Cut Line Mid-term Report

By Rex HoggardApril 29, 2011, 11:39 pm

The Zurich Classic is, among other things, the official turn for the PGA Tour, week No. 17 in a 33-week regular-season calendar that will culminate at the Wyndham Championship later this summer.

Halfway through the season nothing has been decided, but the field has certainly played enough holes to trim to the top 70 and ties.

Made Cut

Making a marquee. It’s not as though every week has been Frazier vs. Ali, but the PGA Tour’s move to featured groups on Thursday and Friday has been a success by any measure.

From Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate at Torrey Pines to then-Nos. 1 Martin Kaymer, 2 Lee Westwood and 3 Luke Donald for two days at Doral, the tinkering has delivered a new level of intrigue and taken nothing away from the competitive integrity of the event.

Every other professional sport schemes and schedules the juiciest head-to-head matchups, it just took golf a few hundred years and some arm-twisting to catch up.

Swift justice. Call it the Camilo Villegas accord. Call it the Padraig Harrington addendum, or just call it a victory for common sense, which is normally a fifth alternate when it comes to the Rules of Golf.

Whatever you call it, the U.S. Golf Association and Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, Scotland, moved swiftly and soundly earlier this month at Augusta National to bridge a rift in the rules that modern technology had opened.

That the powers moved with such speed was the most encouraging element of the announcement.

“It needed to happen immediately,” said Mike Davis, the USGA’s executive director. “Because this was really a problem that we didn't want to wait until the next rules cycle to change.”

Europe. The Continent whipped the United States at last year’s Ryder Cup and the world at last year’s U.S. Open and PGA Championship, and continued its dominance this season, currently holding four of the top 5 spots in the world ranking.

If ever there was a time to gloat it was now. Instead, the Continent has largely taken the high road.

“It’s not European domination,” said uber-agent Chubby Chandler, who has become the unofficial European spokesman in the American press. “What’s happened is the PGA Tour gave opportunity for a lot of global players to make the top 50 (in the world ranking) and make it accessible. The rest of the world has grown up.”

Tweet of the week: @justinrose99 “The U.S. Open. So easy even a caveman can win it (with picture of bearded Lucas Glover).” That Rose is sneaky cleaver.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Tiger Woods. First, the good news. His work with new swing coach Sean Foley seems to have drifted from the mechanical phase to the make-it-mine phase, evidenced by Woods’ Sunday 31 on the outward loop at Augusta National and his second-consecutive tie for fourth place at the season’s first major.

Now, the bad. That T-4 is his best finish this season, he continues to struggle with his putter (121st in putting average) and we learned this week he will miss at least one scheduled start (Wells Fargo Championship) because of a strained left knee and ailing Achilles.

He also was fined by the European Tour for spitting on a green during the final round of the Dubai Desert Classic and no one has lost more world ranking points this year (129.44).

Woods’ body of work strongly suggests he can turn things around over the next 16 weeks, and three major championships, but only if his body cooperates.

Pro bono work. Give new LPGA commissioner Mike Whan an “A” for effort, but his proposal to play the circuit’s inaugural LPGA Founders Cup event for what was essentially Monopoly money went over like a Ben Crane-Rory Sabbatini pairing.

Whan tinkered with the concept and the rank-and-file fell in line, but not before the tour was mired in an unnecessary spat.

The concept was noble, but on this front charity starts at home.

Dustin Johnson. As a singular talent, big hitting “DJ” is a man among boys, yet we’ve been driven to distraction by his off-course drama so far in 2011.

Johnson’s season started with a curious, and completely irrelevant, report that he was dating the LPGA’s Natalie Gulbis. He continued to make headlines for all the wrong reasons in Los Angeles when he arrived late for his first-round tee time and was given a two-stroke penalty. Last week Johnson and his longtime caddie Bobby Brown parted ways.

Johnson has more than enough game to make headlines. He can leave the drama to others.

Missed Cut

PGA Tour. In a sign of the times, the Tour brass continues to struggle to fill sponsorship gaps in Hilton Head and on the Nationwide Tour.

Some believe it is that need to replace Nationwide as an umbrella sponsor after the 2012 season that is pushing a drastic realignment of the secondary circuit and Q-School. The proposal has received mixed support from the frat brothers, some of whom scoff at the plan which would make access to a PGA Tour card almost exclusively through the secondary tour.

“The thought of a guy who has been on Tour for 20 years, has one bad season and can’t get his card back via Q-School, but has to do a penalty year on the Nationwide Tour is ludicrous,” said one veteran who opted not to attend this week’s player meeting in New Orleans. “The whole point of this proposal is to attract a new sponsor (for the secondary circuit). Seems like a lot of change for that.”

Seems like the Tour brass has a lot of selling to do over the next few months.

World Golf Rankled. First Westwood unseated Woods atop the world ranking last November and some wondered if a player without a major on his mantel deserved the top spot.

Martin Kaymer overtook the Englishman in February, temporarily quieting those concerns. But last week Westwood resurfaced at No. 1 and Luke Donald, who has just two victories in the rolling two-year ranking window and no majors, came within a playoff hole of the top spot.

As a legitimate gauge of the game’s best, more so for Nos. 2-100 than No. 1, the ranking is broken, but until someone comes up with something better, it is all we have.

Follow Rex Hoggard on Twitter @RexHoggard

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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)