American Youth Paint Bright Future

By Associated PressSeptember 6, 2005, 4:00 pm
2005 Solheim CupCARMEL, Ind. -- Paula Creamer could have passed for a schoolgirl at a pep rally.
Then again, that's what she was.
She sat on the grass with her legs crossed, in the front row, with a red, white and blue ribbon tied around her blonde ponytail and tiny American flags painted on both cheeks. She clapped and cheered when the U.S. team walked by during the Solheim Cup matches in Sweden.
Creamer was at Barseback Golf and Country Club as a member of the Junior Solheim Cup team, and still remembers seeing the fairways lined with fans waving their flags, mostly European blue with a circle of 12 gold stars.
``It was just so unreal to be in that crowd,'' she said.
Even more unreal was where she was Tuesday.
Creamer sat with teammate Natalie Gulbis, poised and confident with glitter on her navy blue Solheim Cup cap and her fingernails painted red, white and blue.

Creamer is a player, not a fan.
And the 19-year-old phenom already is the center of attention.
Hours after she became the youngest Solheim Cup player and the first LPGA Tour rookie to make the team, Creamer stood with her teammates -- some of them old enough to be her mother -- and was asked to say a few words.
``All I can say is that they better get ready, because they're going to get beat,'' she said of the Europeans. ``I'm laying it down. I'm very confident and I know we have a good team and the best captain that anyone can have.''
There were murmurs behind her, mostly from the older players who realized the headlines that would follow.
Creamer heard them, and didn't back down.
``What are you talking about? You don't want to win?'' she said. ``Come on.''
Creamer is one of three rookies on the U.S. team that will try to keep its record perfect on home soil and win back the Solheim Cup from Europe when the matches start Friday at Crooked Stick.
The others are 21-year-old Christina Kim and the 22-year-old Gulbis. They are the youth movement in American women's golf, and they could not have arrived at a better time.
It was only five years ago, when the United States lost at Loch Lomond, Juli Inkster considered what the future held and didn't like what she saw. International players were dominating the game. The American stars were approaching 40, if they weren't already there.
``I was like, ``Who's going to play?' There was no one out there,'' the 45-year-old Inkster said. ``I'm quite pleased we have some good, young players that can carry on that tradition. Younger players are stepping up. It used to be younger meant you were 25 or 26. Now it's 18 and 19.''
And more might be on the way.
Creamer saw the Junior Solheim Cup team getting ready for its match Tuesday. Among them was 17-year-old Morgan Pressel, the runner-up in the U.S. Women's Open who tied for fifth last week in the State Farm Rail. Over in Hawaii, 15-year-old Michelle Wie was contemplating turning pro.
Their time may come soon.
Right now, the focus falls on Creamer, who is enjoying the best rookie season by an American woman since 1984 when Inkster won two major championships.
Creamer won the Sybase Classic outside New York in May, then went home to Florida to go through high school graduation ceremonies. She didn't capture a major, but it felt like one when she beat one of the strongest fields of the year at the Evian Masters in France by eight shots.
She is third on the LPGA money list with over $1.2 million, already a record for a rookie. Clearly, she has come a long way from being a cheerleader in Sweden.
``When I was sitting on the greens watching them, it was more like, 'Wow, hopefully someday, that's where I want to be,''' Creamer said. ``Things have happened so fast, and I'm having so much fun and achieving some of my dreams and goals. And to finally get here, it's unreal.''
Pressure is usually a constant companion at the Solheim, especially for rookies.
Creamer didn't do herself any favors with her ``they're going to get beat'' comment about Europe. Some of the Europeans no doubt want to make her eat her words. And the brash talk only polished her star quality, so the American gallery is sure to have high expectations of Creamer.
``I like what she said. She's a rookie,'' Laura Davies of England said. ``She's a top quality player and she'll only get better. Why shouldn't she be confident? That's good. We're probably not going to say it because there's going to be 20,000 Americans screaming us down all week.''
And they'll be screaming for Creamer.
She wasn't about to back down.
``It's hard to take something back like that when I look at my team,'' Creamer said. ``I put the most pressure on myself. I'm very hard on myself. I expect perfection out there, and I'm going to go out and play good golf.''
Creamer and the other youngsters -- Cristie Kerr, 27, is playing in her third Solheim Cup and led the American points list this year -- might be the key to winning the cup. They are having a blast, and it can be infectious.
Led by Creamer, they offer a bright future for American golf, something Inkster, Meg Mallon and Beth Daniel might not have seen five years ago.
``She's riding a lot of confidence,'' Mallon said. ``She doesn't know anything but success.''
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    Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

    By Tiger TrackerFebruary 22, 2018, 4:45 pm

    Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

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    Honda Classic: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

    By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 22, 2018, 2:15 pm

    The PGA Tour heads back east to kick off the Florida Swing at PGA National. Here are the key stats and information for the Honda Classic. Click here for full-field tee times.

    How to watch:

    Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream:

    Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream:

    Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6PM ET

    Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6PM ET

    Purse: $6.6 million ($1,188,000 to the winner)

    Course: PGA National, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida (par-70; 7,140 yards)

    Defending champion: Rickie Fowler (-12) won by four, picking off his fourth PGA Tour victory.

    Notables in the field:

    Tiger Woods

    • Making his fourth start at the Honda Classic and his first since withdrawing with back spasms in 2014.

    • Shot a Sunday 62 in a T-2 finish in 2012, marking his lowest career final-round score on the PGA Tour.

    • Coming off a missed cut at last week's Genesis Open, his 17th in his Tour career.

    Rickie Fowler

    • The defending champion owns the lowest score to par and has recorded the most birdies and eagles in this event since 2012.

    • Fowler's last start was at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where he failed to close a 54-hole lead. Fowler is 1-for-6 with 54-hole leads in his Tour career, with his only successful close coming at last year's Honda.

    • On Tour this year, Fowler is first in scrambling from the fringe, second in total scrambling and third in strokes gained around the green. 

    Rory McIlroy

    • It's been feast or famine for McIlroy at the Honda. He won in 2012, withdrew with a toothache in 2013, finished T-2 in 2014 and missed the cut in 2015 and 2016.

    • McIlroy ascended to world No. 1 with his victory at PGA National in 2012, becoming the second youngest player at 22 years old to top the OWGR, behind only Woods. McIlroy was later edged by a slightly younger 22-year-old Jordan Spieth.

    • Since the beginning of 2010, only Dustin Johnson (15) has more PGA Tour victories than McIlroy (13). 

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    Lexi, J. Korda part of four-way tie in Thailand

    By Associated PressFebruary 22, 2018, 1:01 pm

    CHONBURI, Thailand – Three-time tour winner Minjee Lee of Australia finished with a superb eagle putt to be among the four leaders after Day 1 of the LPGA Thailand at Siam Country Club on Thursday.

    Lee sank a 45-foot putt on the 18th hole to card a 6-under-par 66 to tie for the lead with 2016 champion Lexi Thompson, Jessica Korda, and local hope Moriya Jutanugarn.

    ''I just hit the collar. I didn't know if I was going to have enough. Such a big break there. I'm glad it caught the hole,'' Lee said.

    ''It's a second-shot golf course. Your approaches are really important, and obviously being in the right spots with the undulation. And if you have a hot putter that's going to help.''

    Full-field scores from the Honda LPGA Thailand

    Lee won the Vic Open near Melbourne this month and opened her 2018 LPGA tour account last week at the Women's Australian Open, finishing fifth.

    Thompson, who won this event in 2016 by six shots with a 20-under total and tied for fourth last year, started her latest round in style with an eagle followed by a birdie only to bogey the third hole. She carded four more birdies.

    ''It definitely helps to get that kind of start, but I was just trying to keep that momentum and not get ahead of myself,'' Thompson said.

    Her compatriot Korda had a roller-coaster round which featured eagles on the first and 17th holes, five birdies, a double bogey on the sixth, and two bogeys.

    Jutanugarn was the only player among the four to end the day without a bogey.

    ''I had a good start today, it was better than I expected,'' said Jutanugarn, who was seventh here last year.

    She's trying to become the first Thai winner of the tournament.

    Two-time champion Amy Yang and world No. 2 Sung Hyun Park were among six players at 5 under.

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    Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta

    By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 8:31 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.

    Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.

    Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.

    So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.

    How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:

    1. Stay healthy

    So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.

    Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.

    Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.

    2. Figure out his driver

    Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.

    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.

    In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.

    Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron. 

    Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”

    That won’t be the case at Augusta.

    3. Clean up his iron play

    As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.

    At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.

    Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.

    That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.

    Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”

    4. Get into contention somewhere

    As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.

    In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.

    “I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”

    Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.

    And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go. 

    “It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”

    Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.