Still in the picture?

By Rex HoggardNovember 19, 2011, 9:51 am

MELBOURNE, Australia – It’s not over; Ben Crenshaw and his “feeling” proved that truth a dozen years ago at Brookline. Not that Greg Norman was doing any finger wagging after a blustery day on Port Phillip Bay.

No team has ever rallied on Presidents Cup Sunday when trailing after four frames in the abbreviated history of this tilt, but then no one would have thought Phil Mickelson would have been benched Saturday afternoon after a 3-0 start, or that the American banner would have been carried this week by an eclectic mix of rookies, or that Tiger Woods would ever have to find another partner after he ran the tables two years ago at Harding Park.

Rarely, in fact, do these biennial grudge matches go to script.

So Norman’s crew will start Sunday’s shootout trailing the visiting team 13-9 and in need of a Brookline-like comeback. But as Jim Carrey’s character Lloyd in the cult classic “Dumb and Dumber” would say, “So, you’re saying there’s a chance.”

However slim, however unlikely, however unprecedented it might be, the International captain sounded like a man with a vision when asked his team’s chances to remain undefeated in the Southern Hemisphere.

Hoggard: Singles matchups and predictions

“We have got our backs against the wall, no question about it, and you've got to believe that you can come back, win nine matches out of 12 to win this,” he said. “I believe the guys can.”

What else would Norman say? But this was more than just a brave face for crew and country.

The Internationals have won the Sunday singles just once in eight of the Presidents Cups (2007), and on that occasion the U.S. began the final turn seven points clear and cruising. They won’t have the touchdown head start on Sunday thanks to an International rally that defied a cold rain and a turning wind. Or maybe it was because of it.

“This has the Ryder Cup atmosphere and we had Ryder Cup weather,” America’s Hunter Mahan said. Soggy Saturday also featured a U.S. putting performance reminiscent of the transatlantic bout.

For the third consecutive day Woods hit the ball like it was 2006 and putted like it was 2010. The captain’s pick missed a 6-footer for birdie at No. 11, three-putted from 66 feet at the par-5 15th hole and under-read a 16-footer at the last to drop his third match in as many days to assure his worst Presidents Cup showing since his rookie start in 1998 regardless of Sunday’s outcome.

For Woods this Presidents Cup is a microcosm of his current competitive plight – solid from tee to green but still a half step off his former self on the putting surfaces. Woods used to make every putt that mattered. Now it’s a matter of hitting and hoping.

Seemingly unable to adjust to Royal Melbourne’s slower putting surfaces, Woods and Dustin Johnson dropped a 1-up decision to Y.E. Yang and K.T. Kim. The South Koreans, who sat out the morning session after going 0-2 to start the week, never trailed and scored what turned out to be the game-winner when Kim walked in a 25-footer for birdie at the 15th hole.

It was on the diabolical and decisive par-4 11th hole, however, where Kim and Yang’s, along with the Internationals', fortunes turned.

In order. Retief Goosen and Charl Schwartzel made birdie to move 4 up on previously unbeaten rookies Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson, Kim and Yang birdied to go to 1 up on Woods and Johnson, Geoff Ogilvy and K.J. Choi followed in the next group to go 1 up on Steve Stricker and Matt Kuchar, and Jason Day’s birdie pushed him and Aaron Baddeley to even with Hunter Mahan and Bill Haas.

It added up to an International sweep of the afternoon’s first three games. Norman’s troop could have run the tables if not for Mahan’s 23-foot walk-off for birdie at the 17th and missed attempts by Scott at Nos. 17 and 18.

“I knew there would be a little bit of drama there and it turned out to be that way,” said Norman, in danger of dropping his Presidents Cup record to 0-for-2. “So, you know, at the stage, if you can get a little bit of momentum on the 11th hole, you can actually carry it through to the next couple of holes.”

But history strongly suggests the Internationals' 3-2 fourball session win simply delayed the inevitable. Crenshaw’s ’99 dream team was the last to pull off golf’s version of the Hail Mary and Norman may not have enough firepower to reach the 17 ½ points needed to win.

Even if Sunday’s pairings go to plan Norman will need help from the Americans, who sent out the week’s most consistent players in the middle of Sunday’s lineup, presumably, to short circuit any potential rally. Thanks to Saturday’s 4-1 advantage in the morning foursome frame, even halved matches will go in the Americans' favor in a format they have largely dominated in Presidents and Ryder Cup play.

Still, Norman felt the momentum had swung in the Internationals' favor and even normally soft-spoken Scott was doing his best Crenshaw impersonation as the rains finally began to abate late Saturday.

“We have got a shot,” Scott said. “It’s going to have to be a remarkable day tomorrow but we have a shot at it. That’s all we ask for. It’s not over.”

No, it’s not over. But it’s sneaking up on over.

Watch wall-to-wall coverage of the Presidents Cup live on Golf Channel. Tournament air times: Golf Channel Saturday 6:30PM-12:30AM. NBC coverage Saturday at 8AM and Sunday at noon. (Note: all times are ET)

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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)