In the End the Comeback Begins

By Rex HoggardDecember 1, 2010, 2:50 am
Chevron World ChallengeTHOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – The gutted shell that is Terminal 6 at Los Angeles International Airport was an apropos reminder of where Tiger Woods may be in his game, to say nothing of his life. And the larger-than-life poster of Mr. Laker, Kobe Bryant, was an optimistic vision of where the world No. 2 may be heading if all goes according to plan.

The large sign draped across the entrance to Terminal 6 read: “Forgive our mess” and “Re:LAX.” There was no sign under Bryant’s likeness, but the words redemption, reclamation and rewind immediately come to mind.

Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods is looking to end the 2010 season on a high note. (Getty Images)
It seems about right Woods is ending his meanest year here in Los Angeles at his own Chevron World Challenge. In many ways, at least publicly, it all started at tony Sherwood Country Club some 12 months ago.

The Nov. 27 crash that ignited perhaps the most profound fall from grace in all of sport was still fresh in the collective consciousness. Lacking anything even remotely resembling fact, the grounds were abuzz with rumor and innuendo. Daily revelations of serial infidelity made Woods’ 72-hole member-member every bit an afterthought and the ongoing drama the only point of light.

Black Friday begat a really bad Friday at Quail Hollow which begat all kinds of competitive and personal lows for Woods.

For the first time as a professional, Woods failed to win anything more substantial than a $5 press. He lost multi-million dollar endorsements, confidence, fans and, worst of all, his family. There is no recovering from that, at least not in the long term.

“Harder than anyone could ever imagine unless you’ve actually gone through it before,” Woods said on Tuesday at Sherwood when asked about the last year.

Last year amid the plush confines of Sherwood the scene was surreal, a snapshot of confusion and curiosity. The question everyone was asking and no one was answering was: What happened?

Twelve months and plenty of pain down the road the scene and questions have changed to: What’s next?

Woods grew up about an hour down L.A.’s clogged byways from Sherwood and the lifelong Lakers fan could, if he was so inclined, take a cue from Bryant. It wasn’t too long ago the Lakers’ star was in a similar hole, although to be fair it must be pointed out that Bryant was accused of breaking a law. Woods only broke hearts and promises.

Bryant was charged with sexual assault and on the ropes professionally and personally. Now they hang NBA banners high into rafters in his name and life-sized posters of him on the walls at LAX. Now Bryant hung the moon in Tinseltown with his words and his deeds.

Or maybe Woods could turn to another embattled star. Not so long ago Michael Vick was doing hard time for a heinous crime. Now he’s bigger in Philadelphia than Rocky and willing the Eagles to greatness.

By comparison, Woods is in a prison only of his own making. While neither Bryant nor Vick should be considered a role model, the trail they blazed is worth noting.

Unlike last year, when the real challenge at the Chevron was keeping the topic on golf, Camp Tiger may not be driving the bus, but they at least have a seat close to the front.

Woods sat down with Golf Channel’s Steve Sands for a 15-minute one-on-one interview before taking the hot seat for another 30 minutes before the rest of the assembled scribes. If Woods was evasive earlier this year at his first media meet-and-greet post-Nov. 27 at Augusta National, he was engaging on Tuesday. If he was contrite for much of a mean summer, he was composed at Sherwood.

“As a golfer I learned so much more this year than any other year and as a person infinitely more,” Woods said. “It’s been a very successful year even though it was a very painful year as well.”

Asked on Tuesday the competitive low point of his season Woods reasoned most people would guess it was the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, a no-cut event where he finished with rounds of 74-72-75-77 and tied for 78th, some 30 strokes out of the lead. But for a man who once mused that “second sucks,” the reality is golf was always going to be background noise in 2010.

“It’s been different ... golf has been secondary,” he said.

As Woods’ life off the course has settled as best it could and he settled into a new swing philosophy with Sean Foley there have been signs of life. His fourth-place showing at the Australian Masters was his best finish of the year and his last 15 holes at the Ryder Cup were as close to flawless as he’s been maybe since the 2009 Memorial.

“I’m excited about the future,” he said. “I showed some good signs over the last three tournaments.”

Competitively, a victory this week at the Chevron would, at the least, be a measure of progress. What it would mean to the ongoing reclamation project, however, is immeasurable.

We learned 12 months ago our society’s insatiable desire for smut, but as the sun set on another picture-perfect California day north of L.A. it seems equally true that we dig the comeback just as much. Maybe even more.

“Our society is a forgiving society in general,” said Greg McLaughlin, the tournament director for Woods’ Chevron World Challenge and AT&T National. “They want individuals to accept responsibility and he did that. It takes time.”

Luckily for Woods, he has the two key elements required for such a comeback – time and talent.
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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)