Policing the Game

By Rex HoggardMarch 13, 2011, 2:43 am

WGC-Cadillac ChampionshipDORAL, Fla. – These are the facts.

Peter Hanson’s approach shot to the famed 18th green at Doral wedged itself between the rocks ringing the water hazard and the deep blue, leaving the Swedish half of the Hanson Brothers no choice but to remove his right shoe and sock and try a watery whack.

As he was leaving the hazard Hanson handed his wedge to his caddie, Mark Sherwood, who accidently let the club brush the grass within the hazard, a possible violation of the Rules of Golf.

Thirty minutes later outside the scoring trailer Hanson was mulling his rule options.

“I’m not sure what the rule is so they are looking at the tape,” Hanson said. “If it touches the grass it is not the same thing as grounding the club.”

Officials who reviewed the footage found it to be inconclusive and Hanson’s caddie said he did not ground the club, which is defined in the rules as allowing the weight of the club to be supported by the ground.

Eventually he signed for a bogey-5, not a double bogey that would have come with a penalty, but the event underscores why the Rules of Golf work, at least at the highest levels.

If modern technology and HD hindsight fall short of being definitive, the decision is left to the player, and know this about professional golfers: they will avoid even a whiff of impropriety like a downhill 5 footer for par at Augusta National.

“This guy is as honest as the day is long,” said PGA Tour rules official Steve Rintoul. “And the thing is this is the third situation this week where a player has called a possible infraction on himself, that’s something.”

Camilo Villegas
Camilo Villegas' rules mishap early in 2011 has players policing themselves more closely. (Getty Images)

Note to Mike Davis, the U.S. Golf Association’s new chief: we know you are dutifully trying to find a fix to the rules snafu that landed Camilo Villegas and Padraig Harrington early exist this season, but before you throw the crybabies out with the water hazard, consider your audience.

Cheating is the one word that doesn’t wash off in golf, which is why Hanson went to such extremes to protect his name as well as the integrity of the event. What modern technology couldn’t detect, the Swede wanted to clarify.

Just as Jim Furyk wanted to be sure he’d been given the proper advice on the same 18th hole when he completed his first round Friday morning. Furyk’s third shot had sailed into the grandstands adjacent the green and he was informed by a rules official he could drop a new ball.

“If the ball is not easily retrievable we’re not going to cut down the stands to get it,” Rintoul said. “We allowed him to substitute the ball, but after the round he just wanted to be sure. He was thinking he wasn’t allowed to drop a new ball.”

In the end Furyk’s original ruling was found to be correct, although that did little to dull the sting of a closing double bogey-6.

On Friday Graeme McDowell had a similar rules stymie when his ball moved on the ninth green while he was putting it.

“(Playing partner Phil Mickelson) was right beside me when I did it and I mentioned to him,” McDowell said. “I kind of thought if you continued your stroke you were OK, and Phil kind of thought the same thing . . . but it was just kind of one of those niggling things.”

McDowell was assessed a one-stroke penalty since “he’d already grounded his club,” Rintoul said. The penalty was accepted, without protest, because that’s what golfers do.

When in doubt, do what’s best, even if that means adding a few when there has clearly been no competitive advantage gained and no quantifiable harm done. What would be considered laughable in a court of law is the law on the golf course – as it should be.

“Just one of those things unfortunately,” McDowell said. “You know, got to get those doubts out of your mind.”

Villegas and Harrington’s disqualifications earlier this year for signing incorrect scorecards have caused a great amount of handwringing. The punishment, opponents claim, doesn’t fit the crime, and maybe the Rules of Golf could use a 21st Century nip/tuck.

But if the actions of Hanson & Co. this week at Doral have taught us anything it is that the players, not officials or overzealous viewers at home with too much free time, will police themselves. They always have.


Follow Rex Hoggard on Twitter @RexHoggard
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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)