women’s game. But among the men? Unexpected is this year’s theme.

You could pick 20 players before an LPGA event and feel fairly certain the winner’s going to come within that group. You could pick 50 men before a PGA Tour event and not be certain you’ve got the winner.

Nine players outside the top 100 have won PGA Tour events in the first three months of this season alone, including four players ranked 200 or higher.

Just one woman outside the top 100 in the world rankings won an LPGA event all of last year. Beatriz Recari was No. 172 when she captured the CVS/pharmacy in 2010.
Will Yani Tseng win back-to-back Kraft Nabisco Championships?

Tseng’s not the overwhelming favorite you would think with the No. 1 ranking, four worldwide victories already this season and the confidence that comes as the defending champion.

That’s because No. 2 Jiyai Shin showed she’s rounding into form with her runner-up finish at the Kia Classic on Sunday, Karrie Webb’s got some confidence going with a pair of LPGA titles this season, and Suzann Pettersen and Cristie Kerr look like such good fits at Mission Hills’ Dinah Shore Course.

Here’s how Par 5 makes the odds this week for the top five favorites:

  • Tseng 3/1 – Though she’s just 22, Tseng’s already shown the ability to summon her best in the largest events. She’s won three of the last 11 major championships. Tseng looks ready to join her idol as the only players to win back-to-back titles since the Kraft Nabisco became a major 28 years ago. Annika Sorenstam won in 2001-02.
  • Pettersen 5/1 – In three of her last four starts at Kraft, Pettersen’s finished second or tied for second.
  • Webb 6/1 – A two-time winner at Kraft (2000, ’06), Webb’s finished fifth or better seven times in the event.
  • Kerr 6/1 – In her last nine starts on the Dinah Shore Course, Kerr’s finished fifth or better five times, including a tie for second when Brittany Lincicome won two years ago.
  • Shin 10/1 – In her fourth start at Kraft last year, Shin turned a corner. She tied for fifth while finishing the championship under par for the first time.

Anyone have a dart to pick this week’s winner at the Shell Houston Open?

Choosing a PGA Tour winner is maddening work these days, with the average ranking  this year being 167th.

So watch out for Jamie Lovemark and J.J. Henry, the closest to the average winner’s ranking in this week’s field at No. 170 and 173, respectively.

Here are the rankings of this year’s winners:

  • Jonathan Byrd (Hyundai Tournament of Champions), No. 121
  • Mark Wilson (Sony Open), No. 237
  • Jhonattan Vegas (Bob Hope Classic), No. 187
  • Bubba Watson (Farmer’s Insurance Open), No. 33
  • Mark Wilson (Waste Management Phoenix Open), No. 91.
  • D.A. Points (AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am), No. 167
  • Aaron Baddeley (Northern Trust Open), No. 224
  • Johnson Wagner (Mayakoba Golf Classic), No. 377
  • Luke Donald (WGC-Accenture Match Play), No. 9
  • Rory Sabbatini (Honda Classic), No. 102
  • Michael Bradley (Puerto Rico Open), No. 562
  • Nick Watney (WGC-Cadillac Championship), No. 31
  • Gary Woodland (Transitions Championship), No. 153
  • Martin Laird (Arnold Palmer Invitational), No. 40

Can you peak too early for the Masters?

In 74 Masters tournaments, only four players have won the PGA Tour event the week before and gone on to win at Augusta National.

Phil Mickelson’s the last to do so.

Mickelson won the BellSouth Classic in Atlanta in 2006 and a week later claimed the second of his three green jackets.

The only other players to do so were Sandy Lyle in 1988, Art Wall in ’59 and Ralph Guldahl in ’39.
Any room left for a late Masters’ invite?

The beauty of the Masters bringing back the practice of inviting PGA Tour winners looms as a potential bonus at the Shell Houston Open this week.

The field list grows by one if the winner in Houston hasn’t already earned a Masters’ invite.

Since Masters chairman Billy Payne announced four years ago that Augusta National was re-instituting invitations for PGA Tour winners, Johnson Wagner’s the only player to win the week before the Masters to gain a late invite. Wagner won the Shell Houston Open in 2008.

Follow Randall Mell on Twitter @RandallMell
Getty Images

Arizona caps an improbable journey with a title

By Ryan LavnerMay 24, 2018, 3:49 am

STILLWATER, Okla. – Five hours before the final match at the NCAA Women’s Championship, Arizona coach Laura Ianello sat cross-legged on a couch in the Holiday Inn lobby and broke down four times in a half-hour interview.

It’s been that kind of exhausting season.

From poor play to stunning midseason defections to a stroke-play collapse, Ianello has felt uneasy for months. She has felt like she was losing control. Felt like her carefully crafted roster was coming apart.

So to even have a chance to win a NCAA title?

“I know what this team has gone through,” she said, beginning to tear up, “and you don’t get these opportunities all the time. So I want it for them. This could be so life-changing for so many of them.”

A moment that seemed impossible six months ago became reality Wednesday at Karsten Creek.

Arizona continued its magical run through the match-play bracket and knocked off top-ranked Alabama to capture its third NCAA title, with junior Haley Moore – who first rose to fame by making the cut at an LPGA major as a 16-year-old – rolling in a 4-footer to earn the clinching point in extra holes.

All throughout nationals Arizona was fueled by momentum and adrenaline, but this was no Cinderella squad. The Wildcats were ranked ninth in the country. They won twice this spring. They had four medalists. They were one of the longest-hitting teams in the country.

But even before a miracle end to NCAA stroke play, Arizona needed some help just to get here.

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Team scoring

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Individual scoring

On Christmas Day, one of the team’s best players, Krystal Quihuis, texted Ianello that she was turning pro. It may have been a gift to her parents, for their years of sacrifice, but it was a lump of coal in Ianello’s stocking.

“I was absolutely heartbroken,” she said. “It was devastating.”

Even more bad news arrived a few weeks later, when junior Gigi Stoll told Ianello that she was unhappy, homesick and wanted to return to Portland, Ore. Just like that, a promising season had gone off the rails.

Ianello offered her a full release, but Stoll looked around, found no other suitors and decided to remain with the team – as long as she signed a contract of expected behavior.

“It was the most exhausting two months of my life,” Ianello said. “We care so much about these freakin’ girls, and we’re like, Come on, this is just a small, little picture of your life, so you don’t realize what you’re possibly giving up. It’s so hard to see that sometimes.”

Stoll eventually bought in, but the rest of the team was blindsided by Quihuis’ decision.

“We became even more motivated to prove we were a great team,” said junior Bianca Pagdanganan.

It also helped that Yu-Sang Hou joined the squad in January. The morale immediately improved, not least because the players now could poke fun at Hou; on her fourth day on campus she nearly burned down the dorm when she forgot to add water to her mac-and-cheese.

Early on Ianello and assistant Derek Radley organized a team retreat at a hotel in Tucson. There the players created Oprah-inspired vision boards and completed exercises blindfolded and delivered 60-second speeches to break down barriers. At the end of the session, they created T-shirts that they donned all spring. They splashed “The Great Eight” on the front, put the state of Arizona and each player’s country of origin on the sleeves, and on the back printed their names and a slogan: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

“I can’t think of anything else that better embodies this team,” Radley said.

This spring, they rallied together and finished no worse than fourth in a tournament. Through three rounds of stroke play here at the NCAA Championship, they used their distance advantage and sat third in the standings. Then they shot 17 over par in the final round, tumbling outside the top-8 cut line.

They were down to their final chance on the 72nd hole, needing an eagle to tie, as Pagdanganan lined up her 30-footer. She dramatically drained the putt, then gathered her teammates on the range.

“This means we were meant to be in the top 8,” she said. Less than an hour later, they beat Baylor in the team playoff to earn the last match-play berth.

Ianello was so amped up from the frenetic finish that she slept only three hours on Monday night, but they continued to roll and knocked off top-seeded UCLA in the quarterfinals, beating a pair of Player of the Year contenders, Lilia Vu and Patty Tavatanakit, in the process. In the afternoon semifinals, they jumped all over Stanford and won easily.

It was a cute story, the last team into the match-play field reaching the final match, but a stiffer challenge awaited the Wildcats Wednesday.

Alabama was the top-ranked team in the country. The Tide were a whopping 110 under par for the season, boasting three first-team All-Americans who were so dominant in their first two matches that they trailed for only two of the 99 holes they played.

Ianello already seemed to be bracing for the result on the eve of the final match.

“Win or lose,” she said, “this has been a hell of a ride.”

But their wild ride continued Wednesday, as Hou won four holes in a row to start the back nine and defeat Alabama’s best player, Lauren Stephenson, who had the best single-season scoring average (69.5) in Division I history.

Then sophomore Sandra Nordaas – the main beneficiary after Quihuis left at the midway point of the season – held on for a 1-up victory over Angelica Moresco.

And so Arizona’s national-title hopes hinged on the success of its most mercurial player, Moore. In the anchor match against Lakareber Abe, Moore jumped out to a 2-up lead at the turn but lost the first three holes on the back nine.

By the time Radley sped back to help Moore, in the 12th fairway, she was frazzled.

“But seeing me,” Radley said, “I saw a sense of calm wash over her.”

Moore played solidly for the rest of the back nine and took a 1-up lead into the home hole. She didn’t flinch when Abe hit one of the shots of the entire championship – a smoked 3-wood to 12 feet to set up a two-putt birdie and force extras – and then gave herself 4 feet for the win on the first playoff hole. She sank the putt and within seconds was mobbed by her teammates.

In the giddy aftermath, Ianello could barely speak. She wandered around the green in a daze, looking for someone, anyone, to hug.

The most trying year of her career had somehow ended in a title.

“At some moments, it felt impossible,” she said. “But I underestimated these young women a little bit.”

Getty Images

Pac-12 continues to dominate women's golf

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 24, 2018, 3:04 am

Arizona's national women's golf championship marked the fourth consecutive year in‌ which the women's Division I national title was won by a Pac-12 Conference team. All four championships were won by different schools (Stanford, 2015; Washington, 2016; Arizona State, 2017; Arizona, 2018). The Pac-12 is the only conference to win four straight golf championships (men or women) with four different schools.

Here are some other statistical notes from the just-concluded NCAA Div. I Women's Golf Championship:

• This is the second time that Arizona has won the national title the year after rival Arizona State won it. The last time was 1996.

• Arizona now has three women's golf national championships. The previous two came in 1996 and 2000.

• Arizona is only the sixth school to win three or more Div. I women's golf championships, joining Arizona State (8), Duke (6), San Jose State (3), UCLA (3) and USC (3).

• Arizona's Haley Moore, who earned the clinching point on the 19th hole of her match with Alabama's Lakareber Abe, was the only Arizona player to win all three of her matches this week.

• Alabama's Kristen Gillman and Cheyenne Knight also went 3-0. Gillman did not trail in any match.

• Since the match-play format was instituted in 2015, Arizona is the lowest seed (8) to claim the national title. The seeds claiming the national championship were Stanford (4) in 2015; Washington (4) in 2016; and Arizona State (3) in 2017.

Getty Images

High school seniors win U.S. Amateur Four-Ball

By Associated PressMay 24, 2018, 1:44 am

TEQUESTA, Fla. - The 18-year-old Hammer, from Houston, is set to play at Texas next fall. Barber, from Stuart, Fla., also is 18. He's headed to LSU.

''Growing up watching U.S. Opens and U.S. Amateurs on TV, I just knew being a USGA champion is something that I desperately wanted,'' said Hammer, who qualified for a U.S. Open three years ago at 15. ''And to finally do it, it feels incredible. It feels as good, if not better, than I thought it would. And especially being able to do it with Garrett. It's really cool to share this moment.''

Hammer and Cole won the par-4 eighth with a birdie to take a 2-up lead. They took the par-4 10th with a par, won the par-5 13th with an eagle - Barber hit a 4-iron from 235 yards to 3 feet - and halved the next two holes to end the match.

''Cole didn't want me to hit 4-iron,'' Barber said. ''He didn't think I could get it there. I was like, 'I got it.' So I hit it hard, hit pretty much a perfect shot. It was a crazy shot.''

The 32-year-old Dull is from Winter Park, Fla., and the 42-year-old Brooke from Altamonte Springs, Fla.

''Cole Hammer is a special player,'' Brooke said. ''Obviously, he's going to Texas (and) I'm not saying he is Jordan Spieth, but there are certain things that he does.''

In the morning semifinals, Hammer and Barber beat Idaho high school teammates Carson Barry and Sam Tidd, 5 and 4, and Brooke and Dull topped former Seattle University teammates Kyle Cornett and Patrick Sato, 4 and 3.

Getty Images

Watch: Pumped up Beef deadlifts 485 lbs.

By Grill Room TeamMay 24, 2018, 12:19 am

Andrew "Beef" Johnston has been playing some solid golf on the European Tour this season, and he is clearly pumped up for one of the biggest weeks of the year at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

Judging from the video below, Beef will have no problems lifting the trophy on Sunday as he reportedly deadlifted 220 kg ... (Googles kilogram to pounds converter, enters numbers) ... that's 485 lbs!

@beefgolf with a new deadlift PB 220kg ! #youcantgowronggettingstrong

A post shared by ETPI (@etpi_performanceunit) on