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Randall's Rant: Betting will bring in the blowhards

By Randall MellMay 14, 2018, 10:28 pm

Legalized gambling will change the nature of professional golf more than it will any other sport.

Bet on it.

The game will get a lot richer and a lot less genteel.

You think today’s golf galleries are growing more unruly?

Wait until the 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot, when most states have had a chance to legalize sports betting, if Congress hasn’t already stepped in to regulate it. Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down the federal law that prohibits sports betting clears the way.

With gambling unshackled, with betting on golf inevitably growing more widespread, interest in the game will evolve.

Legalized betting will change the nature of galleries, with fans slowly beginning to see their favorite players evolve into favorite investments.

Nobody likes an investment that loses money.

And golf, more than any other sport, is a lot more about losing than winning.

When a PGA Tour pro goes into a slump, he’ll be labeled a bum quicker than he is now. Golf will be about more than birdies and bogeys. It will also be about who is covering who’s bet.

In a few short years, “Get in the hole!” won’t sound so obnoxious being screamed as a putt rolls toward the cup.

“Get in my bank account!” will be the more likely refrain.

Or “Cha Ching!” after a putt goes in the hole.

Or “You cost me a hundred bucks, loser!” when a player misses.

With gambling promising to grow as a legal venture, PGA Tour pros will benefit. Economically, there’s a huge upside to this. Experts have estimated underground sports gambling is a $150 billion industry. When it surfaces as legal, it might do as much for the bottom line of PGA Tour pros as Tiger Woods ever did, and that’s saying something.

It’s a funny thing what’s happening now.

Apparently, “integrity” isn’t just a moral component of fair play in professional sports. It’s also a commodity.

The PGA Tour, NFL, Major League Baseball, NBA and NHL are already positioning themselves to earn a share of the legalized gambling market. They’ve started calling it an “integrity fee,” a charge that will be attached to every bet. The fee is aimed to help those organizations cover costs for the intensified compliance and enforcement that will be required to assure competition isn’t corrupted.

Apparently, compliance and enforcement is going to be really, really expensive. (Feel free to substitute the word “profitable” for “expensive” in that last sentence.)

American Gaming Association president Geoff Freeman says the one-percent integrity fee proposed on all wagers would actually result in those sports organizations taking 20 to 29 percent of a sports book’s total revenues.

Freeman called it a “proposal to skim money from American taxpayers,” because he says one percent off the top will decrease “the total amount of money taxable” by state and other governments.

Last month, the players unions from the NBA, NFL, Major League Baseball and NHL maneuvered to get their share of integrity fees.

They released this joint statement: “The time has come to address not just who profits from sports gambling, but also the costs ... we cannot allow those who have lobbied the hardest for sports gambling to be the only ones controlling how it would be ushered into our businesses.

The athletes must also have a seat at the table to ensure that players’ rights and the integrity of our games are protected.”

So, yes, the PGA Tour stands to profit from legalized gambling, as it should, but the profit will come with a sort of penalty tax. The nature of golf fandom is already changing, and legalized gambling will make it worse.

That’s because golf is a different kind of competition. We saw that in March, when Justin Thomas had a fan ejected at the Honda Classic. As he was walking to the 16th tee in the final round, Thomas said he heard a fan say, "I hope you hit it in the water.” After Thomas hit his tee shot, he heard the fan scream for his ball to “get in the bunker!” He had enough.

Why would a fan do that?

Maybe he was rooting for somebody else to win. Or maybe he’s not a fan of Thomas. Or maybe he had some money riding on the outcome.

With legalized gambling, there promises to be a billion new reasons for fans to root against a player, just as there will be a billion new reasons to root for a player.

Thomas had a right to be annoyed at the Honda Classic. Golf isn’t like the NBA. A fan screaming in a player’s backswing is different than a fan screaming at a player on the free throw line. A golf fan can control the outcome of an event a lot easier than an NBA fan can.

Nobody’s paying to see Joe Blowhard dictate who wins. But that’s the thing about legalized gambling. It’s a pretty good bet we’ll see more Joe Blowhards coming into the sport. And I’ll wager one of them costs a PGA Tour player a chance to win.

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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)

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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.


TV Times (all times ET):

4-8PM: Match-play finals (Click here to watch live)