Notes US Fights Emotions Annika Anxious

By Associated PressSeptember 9, 2005, 4:00 pm
2005 Solheim CupCARMEL, Ind. -- It was an emotional first day for the Americans at the Solheim Cup.
U.S. team captain Nancy Lopez was greeted at the first tee with a rousing ovation. Then came the expected support -- fans chanting players' names, singing songs and waving flags. On the course, national flags were draped over ropes and some groups continued chanting at their favorite players.
And when the matches turned on the final few holes in the morning, players could sense the momentum shift -- even from the crowd.
But after the first day, some of America's first-time team members were still talking about their experience at the first hole.
``I wanted to bawl my eyes out. I was terrified,'' Christina Kim said. ``I felt like I had no idea what I was getting myself into.''
Kim was fortunate. Her playing partner was veteran Pat Hurst, and the team settled down quickly.
Other youngsters weren't so lucky.
Natalie Gulbis and Cristie Kerr, the top qualifier for the U.S., were a little off until the final holes of the morning round. Paula Creamer, the first LPGA Tour rookie to make the American team, acknowledged she was anxious to get started -- and it took a few holes for the United States to get in sync.
Even Lopez detected the difference.
``Paula was a little nervous when I saw her on the first hole, and I told her you'll be fine after the first hole,'' Lopez said. ``I think Natalie was a little nervous. Christina, I didn't think it really fazed her.''
The Europeans, though, remained composed.
As usual, England's Laura Davies seemed to enjoy herself and kept her two teammates, Maria Hjorth of Sweden and Suzann Pettersen of Norway, relaxed, too.
And, of course, it's always comforting to know you can rely on Annika Sorenstam, another Swede. Veterans like Davies and Sorenstam, the two winningest players in Solheim Cup history, are accustomed to the emotions of Day 1. Each has won a record 18 matches in this event.
The same was not true for the young Americans.
``This is a totally different type of golf,'' Kim said. ``It's like the Super Bowl, is the way I put it. You have the same people who come out to the regular LPGA events, but they're on something. They're loving everything.''
Annika Sorenstam expects to play in every round of this weekend's event. And why not? She's dominated the LPGA Tour the past few years and has never missed a Solheim match.
But she was having some doubts about Saturday's schedule after an uncharacteristic front nine Friday morning.
Sorenstam and Pettersen were 3-down after eight holes and 3-down after 12. So, Sorenstam decided she had to do something if she wanted to keep playing. A near ace on No. 13 seemed to do the trick, jump-starting the European rally.
``I've got to prove to Catrin (Nilsmark) that I'm playing well, so maybe she'll put me out there in the afternoon,'' Sorenstam said, drawing laughter from the media contingent. ``I was a little worried after the front nine this morning. I thought I might be sleeping late tomorrow morning.''
While Nancy Lopez was eager to get her rookies on the course and over those first, nervous moments, European captain Catrin Nilsmark played it safe.
She kept two of her rookies -- French players Gwladys Nocera and Ludivine Kreutz -- out of action Friday.
Nilsmark took a similar tack two years ago in Sweden, when she led the Europeans to a 17 1/2 -10 1/2 rout of the Americans. Then, she benched Ana B. Sanchez and Mhairi McKay on the first day.
But she'll have to wait until Saturday to see how her strategy works this time.
In 1994, tournament officials instituted a rule requiring team captains to use all 12 players before Sunday's singles matches. So, Nilsmark paired Nocera and Kreutz in Saturday's first match against two American rookies -- Gulbis and Kim.
Nilsmark believes that Day 2 is easier for the rookies.
``I think they're definitely a great foursome, but I didn't want to play them today because of the pressure today,'' Nilsmark said. ``I think they're ready to go tomorrow.''
A first-day deficit is nothing knew for the Americans, who have never lost a match on home soil.
The U.S. team is typically struggle in the alternate-shot format. In 57 matches over the nine tournaments, the U.S. team is 22-27-8 -- its worst record in the three scoring formats. The Americans are 25-25-5 in best-ball, after splitting Friday's four matches, and have dominated singles play with a mark of 48-33-7.
But for the second straight time in Solheim matches, the U.S. team failed to win an alternate-shot match on the first day, salvaging one point with two halves. That was far less than expected after taking big leads in three matches heading to the 12th hole.
``We had them right where we wanted and the momentum just changed,'' said Kim, who halved her match with partner Beth Daniel. ``But it wasn't one of those things where you wanted to crawl into a hole and die.''
Before choosing her team, U.S. captain Nancy Lopez spoke about the importance of having veteran leadership. Her move to keep Juli Inkster out of the morning pairings raised some questions.
On Friday, Lopez explained the reason.
Inkster had an infection cut out of her right index finger Thursday, an injury she said did not bother her play Friday afternoon in a 2 and 1 loss to Laura Davies and Suzann Pettersen.
Inkster is scheduled to play with Creamer on Saturday morning against Davies and Maria Hjorth.
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    Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

    By Tiger TrackerFebruary 23, 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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    J. Korda fires flawless 62, leads by 4 in Thailand

    By Associated PressFebruary 23, 2018, 12:48 pm

    CHONBURI, Thailand – Jessica Korda shot a course-record 62 at the Honda LPGA Thailand on Friday to lead by four strokes after the second round.

    Playing her first tournament since having jaw surgery, Korda made eight birdies and finished with an eagle to move to 16 under par at the halfway point, a 36-hole record for the event.

    ''That was a pretty good round, pretty special,'' she said. ''Just had a lot of fun doing it.''

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    Korda is the daughter of former tennis player Petr Korda. She leads from another American, Brittany Lincicome, who carded a 65 to go 12 under at the Siam Country Club Pattaya Old Course.

    Minjee Lee of Australia is third and a shot behind Linicome on 11 under after a 67. Lexi Thompson, the 2016 champion, is fourth and another shot behind Lee.

    Korda is making her season debut in Thailand after the surgery and is playing with 27 screws holding her jaw in place.

    She seized the outright lead with a birdie on No. 15, the third of four straight birdies she made on the back nine. Her eagle on the last meant she finished with a 29 on the back nine, putting her in prime position for a first tour win since 2015.

    ''The best part is I have had no headache for 11 weeks. So that's the biggest win for me,'' she said. ''Honestly I was just trying to get on the green, get myself a chance. I birdied four in a row and holed a long one (on 18). I wasn't expecting it at all. It was pretty cool.''

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    Simpson, Noren share Honda lead after challenging Rd. 1

    By Doug FergusonFebruary 23, 2018, 1:25 am

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. - Tiger Woods had what he called ''easily'' his best round hitting the ball, and he didn't even break par at the Honda Classic.

    Alex Noren and Webb Simpson shared the lead at 4-under 66 in steady wind on a penal PGA National golf course, and felt as though they had to work hard for it. Both dropped only one shot Thursday, which might have been as great an accomplishment as any of their birdies.

    ''When you stand on certain tee boxes or certain approach shots, you remember that, 'Man, this is one of the hardest courses we play all year, including majors,''' said Simpson, who is playing the Honda Classic for the first time in seven years.

    Only 20 players broke par, and just as many were at 76 or worse.

    Woods had only one big blunder - a double bogey on the par-5 third hole when he missed the green and missed a 3-foot putt - in an otherwise stress-free round. He had one other bogey against three birdies, and was rarely out of position. Even one of his two wild drives, when his ball landed behind two carts that were selling frozen lemonade and soft pretzels, he still had a good angle to the green.

    ''It was very positive today,'' Woods said. ''It was a tough day out there for all of us, and even par is a good score.''

    It was plenty tough for Adam Scott, who again stumbled his way through the closing stretch of holes that feature water, water and more water. Scott went into the water on the par-3 15th and made double bogey, and then hit into the water on the par-3 17th and made triple bogey. He shot 73.

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    Rory McIlroy was at even par deep into the back nine when he figured his last chance at birdie would be the par-5 18th. Once he got there, he figured his best chance at birdie was to hit 3-wood on or near the green. Instead, he came up a yard short and into the water, made double bogey and shot 72.

    Noren, who lost in a playoff at Torrey Pines last month, shot 31 on the front nine and finished with a 6-foot birdie on the ninth hole into a strong wind for his 66.

    The Swede is a nine-time winner on the European Tour who is No. 16 in the world, though he has yet to make a connection among American golf fans - outside of Stillwater, Oklahoma, from his college days at Oklahoma State - from not having fared well at big events. Noren spends time in South Florida during the winter, so he's getting used to this variety of putting surfaces.

    ''I came over here to try to play some more American-style courses, get firmer greens, more rough, and to improve my driving and improve my long game,'' Noren said. ''So it's been great.''

    PGA champion Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger and Morgan Hoffmann - who all live up the road in Jupiter - opened with a 67. There's not much of an advantage because hardly anyone plays PGA National the other 51 weeks of the year. It's a resort that gets plenty of traffic, and conditions aren't quite the same.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the South African who now lives primarily in West Palm Beach, also came out to PGA National a few weeks ago to get a feel for the course. He was just like everyone else that day - carts on paths only. Not everyone can hole a bunker shot on the final hole at No. 9 for a 67. Mackenzie Hughes of Canada shot his 67 with a bogey from a bunker on No. 9.

    Woods, in his third PGA Tour event since returning from a fourth back surgery, appears to be making progress.

    ''One bad hole,'' he said. ''That's the way it goes.''

    It came on the easiest hole on the course. Woods drove into a fairway bunker on the par-5 third, laid up and put his third shot in a bunker. He barely got it out to the collar, used the edge of his sand wedge to putt it down toward the hole and missed the 3-foot par putt.

    He answered with a birdie and made pars the rest of the way.

    ''I'm trying to get better, more efficient at what I'm doing,'' Woods said. ''And also I'm actually doing it under the gun, under the pressure of having to hit golf shots, and this golf course is not forgiving whatsoever. I was very happy with the way I hit it today.''

    Woods played with Patton Kizzire, who already has won twice on the PGA Tour season this year. Kizzire had never met Woods until Thursday, and he yanked his opening tee shot into a palmetto bush. No one could find it, so he had to return to the tee to play his third shot. Kizzire covered the 505 yards in three shots, an outstanding bogey considering the two-shot penalty.

    Later, he laughed about the moment.

    ''I was so nervous,'' Kizzire said. ''I said to Tiger, 'Why did you have to make me so nervous?'''

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    Players battle 'crusty' greens on Day 1 at Honda

    By Randall MellFebruary 22, 2018, 11:52 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods called the greens “scratchy” on PGA National’s Champion Course.

    Rory McIlroy said there is “not a lot of grass on them.”

    Morgan Hoffmann said they are “pretty dicey in spots, like a lot of dirt.”

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    “They looked more like Sunday greens than Thursday,” McIlroy said. “They are pretty crusty. They are going to have a job keeping a couple of them alive.”

    The Champion Course always plays tough, ranking annually among the most challenging on the PGA Tour. With a very dry February, the course is firmer and faster than it typically plays.

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    Brad Nelson, PGA National’s director of agronomy, said the Champion Course’s TifEagle Bermuda greens are 18 years old, and they are dealing with some contamination, in spots, of other strains of grasses.

    “As it’s been so warm and dry, and as we are trying to get the greens so firm, those areas that are not a true Tifeagle variety anymore, they get unhappy,” Nelson said. “What I mean by unhappy is that they open up a little bit . . . It gives them the appearance of being a little bit thin in some areas.”

    Nelson said the greens are scheduled for re-grassing in the summer of 2019. He said the greens do have a “crusty” quality, but . . .

    “Our goal is to be really, really firm, and we feel like we are in a good place for where we want them to be going into the weekend,” he said.