Kim All Grown Up

By Rex HoggardJanuary 5, 2011, 11:16 pm
It was a textbook study in contrasts. Four years ago this month, I huddled with Anthony Kim on a hill adjacent the 18th green of PGA West’s Palmer Course. The 21-year-old came as advertised – bold and brash just three rounds into his rookie campaign.

Fast forward four long and surprisingly eventful years, to another cold California hill adjacent Sherwood Country Club’s scenic closing hole. This time AK is an “old” 25, weathered by more ebbs and flows than a Goldman Sachs stock option and, even more importantly, shaken by the realization that the game that at times has come so easily to him could be whisked away by the capriciousness of a single frayed ligament.

Anthony Kim
Anthony Kim has three career PGA Tour victories. (Getty Images)
“The next three weeks we’re going to grind through Hawaii and keep grinding,” Kim said last month at the Chevron World Challenge. “I know I practice in spurts, but I learned this year how important golf was to me and that it can go away pretty fast with something as little as a thumb injury.”

To put Kim’s “A” ticket ride in context, a history lesson is called for.

In 2008 Kim won twice on Tour, prestigious mid-major crowns at Quail Hollow and AT&T National, and was a hero of the U.S. Ryder Cup team, leading the way with a particularly dominating Sunday singles victory over Sergio Garcia.

Run ragged by a global schedule in 2009 (29 international events) he managed just three top-10 finishes and failed to advance to the Tour Championship. On cue, 2010 was shaping up to be a rebound year – with a victory at the Shell Houston Open and a third-place brush with Masters fame the following week – until surgery in May to repair ligament damage in his left thumb derailed the process.

In between there were allegations, by a Tour player no less, of late-night carousing before his Sunday match at the 2009 Presidents Cup; wild, and wildly unsubstantiated, reports of copious partying in Las Vegas this year; and untold speculation over his chronically wavering focus.

But know this about Anthony Kim: he does not make excuses. The 21-year-old at the 2007 Bob Hope Classic may not have been a picture of responsibility, but the 25-year-old version – for all his flaws and unfathomable talent – has no interest in denial or misdirection – particularly when asked if he had finally gotten a handle on what can only be described as a form of competitive A.D.D.

“Whether it’s been in high school or college or the pros, I’d say I practice in spurts. When I go, I go as hard as I can for a month and after that I want to take a month off,” Kim said. “I need to just consistently put in the time and I’m going to do that this year.”

In Kim’s defense, last year’s lapse was less about passion than it was about pain. The surgery in May was slow to heal and when he did return, the omnipresent “pinch” at impact begat compensations which begat bad habits.

“Through his injuries he developed very un-AK-like patterns,” long-time swing coach Adam Schreiber said. “It was really frustrating.”

Among some of these patterns was an increased use of Kim’s lower body, specifically his legs, to compensate for his inability to use his left hand as much as he normally had. As a result, Schreiber said Kim, who historically played a fade, developed a draw swing path.

“He’d try to hit that fade and would just pull it left,” Schreiber said.

The training room axiom “no one has ever come back too late from an injury” seems apropos. Against better judgment, Kim returned to the Tour at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in August in an attempt to make Corey Pavin’s Ryder Cup team, missed four consecutive cuts and failed to advance to East Lake or Celtic Manor.

“I wasn’t ready,” Kim concedes. “I was just trying to get points for the Ryder Cup. Once I got on a bad streak there I couldn’t fix my golf swing. I couldn’t practice and that really hurt my golf swing.”

Kim said his Wednesday practice round at Chevron was his first “pain free” loop in more than a year and Schreiber added that the bad habits he’d picked up along the comeback trail are starting to fade.

Even more encouraging, however, is the intensity in Kim’s voice when he talks about 2011. He cancelled a snowboarding trip to Montana in December to put in extra time to prepare for this week’s Hyundai Tournament of Champions and has gotten back some of the “pop” he lost as a result of the injury.

The “pop” has also returned to his step, smiling as he bound up the hill to Sherwood’s clubhouse last month – the energy of a teenager combined with the clarity of thought of a suddenly seasoned 25-year-old.

Whether that drive is sustainable remains to be seen, but the biggest difference between the 2007 brash rookie and the slightly bruised ’11 version is his willingness to accept ownership of what he does on and off the golf course.

“What really impresses me is he’s not using the injury as an excuse,” Schreiber said. “He is really growing up and it’s awesome.”
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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)