Old Guard Looking To Go Out on Winning Note

By Associated PressSeptember 4, 2005, 4:00 pm
2005 Solheim CupThe pictures were supposed to be for posterity.
As European players doused themselves with champagne to celebrate a Solheim Cup victory in Sweden two years ago, Meg Mallon gathered the old guard on the U.S. team for group photos of what many figured would be the last time together playing for their country.
Mallon and Beth Daniel had played on seven teams. Rosie Jones was on six teams, Juli Inkster on five. They were in their 40s and had combined to play in 87 matches. All of them had a winning record.
We thought that might be our last one, Mallon said. Now we have another chance.
Yet the ninth Solheim Cup, which starts Sept. 9 at Crooked Stick in Carmel, Ind., is not about making memories, rather purging them. Still fresh in their minds is the beating the Americans took two years ago in Sweden, and the chaotic finish that contributed to the biggest blowout in these matches.
Catriona Matthew earned the decisive point for Europe, and confusion joined the celebration. Spectators ran through the bunkers and across the course, even with five matches still in progress. Some players were told to stop playing, others continued. Ultimately, it was decided that whoever was behind would concede her match.
The final score: Europe 171/2, United States 101/2.
I dont even look at it as a proper score, Mallon said.
If there is a score to settle at this Solheim Cup, it comes with the added pressure of having never lost on U.S. soil. The closest Europe has come was three years ago at Interlachen in Minnesota, where it led 9-7 going into the singles until succumbing to an American rally.
Im not quite sure how this course is going to set up, but I feel like our team is playing good, Inkster said. Theres nothing better than winning at home. I cant imagine anything worse than losing at home, and we dont plan on doing that. We just need to get off to a better start.
For the quartet in their 40s to go out in style, theyll need help from kids young enough to be their daughters. Never has there been such an infusion of youth on the U.S. team, led by 19-year-old Paula Creamer, whose two victories enabled her to become the first LPGA Tour rookie to earn a spot on the Solheim Cup team.
Creamer was in Sweden two years ago, with red, white and blue paint on her face, having played in the Junior Solheim Cup. She also starred for the U.S. at the Curtis Cup last summer in England.
And she is not afraid to speak her mind.
Standing with her teammates last week in Ohio, Creamer oozed so much confidence that even the veterans were shocked at her message to the Europeans.
All I can say is they had better get ready, Creamer said. Because theyre going to get beat.
Also playing for the first time are 22-year-old Natalie Gulbis and 21-year-old Christina Kim. Joining them on the team is 27-year-old Cristie Kerr, the woman atop the U.S. standings.
And to think that only a few years ago there was a dearth of good young U.S. players. The next team might include Morgan Pressel and Michelle Wie, if she ever joins the LPGA Tour.
I have to say, four years ago I was like, Whos going to play? There was no one out there, Inkster said. Im 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 its 18 and 19.
While the United States brings young and old, Europe answers with power.
Crooked Stick, a Pete Dye creation outside Indianapolis, is where the world was introduced to the grip-it-and-rip-it style of John Daly, the ninth alternate who overpowered the course to win the 1991 PGA Championship.
Its the toughest Solheim Cup course ever, European captain Catrin Nilsmark said. Asked what type of players Crooked Stick suited best, she mentioned long hitters, good short games and Sorenstam.
Europe has no shortage of length, led by Sorenstam, Laura Davies, Maria Hjorth and Sophie Gustafson, all of whom are among the top six in driving distance on the LPGA Tour.
The Europeans also have a collection of players unknown in these parts, the way the Ryder Cup used to be in the 1980s and most of the 1990s. Newcomers include Ludivine Kreutz and Gwladys Nocera of France, and Karen Stupples of England, whose eagle-double eagle start carried her to the Womens British Open title last year.
America has got a lot of young, non-afraid players, Nilsmark said. But so do we.
The U.S. captain is Nancy Lopez, which should lead to an emotional week at Crooked Stick for a Hall of Famer who teared up while speaking to her team before a practice session last month.
She made her captains picks'Daniel and Wendy Ward'on instinct. But she studied past results and set up two practice rounds for the Americans to work on the alternate-shot format that has crippled them.
Two years ago, Europe won 61/2 points from the eight alternate-shot matches; the Americans got their points from that format by halving three matches.
We all know we stink at it, and we dont know why, Inkster said. Sometimes, we try too hard for each other. But these practice rounds have helped.
Despite the vast difference in age, Lopez has seen them come together over the last few months at tournaments and practice sessions. She sees the quiet determination of Mallon, Daniel and Jones, who is retiring after this year; and the unbridled excitement of Creamer, Kim and Gulbis.
This team has all the experience we need to win the Solheim Cup, Lopez said. Weve got young players who are so enthusiastic, and I think theyre going to keep us going. And then youve got the veterans to help them along if they have any problems with pressure. But I dont think thats going to happen.
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    Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

    By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

    After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

     There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

    It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

    It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

    “The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

    In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

    Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

    Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

    “You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

    Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

    Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

    If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

    For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

    Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

    Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

    While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

    When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

    Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

    After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

    The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

    That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

    The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

    While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

    Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

    Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

    “We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

    The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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    Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

    John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

    That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

    Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

    Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

    By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

    Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

    Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

    Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

    World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

    Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

    Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

    Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

    By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

    The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

    Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

    "I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

    Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

    Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

    Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.