How Donald rose to the top

By Rex HoggardDecember 11, 2011, 2:48 pm

Remember when Luke Donald disease was a bad thing? When others dismissed the Englishman’s uncanny consistency as a weakness and the term “He’s a nice little player” was delivered with more than a hint of selective subjectivity?

On Sunday across the appropriately named Earth Course in Dubai, Donald completed his historic climb to the top of golf’s heap, carding yet another top-10 finish – that’s 20 and counting in 2011 for those keeping track – to become the first member to win both the PGA Tour and European Tour money titles in a single season.

Not bad for a lightly recruited artsy type whose game didn’t appear long or straight enough to ever be a world beater. It’s why Stanford passed on Donald back in the late 1990s, and how, in a fortuitous twist, he ended up at Northwestern with Pat Goss.

“Stanford made a mistake in not recruiting him,” said Goss, who was beginning his second year as Northwestern’s golf coach in 1997 when he extended a scholarship to Donald without having ever seen him hit a golf shot. “We’d had a lot of success with English players, but if Stanford would have done a better job of recruiting him he would have been there.”

Goss’ good fortune has resulted in a 14-year climb that few outside of “Team Luke” could have imagined just three years ago. With apologies to Donald, one could hardly blame conventional wisdom for its oversight.

At the end of 2007 Donald had six full seasons on the PGA Tour yet just two victories and three top 10s in 20 Grand Slam starts. The only statistic one needed to know about Donald as ’07 was drawing to a close was 177th and 35th, his driving distance and accuracy rank, respectively.

In short, Donald’s career had featured far too little bomb and too much gouge.

From the ashes of that reality, however, was born the underpinnings of Donald’s climb to the top of golf’s global peak.

In December 2007 Donald and Goss convened a summit at the Englishman’s Jupiter, Fla., home with the idea that, as Goss recalled, “the goals needed to be revised.”

In a classic cause-and-effect twist, Donald’s drive to become world No. 1 and to hit the ball farther had conspired against him on many levels.

“His fundamentals had gotten worse,” Goss said. “I didn’t do a good enough job of pushing him in hindsight. He talked about how much he tried to hit it further. I’ve never thought he didn’t hit it far enough.

“Being No. 1 has never been the goal. One of the keys to becoming No. 1 in the world had to be to stop trying to be No. 1 in the world.”

Fate seemed to take care of the rest of the puzzle in 2008 when Donald injured his left wrist while playing out of the rough during the final round of the U.S. Open. The cost of the injury was more than six months on the “DL,” a missed Ryder Cup and countless hours chipping and putting. It’s all he had. Turns out it’s all he needed.

Donald’s extended stays on The Bear’s Club practice greens have now become part of his lore, so much so even Jack Nicklaus, a member of the south Florida club with Donald, took notice.

“He spends his time chipping and putting, chipping and putting, and I mean, he wears out the practice greens,” Nicklaus said. “I think that the effort he has put into it has been rewarded.-

For those who fixate on Donald’s perceived lack of distance, Goss points out his man’s jump in driving accuracy from 120th last year to 57th in 2011 and his stranglehold on the new strokes-gained putting statistic and three-putt avoidance (he had just 15 three-putts on Tour this season).

When Donald finally returned to the fray in 2008 he was no longer handicapped by the notion that he was a welterweight trying to make his way in a heavyweight world.

In 2010 he posted 14 top 10s and, according to Goss, his victory against Martin Kaymer in this year’s WGC-Accenture Match Play finale “started the whole year.”

The WGC title lifted Donald to third in the world and he completed his ascent to No. 1 in style, knocking off then-No. 1 Lee Westwood in a playoff at the BMW PGA Championship. Five months later he wrapped up the PGA Tour money title with another walk-off at the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic.

A player whose name had become synonymous with quiet achievement, some even suggested underachievement, delivered both style and substance in 2011.

“He played some historic rounds under unique situations,” Goss said. “The playoff at the BMW, it was really an amazing opportunity, similar to Disney. He’s overplayed at that point, but with that situation to capture the money title it is mindboggling.”

Speaking of mindboggling, Donald’s year in Cliff’s Note form has included four victories, top-10 finishes in 80 percent of his global starts and a commanding 2.29-point lead over No. 2 Rory McIlroy in the World Golf Ranking.

“There was a lot of lean years there for a while where I wasn't winning, felt kind of frustrated on the course, wasn't getting a lot out of it,” Donald said this week in Dubai. “You've just got to keep believing that at some point, it's going to be your time.”

Fitting that he would complete his transatlantic earnings double with a third-place showing in Dubai, another top 10 for a man who was once strangely haunted by such consistency. Luke Donald disease has never looked so good.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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

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