Road Underdogs

By Randall MellSeptember 28, 2010, 10:39 pm

Ryder Cup

Phil Mickelson is the only member of this year’s American Ryder Cup team who was even playing on the PGA Tour when the United States last won the cup on foreign soil.

Tiger Woods was a senior in high school at the time.

Rickie Fowler was barely out of diapers.

It was 1993.

With Tom Watson as captain, with 51-year-old Raymond Floyd winning three matches, the United States defeated Europe 15-13 at The Belfry in England.

“Listen for the quiet,” Watson told his team before that victory.

Team USA bag
Team USA heads into the 2010 Ryder Cup with the odds stacked against them. (Getty Images)
Basically, Watson was telling his players to revel in the power they possessed to shut up opposing crowds with good shots and good putts.

“When you don’t hear those big roars, and it’s quiet for a few holes, you’re thinking this is pretty good,” American Jim Furyk said of playing a Ryder Cup on foreign soil. “But when their putts go in, you’re going to hear some big roars.”

While Furyk expects a respectful crowd, he’s also preparing for something you don’t hear week in and week out on the PGA Tour. He’s preparing to hear cheers when Americans miss putts.

“When you are standing over a 10-foot putt to halve a match and the ball lips out and everyone cheers, it’s not the greatest feeling in the world,” Furyk said. “But I think it’s great. When you hear people cheer when you miss, it’s a learning experience, but I love it. I think it’s the greatest. I think their fans are fantastic, and I enjoy that part of it. If you compete, you appreciate it.”

Americans haven’t had much luck keeping the volume down in Europe since that last American victory over there 17 years ago. And it promises to be loud at Celtic Manor in Wales this week if Europe gets on a roll. Ryder Cup officials are expecting to break the European attendance records set at the K Club in Ireland four years ago, when more than 45,000 fans per day came to see the matches. More than 260,000 fans are expected to attend for the week, twice the population of Newport, the Welsh host of to these matches.

“It’s a huge advantage to have your fans,” Furyk said. “When we were in Kentucky two years ago, those people were going insane. Our fans were going crazy. When you are playing around Valhalla, and you hear the big roars going up, you know the U.S. is doing good. You don’t know what’s happened, but you know someone from the U.S. knocked in a big putt. That’s what the big roar is for. Same thing over there. You hear that, and you get that feeling, they’re coming.”

The power a home crowd possesses to ignite momentum wasn’t lost on Paul Azinger at Valhalla. Someone should have given the American captain a pair of of pompoms. He raced his golf cart just ahead of key matches to whip up the crowds waiting for the action. He’s lucky he didn’t blow out a rotator cuff or two the way he waved his arms and exhorted the fans as he motored around the course there.

With those large European crowds expected this week, with typical cool and wet Welsh weather forecast and with the Twenty Ten Course at Celtic Manor familiar to European players, Ladbrokes sets the odds at 4-to-7 in favor of Europe extending its winning streak at home to four.

Europe’s won the last three competitions on its home turf by a cumulative score of 48½ to 35½ with victories at Valderrama in Spain, The Belfry in England and the K Club.

The Americans got squashed 18 ½ to 9 ½ at the K Club in that last venture overseas.

“I’ve never won a Ryder Cup over there,” Mickelson said. “This will be my eighth team, my fourth opportunity [on foreign soil], and I think it would be very cool if we were able to do that.”

Mickelson was 0-4-1 at the K Club. Overall, he is 3-7-4 playing away games in Ryder Cups, but he isn’t alone in his futility on the road. Woods is 6-7-2 and Furyk 4-7-2.

Europe’s Ian Poulter is a road warrior. He has played in two Ryder Cups, both on the road, but boasts a 6-1 Ryder Cup record.

“Pulse rate was pretty high, to be honest,” Poulter said of plugging his ball on a tee at the first hole of his first Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills outside Detroit in ’04. “It was interesting getting the ball on the tee. Silly as that may sound, if you get up close to some of those guys when they’re trying to put the ball on the tee peg, you will see their hands shaking. 

'You’re fired up. Your adrenaline is rushing, and your nerves are going and that first tee shot is not very nice. So just get up and hit it really hard. It’s amazing. There’s no experience like it.”

Steve Stricker made his Ryder Cup debut two years ago at Valhalla but will be making his first road debut this week.

“I was definitely more nervous at the Ryder Cup than the Presidents Cup, for whatever reason,” Stricker said. “You just feel that sense of history, I guess, at a Ryder Cup, that you’re at something a bit more important. It’s a situation where you get to really learn about yourself, learn how to handle the pressure, and you find an inner strength most times where you can deal with it and hit the shots that are called for. You find yourself feeding off that pressure.”

Europe features six Ryder Cup rookies, the Americans five, but there’s clearly an advantage making your debut in front of a home crowd. Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Bubba Watson and Jeff Overton won’t have that advantage in their first Ryder Cups.

“It’s a little bit of the unknown, like going to Tour school for the first time, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it,” Furyk said. “It’s our job to let those guys know what to expect. But you have some brash guys. Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson, they don’t seem to be fazed by much. Bubba, Overton, Kuchar, too.”

Tom Lehman was captain of that American team that got crushed in Ireland. He’s an assistant captain in a return overseas this year.

“It’s about mental toughness, who is not going to be intimidated,” Lehman told reporters Monday upon the Americans' arrival in Wales. “In Europe, it’s almost like a soccer experience in some ways.

“One of the mindsets we were looking for is those who can say they are going to take a crowd that is very vocal and partisan and try to prove to them what they are capable of and shut them up. Some personalities are very good at that. Some are not.”

Lehman said Tiger Woods is very good at that.

American captain Corey Pavin played on the last American team to win on foreign soil. He was an assistant captain under Lehman in Ireland. He doesn’t expect the crowds in Wales to be anything like soccer crowds.

“I don't see a situation happening out there that people will applaud for bad shots or missed putts,” Pavin said. “The way it's happened the last few Ryder Cups, and being over at The K Club in '06, there's a nice pause if an American misses a putt or hits a bad shot. There's a nice, polite pause before there's applause. And I think that's the way it should be. There might be a comment here and there that somebody makes, but it's few and far between, and I think the fans out there are very respectful of both sides, and I expect the same to happen here.”

Pavin hopes it ends up being a quieter battle than the Europeans hoped it would be.

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