Inkster returning as '17 U.S. Solheim Cup captain

By Randall MellDecember 18, 2015, 11:00 pm

Juli Inkster is returning as captain of the American Solheim Cup team.

The LPGA announced Friday that Inkster will lead the United States against Europe at Des Moines (Iowa) Golf and Country Club in 2017. Inkster captained the Americans to a historic comeback victory in September at the Solheim Cup in Germany. Inkster’s reappointment marks the fourth time an American has been named to repeat her captaincy in the biennial international team competition, and the first time since Patty Sheehan was captain in 2002 and again in ’03. Judy Rankin (1996-98) and Kathy Whitworth (1990-92) also each captained twice.

“So many people have asked, ‘Would you do it again?’” Inkster said Friday during a news conference in Des Moines. “I have had a lot of exciting and memorable highlights during my time on tour but leading that team of 12 women was one of the biggest thrills of my entire golf career. So the answer was easy. And I wanted to have this announced as soon as I could because keeping a secret isn’t one of my strengths. I’m thrilled by the challenge of defending the Cup on home soil next summer and can’t wait to put on a show in Des Moines.”

Inkster helped the Americans make the journey from record-breaking losers to record-setting winners. Two years after enduring the worst rout in Solheim Cup history (18-10) in Colorado, an almost identical American roster mounted the largest comeback in the event’s history, coming back from a 10-6 deficit in Germany to win 14½ to 13½. 


Mell: Inkster relishes chance to captain on American soil


“I think each one of us had a little bit of Juli in us this week,” American Stacy Lewis said after the victory.

In Inkster-like, old school fashion, the American team overcame more than a staggering deficit and the dispiriting controversy surrounding a phantom concession at the end of fourballs. Inkster helped the Americans overcome the stinging sentiment that American women’s golf was losing its heart, with the country’s best players too caught up in the fame and celebrity of professional golf.

Criticized for caring more about style than substance, Inkster’s team took the stage for the opening ceremony in Converse basketball shoes instead of six-inch stilletos. It was an early sign this team was going to follow Inkster’s lead. She preached a blue-collar approach and at week’s start even gave her players lunch boxes that were painted red, white and blue. She got her team away from what she called excessive “rah-rah stuff,” including elaborate face paint and manicures. They were even shaking hands after winning holes instead of prancing or high fiving. She also got them focused more on pure golf amid the chaos of Solheim Cup week and did her best to get players to stick to routines that helped them week to week in their regular LPGA jobs.

After a controversy over sportsmanship engulfed the close of fourballs, with Norway’s Suzann Pettersen at the heart of a debate over whether Europe should have conceded a putt American Alison Lee mistakenly picked up, Inkster rallied her team before singles. The Americans used the controversy as fuel, winning 8½ of the 12 points available in singles.

“I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to win more in my life than for this team and for Juli Inkster,” American Cristie Kerr said in the victory celebration. “It’s been a great tourney and amazing how she brought us together.”

The LPGA doesn’t release names of other former American Solheim Cup players who may or may not have been considered for the captaincy. Major championship winners Dottie Pepper and Sherri Steinhauer brought the next best resumes to the table. They both have served as assistant captains, Pepper to Meg Mallon in 2013 and Steinhauer to Rosie Jones in 2011.

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"


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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.