It's getting late early

By Rex HoggardJune 19, 2011, 1:36 am

BETHESDA, Md. – Dinner’s on Rory, really.

Not that the 22-year-old Northern Irish lad has lost anything, in fact there is no small collection of pseudo-clairvoyants who went to bed late Saturday thinking McIlroy had already won the 111th U.S. Open.

Lost in that hyperbole is this simple truth – they play all 72 at the national championship. The Congressional Open is not over but it’s getting late early, as Yogi Berra once famously reasoned.

No, dinner is on McIlroy because . . . well, it’s his turn.

“Lee (Westwood) paid last night, I paid the night before, which is fortunate because during the week they don’t drink much wine,” smiled Chubby Chandler, McIlroy and Westwood’s genial manager.

One can only imagine the dinner table chitchat between McIlroy – doing an uncanny stand-in for Tiger Woods at this week’s Open following rounds of 65-66-68 that pushed him eight clear of a rope-a-dope field – and Westwood, whose co-round-of-the-day 65 moved him into a tie for an arm’s-length third place.

Shame the Englishman lost his fascination with Twitter. Imagine the possibilities in a barrage of 140-character clips.

@LeeWestwood: “Suggested Rory try the oysters and sushi. It only looks a few days past expiration. LOL”

@RoyMcIlroy: “Told Westy we should have a hotdog eating contest. Said I’d spot him eight franks. HA”

On and on it would go. Two of the game’s great personalities exposed at their jovial best. Instead, the consolation prize is an 18-hole sprint on Sunday to history or a historic collapse.

Either option is viable, although the latter is starting to appear about as likely as a stress-free commute in Washington, D.C.

He’s done it before, the pundits will caution. He was 4 up with 18 to play at the Georgia member-member this spring at Augusta National and ballooned to 80, they will warn. He was two clear after the first round last year at St. Andrews and signed for another 80, the crowd will reason.

Yet somehow McIlroy’s play for three muggy days makes those monumental miscues seem like a lifetime ago. You don’t lay 15 birdies, an eagle and just one bogey and a single double bogey onto a U.S. Open venue with your “C” game or a suspect swing.

We jokingly asked U.S. Open doctor Rees Jones his thoughts on McIlroy’s handiwork on his colossus-turned-cupcake layout: “If Rory would have gone to college everything would be OK,” he joked.

Instead, he’s taking all comers to school.

As Graeme McDowell made his way to the scoring room he glanced over his shoulder and gazed at the scoreboard adjacent the practice green – McIlroy 12 under.

“It's just phenomenal. You run out of superlatives to describe what he's doing this week,” said McDowell, whose 69 was solid but will be a footnote in Sunday’s editions back home in Northern Ireland. “He's decimating a field.”

They are calling McIlroy’s handiwork Tiger-esque and comparing this year’s national tilt to that historic gathering in 2000 at Pebble Beach. McIlroy led by six through 36, just like Woods; and his eight-shot advantage over Y.E. Yang is just two shy of Woods’ lead through three rounds. Many believed Woods’ 15-stroke walkover was an unbeatable benchmark. Through 54, however, the only thing that appears untouchable is McIlroy.

Not that Congressional is a complete carbon copy of 2000. To date, McIlroy has 19 fewer PGA Tour victories and two fewer majors than Woods had when he romped at Pebble Beach.

Yet of all the false heirs the media has anointed over the years McIlroy certainly has the tools – length, precision, touch, demeanor and, most importantly, belief.

“He said he was going to win several majors and he believes that,” said Jason Day, who was a playing patron of McIlroy’s for the first three days this year at Augusta National and will begin the final turn nine shots back.

Not even an unfriendly forecast or an overly friendly setup could help narrow a gap made mountain-like by McIlroy’s workmanlike effort. The U.S. Golf Association moved up tees, cut pins in pincushion landing areas and laid Congressional bare to all in an attempt to give the masses a chance to run down Rory.

“That was their goal but the wrong guy shot 6 under (3 under, actually),” Robert Garrigus said. “The only way there’s going to be a tournament is if he does what he did at the Masters and I don’t think he’s going to do that.”

McIlroy said the right things – sports cliché stuff like taking it one shot at a time and he hasn’t accomplished anything yet. All week, in fact, his play in the press room has been nearly as flawless as his on-course performance.

“The more I put myself in this position, the more and more comfortable I'm becoming. I thought today would be a really good indication on how I was going to fare over the whole weekend,” he said.

There are no guarantees when vying for sport’s greatest championships, McIlroy needs to only ask his texting buddy LeBron James about the ills of a three-quarter effort.

For McIlroy, Sunday’s ultimate task will be dealing with the demons of Augusta National, more so than a golf course on the softer side of par or a leaderboard with plenty of pedigree. If he needed proof of that he should look no further than the other side of Saturday’s dinner table.

Westwood began the final round in 2008 at Torrey Pines a stroke behind Woods, signed for a closing 73 and watched Monday’s fireworks from his couch like the rest of the golf world.

Heartbreak has no shelf-life and this U.S. Open is not over, but it is getting late early.

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NCAA DI Women's Champ.: Scoring, TV times

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 23, 2018, 11:00 am

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)

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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.”