Mighty 'Rors'

By Rex HoggardJune 20, 2011, 2:04 am

BETHESDA, Md. – In a town that has a history of getting ahead of itself uber-agent Chubby Chandler wasn’t taking any chances early Friday when a well-wisher offered him a wildly premature attaboy for his client Rory McIlroy’s historic performance at the U.S. Open.

“Oh no, it’s a long way from being over,” Chandler cautioned.

Forty-eight hours and 36 storybook holes later the thought occurred that McIlroy may just be getting started.

Moments earlier Chandler had received a text message from another one of his major-totting clients Louis Oosthuizen: “Does he think the 10-shot rule means he plays by himself?” No, it only seemed that way on a wet and wild weekend at Congressional.

But then McIlroy made it easy to get carried away. One by one players marched past the apartment-sized leaderboard adjacent the Blue Course’s 18th hole transformed from competitors to lookie loos playing bit parts in a show the game hasn’t seen since . . . well, 2000.

“You just gotta giggle,” Robert Garrigus reasoned when asked his thoughts on McIlroy’s eight-shot advantage after three turns.

The dizzying pace of April’s Masters, when eight players held at least a share of the lead on Sunday, gave way to the clinically cold certainty that was the 111th U.S. Open.

The Northern Irishlad dusted off more history than a Harvard professor. In order:

-His 268 total is lowest in 111 playings of the national tilt.

-At 22 he is the youngest Open champion since Bobby Jones in 1923.

-His 16-under total is the most strokes under par . . . by four shots.

-His 11-under total on the par 4s was the lowest ever.

On and on it went, yet McIlroy’s greatest achievement at Congressional will never show up in the history books, lost amid the blur of his statistical and scoring brilliance was a gutty resilience and an unmistakable answer to a question few others could have mustered enough moxie to answer.

For the record, his closing 69 was just 11 strokes better than that grisly 80 he penned on Sunday at Augusta National, but it may as well have been a 111-shot improvement.

“I was very honest with myself and I knew what I needed to do differently,” said McIlroy, whose card of 65-66-68-69 featured just four of 72 holes played over par. “I had a clear picture in my mind of what I needed to do and where my focus needed to be when I got myself in that position again. And luckily enough for me, I was able to get in that position the major right after Augusta.”

Final-round 80s don’t just wreck tournaments, they have the potential of sinking careers. On Sunday at the Masters there was nowhere for McIlroy to hide. At Congressional he didn’t need to, buoyed by an iron game that found an un-U.S. Open-like 62 of 72 greens in regulation, the most since the USGA began tracking GIR.

By the time McIlroy birdied the par-4 fourth hole on Sunday he was a 10-spot clear of the field, with Steve Sticker the only mover from the too-little-too-late set. When his tee shot at the white-knuckle 10th pitched past the hole and eased back to within 6 inches for a tap-in birdie he was 8 up with eight to play – dormie.

The last person to leave Congressional please turn off the SubAir.

Like that it was match play, with McIlroy 2 up on his Masters’ demons and cruising. But then he knew it was always going to come to that regardless of his cushion or a glaring lack of contenders.

Congressional may have been an “Open Lite,” as some opined, softened by an imperfect storm of hot, dry conditions before the championship and a steady stream of showers during the proceedings, but history detests asterisks.

USGA executive director Mike Davis wanted 14 on the Stimpmeter, not the leaderboard. Instead he got something closer to 12 and 16 (under), respectively.

“I don't think we're going to try to trick Mother Nature. This is what we got in 2011. You come to the U.S. Open in the District of Columbia or in Maryland in June, that's the dice you roll, and that's what we got,” said Tom O’Toole, the chairman of the U.S. Golf Association's championship committee. “We ended up with a soft golf course.”

It was not the test the USGA wanted, but that does not lessen the enormity of McIlroy’s accomplishment.

“It's not amazing that he's going to win a major, but it's amazing how comfortable that he's lapping the field,” Padraig Harrington said. “There might be people capable of winning a major, but there's not too many people capable of dominating and running away from the field in a major.”

So much so that comparisons with Woods’ 15-stroke walkover in the 2000 Open flooded the humid hills. McIlroy was the first wire-to-wire major champion since Trevor Immelman at the 2008 Masters and the first to do it at the U.S. Open since Woods at Pebble Beach. That’s just the tip of the similarities between the bookend Open masterpieces.

McIlroy led by six through 36 holes, same as Woods, and eight through 54 holes, two less than Woods; although his eight-stroke margin of victory was seven shy of Woods’ record romp.

To clarify, McIlroy’s effort was Tiger-esque, Tiger-like even, yet from great victories come greatly exaggerated expectations. Although he looks every bit the heir apparent, even in Sunday’s late gloom the 22 year old emerged as the coolest head.

“It is nice people say he can be this or he can win 20 majors, but at the end of the day I have one,” McIlroy said.

For Trivia Pursuit purposes, Jason Day won the “B” flight, closing with 68 to post his second consecutive Grand Slam runner-up and his third straight top 10 in a major.

If McIlroy’s major climb had a road-map-to-greatness look to it, top-3 finishes in five of the last eight Grand Slams, Day’s is beginning to take on a similar shade, albeit at arm’s length at Congressional.

Not that Lee Westwood’s workmanlike Open resume is much solace. The Englishman, the best player without a major and arguably the best player without a U.S. Open, has played in a dozen U.S. Opens, has three top-5s – including Sunday’s tie for third – and nothing to show for it.

It’s an enigma Phil Mickelson can relate to. Lefty talked like a man poised to break an inexplicable Open schneid, but showed up with a three-quarters swing and never was part of the conversation. He’s is now 0-for-21 in the national championship and running out of time.

That’s baggage McIlroy will now never have to shoulder, a conclusion that seemed inevitable even after that unsightly 80 in April. Late Sunday night following that fateful final round at Augusta National McIlroy, Westwood and Chandler were gathered around the kitchen table at the team’s house when fellow Northern Irishman David Feherty broke the silence.

“I asked him Sunday night of the Masters and I explained to him the thought process I had, what I was thinking, and that I didn’t want it (a major). I said, ‘I can see that you do,’” Feherty said. “He was right back at me, ‘I want it more than you can imagine.’”

Little did any of them know that he would get it sooner than anyone could have imagined.

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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.”