Norman breaks down Internationals' loss

By Rex HoggardNovember 21, 2011, 12:59 am

MELBOURNE, Australia – In the rush to congratulate and console late Sunday at Royal Melbourne Greg Norman was asked if he would submit a review of his two turns as the International team captain in the coming weeks.

“I'm going to give you two right now so I don't forget,” Norman informed the PGA Tour minion.

There is no secret to the International side’s swoon in this biennial bout that has now tipped toward the Americans in seven of nine meetings. The rest of the world can’t play foursome golf. Well, they can, just not well.

In nine matches the U.S. has won 14 and tied one of the 18 foursome sessions, has outscored the Internationals 25 ½ to 7 ½ in foursomes in the last three Presidents Cups and nearly swept this week’s play, losing only two of the 11 games. Considering the four-point final margin of victory for the United States one doesn’t need to be clairvoyant to figure out what was atop the “Shark’s” postgame to-do list.

The last seven Presidents Cups began with a foursome session, which – given the Internationals' pedestrian play in the format – would explain why they regularly have to play catch-up on the weekend.

“We do get our cage rattled a little bit in the foursome match. And it does rattle us because we don't like getting beaten; so maybe just getting our confidence level up will help,” said Norman, who will suggest the “host nation” decide if the event begins with a foursome or fourball session, like the Ryder Cup.

Ernie Els, a captain-in-waiting, echoed Norman’s thoughts on Sunday: “I think we are so bad at it . . . why don't we start with something different, you know? Let's start with fourball matches, maybe that's the answer.”

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No, it’s not an answer. It’s just swapping problem solving for procrastination. Pushing the start of foursome play until Day 2 will likely only delay the inevitable.

The Internationals' problems in alternate shot seem to be twofold. Many of the U.S. players are exposed to the format each year at the Ryder and Presidents Cups, while the Internationals get just one shot at it every two calendars.

Diversity, of all things, is the other issue for the Internationals. Last week Norman’s team played under four flags. Assistant captain Frank Nobilo would like to see that change to a single standard in future Cups.

“I wish we didn’t put the flags in the program, “ Nobilo said. “You’d like to get each one of the 12 feeling like part of the 12, that’s why you don’t really want to just put two Korean players to the side, two Australians or whatever. That’s something that we’ve always had to deal with.”

In a snapshot the Internationals' plight could be summed up as the team took to the podium for the final press conference of the week late Sunday, complete with three different interpreters, whereas the U.S. side needed just a single translator for those perplexed by Bubba Watson’s deep Southern drawl.

“The (Ryder Cup) expanded to be competitive. Maybe the (Presidents Cup) should shrink,” 2008 U.S. Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger tweeted only half jokingly.

For many reasons Norman’s second loss as a captain was worse. This time he and his assistants thought they had an answer to the foursome enigma. This time his pairings and players were ready, but the result remained unchanged.

Even more concerning is the problem seems to be genetic, passing from the previous generation to the newcomers. Adam Scott is the only active player with a winning record in alternate shot (5-4-1), while Geoff Ogilvy, a Cup staple and the emotional heart of the International side, is a confounding 0-4-1.

By contrast, the Internationals have a 10-4-4 advantage in fourball play and have won or tied the singles session on four occasions.

Some have suggested adding another biennial match-play team event to the schedule – perhaps the Northern Hemisphere versus the Southern – that would be played in even years and give the Internationals some much-needed foursome experience.

Norman also plans to suggest the Tour expand the number of wild-card picks an International captain has from two to four, which, in theory, would give him more flexibility to create favorable matchups.

“We just really cannot handle ourselves in the foursome format,” Norman said. “(Nobilo) and I from 2009 to now have thought about it long and hard. I truly believe it's the comfort level of the players who have played or haven't played it. When you have played in alternate shot, when you have played with somebody who has not played alternate shot, you can actually hold them by the hand and take them through the process a little bit easier.”

Whatever is on the “Shark’s” wish list, what is clear after last week’s painful foursomes play is that there are no silver bullets for the Internationals. Norman’s alternate-shot lineup was his best hand, and the Americans handed him another loss.

“The Ryder Cup started in 1927; the first 24 times it was played Great Britain and Ireland only won (three times). I think our team is very competitive and I think we’re closer than what they were,” he said. “We’re learning it.”

There’s little doubt the lessons continue, or that some are more painful than others.

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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.

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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.

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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)