Ageless Inkster Still Going Strong

By George WhiteJune 4, 2003, 4:00 pm
WILMINGTON, Del. -- She is seemingly ageless, this 42-year-old woman who is still the best female golfer in America. Juli Inkster won just two weeks ago at Corning, N.Y., and is the defending U.S. Womens Open champion. On June 24 she will be 43, but she shows no signs of slowing down.
Inkster has two daughters, aged 13 and 9. Her career has been most unusual ' as a young woman she won three U.S. Amateurs, but then in her 30s her golf slipped considerably when she underwent childbirth twice. The rigors of young motherhood meant her game would suffer. But in 1997 she picked up where she left off in 1992, winning victories in multiples. She has 29 wins in all, and 14 of them have come in the second half of her career, after her daughters were born.
This week she is in Wilmington, Del., preparing to play another major, the McDonalds LPGA Championship. She started the year slowly but lately has come alive and has already placed in the top 10 three times. For a woman in her 40s, Inkster still has plenty of victories left. She is a smarter player in her fourth decade, but that may be because she has had to learn better time management.
I definitely have improved my golf swing and I practice more for quality instead of just quantity, she said. Having a family has helped, knowing when I am going to do what.
Also I think Ive learned over time that its a four-day tournament and you dont have to win it on the first hole. I guess Im a little more patient, but I hate to play bad golf. You can see thats what keeps me going.
When Inkster and another 42-year-old, Rosie Jones, won two weeks in a row recently, it was the first American wins in 17 weeks. Inkster sees two possible reasons why ' one, the American system of developing young players has been surpassed in recent years; and, secondly, American youth have so many other sports outlets than just golf.
There are just a lot of good foreign players out there, she said. Our system, or our junior golf program, I dont think is as strong as some of the foreign countries.
I have two kids that are 13 and 9, and they play everything ' they do basketball, softball, dance. And I think in most foreign countries, kids play one sport and thats it. I think our programs are getting a lot better. So hopefully, three or four or five years down the road, well get better.
And there certainly is hope.
'We have a lot of good young American players ' dont get me wrong, cautioned Inkster. Laura Diaz, Heather Bowie are playing well. Wendy Ward is playing well. Kelly Robbins is still up there. But I know they would like to take it to the next level, too. Hopefully, they will start doing that.
But the excellence of the foreign-born players is raising the standard of golf in general. Its happened only in the last 15 years, and each foreign superstar begets even more from the same country.
You look at Liselotte Neumann, she said. She really got the Swedish program going. She influenced Helen Alfredsson. The coverage over in America got back to Sweden, and people started playing. The same thing with Korea and Se Ri Pak, and now youve got all the young Koreans coming up. In Japan, they had Ayako Okamoto, and she influenced the Japanese.
So I think youve got a lot of foreign superstars that have had an enormous influence and these little girls want to play like their heroes.
You know, Annika is ' yeah, shes from Sweden. But she lives now in America and stays in America. She speaks English and a lot of girls can relate to her, whether you are Swedish or American.
Ah, yes, the Annika Factor that is sweeping the world now since the Swede played with the men at Colonial. Sorenstams meteoric rise, though it has been 10 years in the making, has motivated Inkster.
Yeah, I think she pushes me, and I think she pushes everybody, Inkster said. Everybody wants to be the best, challenge the best, or play against the best. I know I do. It pushes me in the morning to want to run or go work out or work on my game, try to compete with them.
You know, its hard. You have lots of interests or other obligations. But you know what? It keeps me having a love of the game, and trying to improve.
And, the paint brush that covers Sorenstam hits everybody equally. People come to see the Swedish star, and wind up fans of the entire LPGA.
The more people who come out and watch us, the more they see the great golf we have out here. Youve got to have one person bring it out, and Annika is bringing those people out, and thats great for us. From her, maybe theyll catch a lot more of us playing golf and watch a lot more of us, how we do it.
I think as long as were getting positive media attention, I think thats great ' whether its Annika or Se Ri or Karrie or whomever. I think its great for our tour.
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    Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

    Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

    "Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

    Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

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    Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

    "That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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    Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

    By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

    There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

    Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

    Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

    Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


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    The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

    It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

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    Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

    Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

    The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

    It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

    "It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."

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    Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

    Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

    "This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."

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    Rahm (62) shoots career low round at CareerBuilder

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 10:33 pm

    After a banner year in 2017, Jon Rahm found a way to add yet another accolade to his growing list of accomplishments during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    Rahm got off to a fast start at La Quinta Country Club, playing his first seven holes in 6 under en route to a 10-under 62. The score marked his career low on the PGA Tour by two shots and gave him an early lead in an event that utilizes a three-course rotation.

    La Quinta was the site of Adam Hadwin's 59 during last year's event, and Rahm knew full well that a quick start opened the door to a memorably low score.

    "Any time you have that going for you, you get thoughts come in your head, 60, maybe 59," Rahm told reporters. "I knew that if I kept playing good I was going to have more birdie opportunities, and I tried not to get ahead of myself and I was able to do it."

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    Rahm birdied his first two holes before an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole sparked him to an outward 30. He added four more birdies on the inward half without dropping a shot.

    The Spaniard is the highest-ranked player in the field this week, and while many players opted for a two-week stint in Hawaii he instead came home for some practice after opening the new year with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. That decision appears to have paid some early dividends as Rahm gets set to defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

    Low scores were plentiful on all three courses during the opening round, and Rahm remained pleased with his effort even though he fell short of matching Hadwin's sub-60 score from a year ago.

    "That's golf. You're not going to make every single putt, you're not going to hit every shot perfect," he said. "Overall, you've got to look at the bigger picture. I birdied the last hole, had a couple of great sand saves coming in, shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for."