Getty Images

Many pros wary of new venue for Byron Nelson

By Will GrayMay 16, 2018, 8:45 pm

DALLAS – Take one look around Trinity Forest Golf Club, and it’s clear that the PGA Tour has left the Four Seasons Resort in its rear-view mirror.

Gone are the verdant fairways and manicured greens of TPC Las Colinas, which hosted the AT&T Byron Nelson for more than 30 years. In its place is a sprawling expanse of scraggly hills, sandy dunes and exactly zero trees. It's either a gem of a links layout or a wasteland, depending on who you ask.

Tour pros are famous for becoming creatures of habit, and this week’s venue change marks one of the biggest shifts in recent years among the Tour’s regular stops. It’s no surprise, then, that many of them approached this tournament with a sense of trepidation.

Even Jordan Spieth, a Trinity Forest member and de facto ambassador for the tournament, offered a tepid assessment when asked about the layout last week.

“It’s grown on me a lot over the past six months,” Spieth said.

His endorsements became more full-throated once he got back on property, but there remains a lingering sentiment that Trinity Forest is not meant for everyone. Unpredictable bounces lie around every corner, and players will encounter shots here that they may see nowhere else this year outside the majors.

As he readied the course to take center stage, Trinity Forest director of grounds Kasey Kauff appeared keenly aware that his layout is about to take some blowback from players who get blown sideways by the Texas winds.

“We are ready to showcase this place on TV,” Kauff tweeted Tuesday. “Nothing like exposing yourself to criticism from others.”

Still less than two years removed from its official opening, the Coore-Crenshaw layout offers plenty of unique features: from the blind, uphill approach to the 630-yard 14th hole to the double green shared by Nos. 3 and 11 that measures more than 100 yards from one side to the other.

Players will have to negotiate some huge fairway bunkers. (Photo courtesy of Trinity Forest)

“Majorities just don’t like different, do they? This is just different than what we normally roll out and play,” said Adam Scott. “The greatest players have all managed to succeed out of their comfort zones, and learn to love links golf or parkland golf to succeed. … Whoever is going to win here this week will be someone who really embraces the different challenges of this golf.”

Scott is making his first return to this event in several years, but he is headlining a relatively weak field as far more regular participants opted to stay home for Trinity Forest’s debut. That list includes Dustin Johnson, who played each of the last four years in Irving; Jason Day, who made this event his first Tour win in 2010 and lost last year in a playoff; and 2012 champ Jason Dufner, who had played each of the last eight years.

After Billy Horschel netted 50 world ranking points for his win last year, the winner from this week’s watered-down field will receive only 34 points.

Part of that steep decline surely has to do with the hectic pre-U.S. Open schedule and the return of the Wells Fargo Championship to Quail Hollow, but part of it is also steeped in a “wait and see” approach many top names have adopted.

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos

“I’m sure some of them are. There’s no doubt about it,” said two-time champ Sergio Garcia. “When you come to a new venue, there’s always a little bit of a question mark.”

While many stars will be watching from home this week, those that have ventured across town for Trinity Forest’s debut have, by and large, seemed to like what they see.

“If you go play the great courses in the world, there’s something here. From St. Andrews to Royal Melbourne to any kind of links to Pine Valley. It’s here,” said Ernie Els. “If they played a U.S. Open at Erin Hills and Chambers Bay, they can play one here. You can tuck flags away. It’s a wide open course, which is nice. But the second shot is where you miss shots, and that’s the mark of great architecture.”

For their part, tournament officials seem to have softened the edges of this unique layout to ensure its debut doesn’t fly off the rails during a week with steamy temps and no rain in the forecast. Several players were surprised by how soft the course was playing early in the week, with a belief that it would present a more true – albeit more difficult – test given firm and fast conditions.

“I think the course is probably going to play slower than it’s intended to play, being the first year and being this course is still growing,” said Trinity member Hunter Mahan. “I think the true vision of this golf course isn’t going to be quite realized just yet.”

The course may have 'forest' in its name, but it has no trees. (Photo courtesy of Trinity Forest)

The vast expanse of Trinity Forest is sure to expose players, both literally and figuratively. Opinions on its merits, already varied, are sure to become only more polarizing once the scores begin to count.

But while the challenges it presents are certainly different and unique, that’s nothing but a positive in the eyes of many.

“We get coddled in the way we get treated, but variety is one of the best attributes golf has, I think,” said Geoff Ogilvy. “I think this course will stand the test of time. It will be kind of one of those courses that go strength to strength. People will enjoy it every year they play it more and more. Getting guys out of their comfort zone, I think, is a good thing.”

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.


TV Times (all times ET):

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