Changing of the Guard at Solheim Cup

By Associated PressSeptember 13, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 Solheim CupHALMSTAD, Sweden -- Strategically placed in the perfectly manicured practice bunker were a couple of miniature plastic dump trucks, some little pails and shovels and the beginnings of a couple of sand castles.
Yes, folks, these Solheim Cup kids are young.
Fans will get a great look at where women's golf has been and where it's heading when the Americans take on the Europeans in the Solheim Cup starting Friday.
On the one hand, there are Laura Davies and Juli Inkster, two 40-somethings who still have the game to play at the highest level.
On the other, there are Natalie Gulbis, Morgan Pressel, Paula Creamer and Brittany Lincicome -- none of whom have hit 25 and all of whom are trying to take their sport to new places.
'Our team has got a lot of heart and spunk and a lot of ribbons and scrunchies,' Inkster said Thursday when asked about the general state of the American team.
One of the most telling stories of the week had little to do with golf, much more to do with the quest to make it more popular. Creamer and American captain Betsy King were standing outside signing autographs. Creamer saw King mindlessly scribbling and asked her if she signed her name legibly enough for fans to read once they got the autographs home.
'She said, `I want to make sure that everybody can read it when I write it,'' King said. 'She said, `When you sign things for people, then they can relate to you better. They kind of get the whole picture.' Obviously, it benefits them personally, but it also benefits the tour and they're interested in helping the tour as a whole.'
Gulbis has her own TV show. She, Creamer and 29-year-old Cristie Kerr made appearances at the Oscars earlier this year. A bunch of them do magazine covers, calendar shoots and have appeared as runway models.
The LPGA has moved beyond trying to deny any hint of sex appeal and embraced the idea of having its youngest, brightest stars selling to the masses. It's an arrangement everyone can benefit from.
'So many young Americans is helping the tour,' Davies said. 'If the LPGA is strong, women's golf is strong.'
Of course, without some game to go along with their PR savvy, this would not be a conversation.
But that hasn't been an issue. At 19, Morgan Pressel is making her Solheim Cup debut. She became the youngest major winner earlier this year when she took the Nabisco. Creamer is 21 and reached the $1 million mark in earnings faster than anyone in history. Gulbis is 24 and has 23 top-20 finishes. On the European side, 26-year-old Suzann Pettersen won the McDonalds LPGA Championship this year for her first major.
What can someone like Davies, who has played in every Solheim Cup since it was founded in 1990, offer this week to players who have experience and success beyond their years?
'It's a bit of encouragement here and there,' Davies said. 'They've all won tournaments. They know what it's all about.'
She conceded, however, that the first tee box at the Solheim Cup will come as something of a shock. There's something about playing for your country and your teammates that adds pressure.
'I want to win this for Juli Inkster,' said Kerr, this year's U.S. Open champion. 'I don't know how many cups she's going to be on in the future, and especially on foreign soil. This is pretty good inspiration for me.'
King and European captain Helen Alfredsson released the pairings late Thursday for opening-day matches. The first two days consist of 16 team matches and the tournament closes with 12 singles matches. As defending champions, the Americans need 14 of the 28 points to retain the cup. Europe needs 14 1/2 . Only once has the cup been won by the visitor -- in 1996, when the Americans won in Wales.
The marquee match in the opening session pits Davies and Becky Brewerton against Creamer and Inkster in foursomes. Also, Kerr and Pat Hurst play Pettersen and Sophie Gustafson; Gulbis and Pressel play Gwladys Nocera and Maria Hjorth; and Annika Sorenstam and Catriona Matthew play Sherri Steinhauer and Laura Diaz.
Sorenstam, still not at 100 percent because of a bad back and neck, said she isn't sure if she'll play five matches this weekend.
Davies, on the other hand, says she hopes she's called on for all five. The 43-year-old, with 67 career victories, will never be mistaken for Gulbis or Pressel, but doesn't think the sport has passed her by.
'I'm playing as well now as I've ever played, and age is nothing,' Davies said. 'Golf -- everyone goes on about all this fitness -- but golf is walking and swinging a club.'
At this event, it's also about hanging out and bonding, playing pingpong and a practical joke or two.
The American women all got presents for each other. King handed out hat pins. Creamer gave everybody sunglasses. Pressel made red and blue ribbons for her teammates to put in their hair.
Inkster, 47, doesn't have long hair, so she'll put her ribbon on her bag.
'She put a lot of effort into it,' Inkster said. 'I want to make sure she knows I care.'
Probably not exactly the kind of stuff Inkster worried about back in 1992, when Pressel was 4 and Inkster was making her Solheim Cup debut.
How could these teammates have anything in common?
'I've got a 17-year-old and a 13-year-old that are exactly the same,' Inkster said of her daughters, Hayley and Cori. 'We still hang with them. We can talk their lingo and listen to their music, and so it's really not that different than it is in my house.'
Related Links:
  • GOLF CHANNEL Airtimes
  • Full Coverage - Solheim Cup
  • Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

    Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

    Piller declined an interview request when sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

    “I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

    As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

    Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

    With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

    That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

    That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

    And that’s a magic word in golf.

    There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

    Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

    The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

    Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.

    Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery

    A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

    The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

    Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

    For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

    The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

    The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

    It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

    “The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

    And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

    “It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

    The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

    Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

    The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

    Parity was the story this year.

    Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

    Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

    The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

    The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

    “I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

    If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

    Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

    There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

    This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

    Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

    Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

    She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

    The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.

    Love's hip surgery a success; eyes Florida swing return

    By Rex HoggardNovember 22, 2017, 3:31 pm

    Within hours of having hip replacement surgery on Tuesday Davis Love III was back doing what he does best – keeping busy.

    “I’ve been up and walking, cheated in the night and stood up by the bed, but I’m cruising around my room,” he laughed early Wednesday from Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala., where he underwent surgery to replace his left hip. “[Dr. James Flanagan, who performed the surgery] wants me up. They don’t want me sitting for more than an hour.”

    Love, 53, planned to begin more intensive therapy and rehabilitation on Wednesday and is scheduled to be released from the hospital later this afternoon.

    According to Love’s doctors, there were no complications during the surgery and his recovery time is estimated around three to four months.

    Love, who was initially hesitant to have the surgery, said he can start putting almost immediately and should be able to start hitting wedges in a few weeks.

    Dr. Tom Boers – a physical therapist at the Hughston Orthopedic Clinic in Columbus, Ga., who has treated Fred Couples, Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman and Brad Faxon – will oversee Love’s recovery and ultimately decide when he’s ready to resume normal golf activity.

    “He understands motion and gait and swing speeds that people really don’t understand. He’s had all of us in there studying us,” Love said. “So we’ll see him in a couple of weeks and slowly get into the swing part of it.”

    Although Love said he plans to temper his expectations for this most recent recovery, his goal is to be ready to play by the Florida swing next March.

    Vegas lists Woods at 20-1 to win a major in 2018

    By Will GrayNovember 22, 2017, 12:53 pm

    He hasn't hit a competitive shot in nearly a year, but that hasn't stopped one Las Vegas outlet from listing Tiger Woods among the favorites to win a major in 2018.

    The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook published betting odds this week on dozens of players to win any of the four majors next year. Leading the pack were Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth at 3/2, with Rory McIlroy next. But not far behind was Woods, who has been sidelined since February because of a back injury but was listed at 20/1.

    Woods will make his much-anticipated return next week at the Hero World Challenge, and next month he will turn 42. Next summer will mark the 10-year anniversary of his last major championship victory, a sudden-death playoff win over Rocco Mediate at the 2008 U.S. Open.

    Here's a look at the odds for several marquee players on winning any of the four biggest events in golf next year:

    3/2: Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth

    5/2: Rory McIlroy

    7/2: Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day

    9/2: Justin Rose

    5/1: Brooks Koepka

    15/2: Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Paul Casey

    10/1: Adam Scott

    12/1: Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Marc Leishman, Thomas Pieters, Patrick Reed

    15/1: Daniel Berger, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Patrick Cantlay, Branden Grace, Kevin Kisner, Alex Noren, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Charl Schwartzel, Brandt Snedeker, Bubba Watson

    20/1: Tiger Woods, Francesco Molinari, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Tony Finau, Martin Kaymer

    25/1: Ryan Moore, Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson, Lee Westwood, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Chappell, Bryson DeChambeau, Bill Haas, Jason Dufner, Charley Hoffman

    30/1: Pat Perez, Gary Woodland, Bernd Wiesberger, Brian Harman, Padraig Harrington, Emiliano Grillo, Ross Fisher, Si Woo Kim, J.B. Holmes