Back in the Thick of Things

By Rex HoggardMay 15, 2011, 4:10 pm

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – It wasn’t 'Old Timers'' day at TPC Steamy on Friday, but to track the 7:47 a.m. three-ball off the first tee, there were times when it appeared the PGA Tour had trotted out some golden oldies to spice up the proceedings.

David Toms, the father of two and a whole lot further from the start of his career than he is to the end, may be a spry 44 years young, but as he covered the former swampland alongside Jason Day and Anthony Kim he would have been forgiven if he went back to his hotel room Friday night and applied for an AARP card.

In context, Toms turned pro two years before Day was born and won his only major, the 2001 PGA Championship, before Kim was out of middle school.

“You go from talking about your kids and stuff going on at home to talking about if they’d want to have any or whatever,” Toms smiled. “It’s pretty funny.”

What’s not so funny is the precision with which Toms dissected the Stadium Course on Day 2.

At the May Players you can keep your bomb-and-gouge; Toms will take the plod-and-putt route.

Wielding a pinpoint driver and near-perfect putting stroke, Toms has hit 24 of 28 fairways (first in the field) and 29 of 36 greens in regulation (T-4) on a golf course that mitigates the bombing set with twisting, hard fairways and hazards . . . well, everywhere. Consistency thy name is Toms.

Not that this schtick is anything new to Toms. He carved out what many consider a Hall-of-Fame career with a drag bunt. A dozen Tour tilts and a major, although nothing since 2006, attest to his talent and tenacity. That he stands alone atop THE PLAYERS leaderboard through 36 holes at 10 under par after a second-round 68, however, is a testament to experience and his much-improved health.

For years Toms has struggled with various ailments – a wrist surgery, a back injury, a trip to the emergency room during the 2005 84 Lumber Classic with a heart ailment –  and it all conspired to keep the three-time Ryder Cup player off the marquee.

In many eyes, maybe even his own, the game had passed him by. On more than one occasion he lamented new tee boxes from Pebble Beach to Ponte Vedra Beach. But he always maintained that on the right course and with the right conditions he could still compete. TPC Sawgrass is that perfect fit and through two turns he’s proven that theory correct.

On this the statistics don’t lie.

His 280-yard driving average is miles behind his youthful playing mates. Friday on the Stadium’s par-5 16th hole, for example, Toms charged ahead with driver in hand, while Day carved a 3-wood . . . 20 yards past him.

But Tom Watson has proven this point with regularity – good ball striking is eternal.

“I think it was (Paul) Azinger back in the day that said David Toms is one of the best ballstrikers he’s ever come across,” Day said. “After the last two days I believe that. He played wonderfully the last two days and he putted even better.”

After Sunday maybe even Toms will believe, but then he’s long enough in the tooth to know The Players is not won on Friday, particularly given his pedestrian record at the Tour’s flagship stop.

In 18 appearances Toms has just a single top 10 (T-9 in 2009), and he’s not exactly been blazing a trail to the winner’s circle in recent years.

His improved health has certainly helped, as has his rekindled passion for the game thanks to his teenaged son Carter, of all people.

“Playing golf with Carter at home has been big,” said Toms’ longtime caddie Scott Gneiser. “He’s really never played golf with his buddies at home, but now he has a chance to play with his son and he’s really enjoying that.”

Instead of four hours on the practice tee, Toms will now do just 60 or so hard minutes. Smarter, not harder, is the best tonic for a body that has hit far too many 6-irons.

Toms has also become comfortable with his legacy. Asked on Friday if he considered himself a Hall of Famer, the thoughtful Louisiana native took the long view.

“I still have a lot of work to do to get in the Hall of Fame so I’ll just keep playing as long as I can and as long as I enjoy it and when we get to the end see what happens,” he said.

With the PGA Championship scheduled to return later this summer to Atlanta Athletic Club, the site of his 2001 PGA triumph, Toms was asked the whereabouts of the 5-wood he used to ace the 15th hole on Saturday. It’s in a glass case in his trophy room collecting dust and keeping memories.

The man, however, seems to have no interest in going under glass just yet.


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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)