Alternate Solheim Solutions
But it does provide reason to take a measured pause. It was impossible not to be struck, watching the Solheim Cup matches, that the Americans had eight tries to win a foursomes (alternate shot) match and didn't convert on any of them. That's hard to do. The Americans did halve three of the eight foursomes matches. But the primary reason they entered Sunday's singles matches shouldering the large burden of a three-point deficit was because of their ineffectuality in alternate shot.
Is there a way to fix this? Maybe.
If the Solheim Cup means as much to the American women as they say it does (and there's no reason to doubt them on this), why don't they force themselves to practice alternate shot more often? The Euros benefit from the fact that alternate shot competitions are common in inter-club matches. They are more exposed to the vagaries of this format growing up in the game.
It's probably impractical to stage a sanctioned LPGA event with alternate shot as the format. But what about the silly season? Or what about that schedule gap early in the year? How about a week-long winter training camp for prospective Solheim Cuppers with lots of alternate shot in the mix?
For that matter, has anybody considered that college golf--a team sport in the best sense--doesn't promote alternate shot. It's certainly not the fault of college golf that the American women got trounced over the weekend in Sweden. But would it be such a bad thing to consider an occasional alternate shot event for women's college golf?
Alternate shot is a demanding and entertaining way of playing golf. If installed, in some fashion at the college golf level, it would even further promote teamwork. Would that be such a bad thing?
Meanwhile, it's no secret that certain of the top American men aren't excited about playing a 'Cup' every year. Now it is the Ryder Cup in even-numbered years and the Presidents Cup in the odd-numbered years. But one of the benefits of having our top men compete in foursomes and fourballs every year is it gives them and their captains a better chance to find out which pairs work best. It also gives them more practice 'under the gun' at alternate shot.
Finally, it easy to second-guess American Patty Sheehan's captain's pick of rookie Heather Bowie at this Solheim Cup. Bowie did not win a match and did not especially distinguish herself with her quality of play. But the fact is, we 'first-guessed' Sheehan on this pick at the time of the selections. To repeat: Veteran Pat Hurst (6-4-1 lifetime in Solheim Cup matches and playing well at the time of the selections) still has to be scratching her head in wonderment over her omission from the team.
Give Sheehan credit for standing up to her choices after the matches ended. Give her credit for sportsmanship and avoiding the temptation to offer excuses. Sheehan is a class act. But it is the hope here that the next American captain is Nancy Lopez. Lopez is not shy about her desire to captain the American Solheim Cup team. Why not sooner rather than later?
Already Lopez has demonstrated she understands the dynamic of the Solheim Cup. Last week she told The Golf Channel that, if selected captain, she would hope to have more than two captain's picks. Currently the Euros have five to the Americans' two. This is a huge discretionary advantage for the Europeans. Lopez also said, before the matches, that she would lean more towards putting her best players at the top of the lineup for the Sunday singles.
This is called 'front-loading.' It worked famously for U.S. Ryder Cup captain Ben Crenshaw in Massachusetts in 1999. And it worked just as effectively for Euro Ryder Cup captain Sam Torrance at the Belfry last year.
Finally, this: Since when did it become fashionable to 'concede' singles matches once the team outcome is determined? Players should feel honor-bound to play the matches until they are over. This is all about the spirit of the competition. It shouldn't be that hard to figure out. If you go off late in the day, resign yourself to the fact that the team competition may be over before you finish.
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week
Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.
That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.
Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.
From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.
Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.
She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.
She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.
“Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”
Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.
With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.
The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.
She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.
The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.
One & Done: 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge
Beginning in 2018, Golf Channel is offering a "One & Done" fantasy game alternative. Choose a golfer and add the salary they earn at the event to your season-long total - but know that once chosen, a player cannot be used again for the rest of the year.
Log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to start your own league and make picks for this week's event.
Here are some players to consider for One & Done picks this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, where Hudson Swafford returns as the defending champion:
Zach Johnson. The two-time major champ has missed the cut here three years in a row. So why include him in One & Done consideration? Because the three years before that (2012-14) included three top-25s highlighted by a third-place finish, and his T-14 at the Sony Open last week was his fifth straight top-25 dating back to September.
Bud Cauley. Cauley has yet to win on Tour, but that could very well change this year - even this week. Cauley ended up only two shots behind Swafford last year and tied for 14th the year prior, as four of his five career appearances have netted at least a top-40 finish. He opened the new season with a T-7 in Napa and closed out the fall with a T-8 at Sea Island.
Adam Hadwin. Swafford left last year with the trophy, but it looked for much of the weekend like it would be Hadwin's tournament as he finished second despite shooting a 59 in the third round. Hadwin was also T-6 at this event in 2016 and now with a win under his belt last March he returns with some unfinished business.
Charles Howell III. If you didn't use him last week at the Sony Open, this could be another good spot for the veteran who has four top-15 finishes over the last seven years at this event, highlighted by a playoff loss in 2013. His T-32 finish last week in Honolulu, while not spectacular, did include four sub-70 scores.
David Lingmerth. Lingmerth was in that 2013 playoff with Howell (eventually won by Brian Gay), and he also lost here in overtimei to Jason Dufner in 2016. The Swede also cracked the top 25 here in 2015 and is making his first start since his wife, Megan, gave birth to the couple's first child in December. Beware the sleep-deprived golfer.
DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.
The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.
''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''
In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.
''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''
The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.
''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''
The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.
Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member
Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.
Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:
Matt Kuchar— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) January 17, 2018
"It's been a passion of mine to explore & see the world, and I'll now be joining the European Tour as an Affiliate Member, which is very exciting." pic.twitter.com/7wDbuGXz8j
As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.
Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.