Alternate Solheim Solutions

By Brian HewittSeptember 15, 2003, 4:00 pm
So American golf wakes up this morning to the sobering realization that the Ryder Cup belongs to the Europeans, the Solheim Cup belongs to the Europeans and the Walker Cup belongs to Great Britain and Ireland. This has never been the case before. Does it signal the end of American superiority in our sport?
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.
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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.