Inkster Now Plays Role of Mentor

By Associated PressSeptember 8, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 Solheim CupPORTLAND, Ore. -- Juli Inkster used to sit down for team dinners at the Solheim Cup and look across the table at her friends, rivals, contemporaries.
 
Next week in Sweden at those dinners, she'll be staring at a bunch of kids.
 
New faces will dominate one of the most important events on the women's golf schedule. Inkster is a link between the generations.
 
'Sure, I miss the Rosie Jones, the Meg Mallons, the Betsy Kings, the people I played college golf with and grew up with on the tour,' said Inkster, 47, a seven-time major winner who will play in her seventh Solheim Cup. 'But it's still fun coming up with the young ones. It's just a different chapter.'
 
Americans Nicole Castrale, Brittany Lincicome, Stacy Prammanasudh and Morgan Pressel are new to the event. Natalie Gulbis and Paula Creamer will play their first Solheim Cup on foreign soil.
 
Inkster, meanwhile, is closer to the end of her career than the beginning. Ask what her plans are for the future and she interrupts the question -- it's clear she's heard it a lot lately.
 
'I'm just going to play it by ear,' Inkster said. 'I know I'm not going to play as many as this year. But I just don't know.'
 
Always one of Inkster's favorites, the Solheim Cup is a match-play event that mirrors the men's Ryder Cup in format, with 14 best-ball and alternate-shot matches played over Friday and Saturday, then 12 singles matches to decide things Sunday.
 
The event began in 1990 and the United States has a 6-3 advantage over Europe, though winning on European soil has not been easy for the Americans. It has only happened once, 10 years ago in Wales.
 
Back then, players like Dottie Pepper, Mallon and Beth Daniel made up the core of the team. Now, Pepper is a TV analyst, Daniel is the assistant captain and Mallon fell too far down the standings to make the team.
 
It compelled King, the U.S. captain, to pluck Laura Diaz from 14th off the points list so she'd have another player with experience in one of these events overseas. The tournament will take place at Halmsted Golf Club in southern Sweden.
 
King is also interested in seeing how Gulbis and Creamer, two head-turners who look as comfortable at a photo shoot as on a golf course, handle the feel of playing when the gallery isn't on their side.
 
'They're not used to people rooting against them,' King said. 'They're always the fan favorite, and I think that will be interesting to see how they react to that. I think that's what makes this a challenge.'
 
Playing in Sweden marks a homecoming for three of the European players -- Sophie Gustafson, Maria Hjorth and, of course, Annika Sorenstam.
 
This has been a difficult year for Sorenstam, whose stay at No. 1 was derailed by back and neck injuries that cost her a big chunk of the season and have threatened to keep her winless in a season for the first time since 1994, her first year on the LPGA Tour.
 
'As you know, I always play to win at every event I participate in, so winning would be great,' Sorenstam said. 'Winning in a team format like this is always special and it will be even more special winning back at home in Sweden.'
 
So far, there haven't been any reports of trash talking or bad blood that sometimes appear in the run-up to the event. In the past, they have had spats about who was supposed to putt first, who called who a 'brat' and rules disputes galore.
 
King remembers going to Bible study several years ago with Alison Nicholas, her opponent in the next day's match, but getting so angry at Nicholas over a rules dispute during the mach that the two didn't speak for a while afterward.
 
'I think there might be little incidents like that that obviously, with time, they are funny. I think that's what makes the Solheim Cup special,' King said.
 
Two years ago, it was the 19-year-old Creamer declaring the Europeans 'better get ready, because they're going to get beat.'
 
She helped back that up, going 3-1-1 in America's 15 1/2 -12 1/2 victory.
 
Inkster was in on that celebration, which certainly had a different feel than some in the past. Creamer and Gulbis are just a tad older than Inkster's high-school-aged daughters, Hayley and Cori.
 
No big deal, Inkster says. She's still looking forward to hanging with the kids this week.
 
'We've got a very young team,' 'The only way this young team gains any experience is by playing. They're our future. These girls are going to play five, six, seven Solheim Cups. It gives them a chance to get their feet wet.'
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Solheim Cup
  • Getty Images

    What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

    Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

    Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

    Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

    Getty Images

    Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

    Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

    While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

    The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

    So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

    Getty Images

    Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

    By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

    The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

    As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

    Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

    And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

    And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

    McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

    The Ryder Cup topped his list.

    Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

    When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

    “Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



    McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

    Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

    “The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

    European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

    And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

    The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

    Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

    And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

    Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

    The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

    The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

    More bulletin board material, too.

    Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

    Getty Images

    Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

    Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

    The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

    It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

    The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

    “I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

    Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.