Odd man out?

By Rex HoggardNovember 2, 2011, 10:53 pm

The golf landscape has been littered with more grassy knolls of late than Dallas’ Dealey Plaza.

First it was Ballotgate and the PGA Tour’s curious decision to delay the release of the Player of the Year vote until after this week’s WGC-HSBC Champions, and now it seems the conspiracy theorists have started to dissect Tuesday’s announcement that John Cook would replace Michael Jordan as an assistant captain at this month’s Presidents Cup.

On its surface, the decision to have Cook step in for MJ quacks and swims like a duck. Jordan, the majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, said the decision to step down as official walkie-talkie carrier was based on the ongoing NBA lockout.

“With the NBA labor situation unsettled, I feel it is necessary that I remain in the country,” Jordan said.

And Cook seems an obvious enough choice to join Jay Haas as an assistant at Royal Melbourne. The 11-time Tour winner never participated in a Presidents Cup, but he played in one Ryder Cup (1993) and is almost a contemporary to the veteran members of the U.S. team.

Some sources, however, have suggested the move is more convoluted than that. When U.S. captain Fred Couples announced his wild-card picks last month – Tiger Woods and Bill Haas – he also noted that Keegan Bradley would be the first player off the bench if Steve Stricker, who has been slowed this fall by a neck ailment, can’t play.

Stricker has been at home in Wisconsin since the Tour Championship resting and undergoing intense therapy for a herniated disk in his neck, but in an interview last week with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he did not sound like a man convinced he would be on the first tee Nov. 17.

“My left arm feels a little bit different than my right. Opening a jar at home or whatever, I don't feel like I have the finger strength,” said Stricker, although he also added, “My arm would have to be falling off for me not to play.”

Despite those comments Bradley’s camp has indicated he will not make the trip to Australia unless he is “invited,” a fact that led some to believe that Tuesday’s move to bring Cook Down Under was Couples’ plan B.

As recently as 2006 Cook played a full Tour schedule, he finished in third place at this year’s Mayakoba Golf Classic and, perhaps more importantly, maintains a good relationship with Woods.

If for some reason Stricker – who teamed with Woods in 2009 to lead the U.S. side with a perfect 4-0 record – can’t play, having Cook come out of the bullpen could be a viable option for Couples.

When asked on Tuesday if he would consider running Cook, or Haas, in from the bench Couples didn’t even know that was an option. “That’s a heck of a question,” he said.

According to the captain’s agreement for the matches, “in the event of illness, injury or any other emergency, a team member may be replaced prior to 6 p.m. local time, Wednesday of tournament week. The captain will have the ability to select any eligible player to replace a player who has withdrawn, regardless of his standing on the respective point or money list used to determine eligibility.”

When informed either Cook or Haas could step in Couples seemed open to the idea. “I would have to get the grace of the guys on the team, but I would not want one of Norman’s guys to have to sit,” he said.

After Wednesday’s 6 p.m. deadline neither captain would be allowed to replace an injured player in the lineup. After that Norman and Couples will submit an envelope with a player’s name. In the event of an American withdrawal, for example, the player listed in Norman’s envelope would sit out the matches and the points would be split.

Lost in that contingency plan is Bradley, a Tour rookie who won twice this year and is the only American to claim a major in 2011. Why wasn’t the PGA champion offered a spot in Couples’ team room?

Sergio Garcia served as an assistant to Colin Montgomerie at last year’s Ryder Cup and European captain Nick Faldo tabbed than-up-and-coming star Martin Kaymer for a special “assistant” role during the 2008 matches.

Garcia spent the week in Wales as a glorified cheerleader, but used the experience to emerge from a prolonged slump and is on track to make next year’s team; while Kaymer went on to become world No. 1 and played a key role for the European team in 2010.

Couples said he has not spoken to Bradley since he made his picks and when asked if he considered offering him a spot as a special assistant, like Garcia and Kaymer, he pointed out, “Sergio asked to be there. They didn’t call Sergio. If Keegan were to call me I would fall down backwards to have him there.”

“If (Stricker) calls me tomorrow (and says he can’t play) I will fly to Keegan’s house and tell him (he’s on the team),” said Couples, who is limited to two assistant captains.

Knowing Stricker this issue will likely become a non-story by the time the matches begin. If he can swing the club he will join Woods on the first tee at Royal Melbourne, and Couples was optimistic his star would be available.

“I’ve talked to Steve 30 times on the phone and on text messages the last month. He’s fine,” Couples said. “That’s why I called Steve 100 times; I hate having to ask him, ‘How’s your back?’ But he tells me he will be ready. . . . I’ve had back issues in my life and when someone tells you he can play that’s good enough for me.”

But if there’s a chance, however slim, that Stricker can’t play it seems Couples missed his chance to expose Bradley to the cup atmosphere and give himself an insurance policy in the event someone can’t play. This isn’t a conspiracy by any measure, just a missed opportunity.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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)

Getty Images

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.”

Getty Images

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)