Moment of Claret-y

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2009, 4:00 pm
135th Open Championship TURNBERRY, Scotland ' It had been 15 years since Turnberry had hosted an Open Championship, and for good reason. For the fourth time the course, which clings to the craggy coast, produced copious amounts of high drama, history and heresy, not to mention 71 holes of near legendary proportion.
 
From the same shores that gave us Robert the Bruce and 1977s Duel in the Sun between a young Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus, came four windswept and unprecedented days ' a Duel for the Ageless.
 
Its an unbelievable fairytale story, Padraig Harrington, who knows a thing or two about silver slippers, said of Watsons quest for a sixth Claret Jug.
 
Stewart Cink
Stewart Cink holds on tightly to the Claret Jug. (Getty Images)
But then this fairytale had a twist by way of a lanky Alabamian. For 71 holes the improbable inched closer to impossibly perfect with each flawlessly hit shot until Watson was ultimately undone by a familiar foe ' his putter.
 
Staked to a one-shot lead and eyeing the all-to-familiar 18th green from the middle of the fairway, Watson bounced his approach over the putting surface and failed to salvage a par to slip into a tie at 2 under with Stewart Cink.
 
Fifty-nine is still golfs magic number, but for all the wrong reasons.
 
The 59-year-old Watson made a mess of the playoff, starting with a bogey and ending, figuratively if not literally, his week with a double bogey-7 at the third extra frame. He picked a bad time to start missing the middle of the clubface.
 
They go 54 holes on the Champions Tour for a reason, and 76 proved to be four too many for the toothy hero of Turnberry.
 
By the time Cink eased onto the 18th green in the playoff he had the look of a man who had just crashed a party thrown in someone elses honor and Watson, who played 71 holes like a 39-year-old, finally began looking his age.
 
Dream almost came true, sighed Watson, who closed with a 2-over 72, his highest card of the week.
 
Nicklaus recently said his 77 loss to Watson at Turnberry was the best hed ever played without winning. Watsons effort on the Ailsa Course this week may be the best anyone has ever played without cashing gold.
 
Watson, who went to bed in the grand hotels Watson Suite each of the previous two nights with the lead, was impossible to dismiss even when he began his final round bogey-par-bogey to slip out of the top spot.
 
From there, he appeared to answer all challenges, first from Ross Fisher followed in order by Lee Westwood, Chris Wood and Mathew Goggin.
 
Jeremy Kavanagh, a young Brit who lucked his way into a Tuesday practice round with Watson, ventured to a nearby horse track Monday night and eyed an entry named Whaston.
 
I put 5 pounds on her at 16 to 1 and hit, Kavanagh said. The next day I told Tom and he said, Maybe that name has a lucky ring to it this week.
 
For the better part of four days, it felt more historic than lucky.
 
After battling with Westwood and Goggin down the stretch, Watson put what appeared to be the tournament out of reach with a birdie at the 17th and a one-stroke lead.
 
But then Cink, as sentimental as the next, had a plan of his own.
 
Amid a cacophony of misses and messes, with the leaders peeling away with each gust, Cink went blank and rolled in a 15-footer at the 72nd hole to sign for one of just six birdies at the closer and a final-round 69, a full hour ahead of the pack, to post 2-under 278.
 
Its the kind of putt that had eluded Cink for much of his career.
 
After ditching his long putter two months ago and enlisting the services of sports psychologist Dr. Morris Pickens, Cink came across from the United States early, took his knocks on three of Irelands finest links courses to prepare and shouldered into the final round three shots out of the lead.
 
I actually believed I could win this tournament starting today, Cink said. In the past I wouldnt have done that.
 
History will note Cinks birdie at the 72nd hole as the catalyst to victory, but it was a missed 2-footer on the seventh hole Saturday for bogey that set his victory march in motion.
 
I missed and I didnt let it get to me, Cink said. That was one of the moments that was pivotal.
 
Cink went on to post a 71 in Round 3 and weathered a pair of late miscues Sunday on Nos. 14 and 16 to put himself in position to end Watsons fairytale.
 
Lost, however, in a playoff that seemed to suck every breath of air out of the Firth of Clyde was Cinks ball-striking exhibition.
 
He scrambled for par at the first extra hole; two-putted at the second to keep his lead; and rifled his second at the par-5 17th to 40 feet, while Watson was making hay down the left side of the fairway, to put the title out of reach. His towering approach at the 18th rolled to 3 feet for an apropos birdie.
 
He needed one here, said Cinks caddie, Frank Williams. He wont admit it, but Im sure Southern Hills (the 2001 U.S. Open and site of Cinks closest brush with major glory before Turnberry) is still in his mind and a lot of other peoples minds as well.
 
In Cinks defense, there were no shortage of rally killers looking to spoil Watsons wonderful ride. On Sunday the grounds of the former World War II airstrip had the look of rush hour at JFK.
 
Fisher, the lean Englishman with an overdue wife, ran in birdies at the first and second holes to move to 5 under early, but his title chances unraveled like a modern dance step ' hay, hay, hay, drop ' when he went from the rough to the rough to the rough at the fifth for a quadruple bogey-8.
 
Westwood held at least a share of the lead as late as the 16th hole, but the perennial major bridesmaid pitched his approach long at the demanding par-4 16th and missed an 18-footer for par to slip to 1 under and never recovered.
 
Tasmanias best hope for a major ended when Mathew Goggin bogeyed the same hole a few minutes later.
 
Wood, a 1,500-to-1 long shot when the week began, looked to trade his 08 silver medal (for winning low-amateur honors last year at Royal Birkdale) in for the gold version presented to the Open champion, finishing at 1 under with two birdies over his last four holes. But he finished tied with Westwood, one shot out of the playoff.
 
An Open that was unkind to favorites, sentimental or otherwise, went to the Tours favorite Twitterer.
 
In the end, Watson won the senior division, and Cink the tournament proper, his first major and his first victory since last years Travelers Championship.
 
But then the enormity of the situation was not lost on Cink. Far from it. We thought Jack Nicklaus had hung the moon when he won the Masters at 46, Cink said. This is 13 years on from that. . . . I dont feel ashamed. I dont feel disappointed.
 
Given the gravity of his historic run, neither should Watson.
 
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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

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    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.

    Scoring:

    TV Times (all times ET):

    Wednesday
    4-8PM: Match-play finals (Click here to watch live)