Inkster selects Creamer, Lang with captain's picks

By Randall MellAugust 24, 2015, 10:56 pm

Paula Creamer’s heart trumps her current form.

That’s why Creamer joined Brittany Lang as the two captain’s picks named Monday to the U.S. Solheim Cup team that will meet the Europeans next month in Germany.

U.S. Solheim Cup captain Juli Inkster filled out her 12-woman roster in a Golf Channel telecast, naming Creamer to her sixth consecutive team despite Creamer’s struggles this year. Inkster named Lang to her fourth team.

“These are the two players that best fit what we’re trying to do,” Inkster told before going on the air Monday night.

Creamer, 29, created some angst Friday, missing the cut at the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open with team qualifying concluding, assuring that for the first time in her career she wouldn’t gain one of the 10 automatic roster spots. The fact that Creamer struggled to an 81, ensuring her third consecutive missed cut, caused much handwringing, but Inkster saw what others weren’t seeing. She saw what Creamer’s heart for the Solheim Cup means.

On Saturday near Vancouver Golf Club, site of the Canadian Women’s Open, Inkster and Creamer met for a heart-to-heart talk at “The Keg,” a restaurant bar in the area. They talked over a glass of wine, maybe two, Inkster said. For 90 minutes, they talked about golf, the Solheim Cup and life.

Inkster said she left feeling confident Creamer was the right choice to join Lang.

“I wanted to know where she was at mentally and physically,” Inkster said. “I went with my gut. I really believe in her. The team believes in her. I think she’s earned the right to prove herself, and I wanted to give her a shot to do that.”

Inkster heard everything she wanted to hear from Creamer.

“I feel like she’s not as lost as everyone thinks she is,” Inkster said. “She has a lot of confidence in herself, and that’s what I wanted to hear. I wanted to hear she still believes in herself. That was pretty much the deciding factor. There were no tears. No woe is me. She was very outspoken and very honest with me, and I felt like this could really turn her game around.”

Inkster knows better than anyone what Creamer means to the Solheim Cup. She teamed with Creamer six times as Solheim Cup partners early in Creamer’s career, going 3-2-1. Creamer is 12-6-5 in her five Solheim Cup appearances.

Inkster said separating her friendship from her captain’s role wasn’t difficult.

“Paula really made it easy on me,” Inkster said. “She knew she would be a controversial pick. She said, `You do what you have to do. It’s not going to hurt our friendship at all.’

“I don’t have Paula on the team because she’s a good friend of mine. I have Paula on the team because I think she will help the team.”

Creamer has struggled much of the last two seasons to reach the high standard she set in her first nine LPGA seasons. She won her 10th tour title early last year, claiming the HSBC Women’s Champions, but finished the year 22nd on the LPGA money list, the lowest finish of her career. Though she has shown flashes of regaining her best form this season, with three top-10 finishes, she’s 36th on the money list today.

Inkster sees potential parallels with Greg Norman picking Adam Scott on his International squad at the 2009 Presidents Cup. Scott was slumping back then, but he responded to Norman’s confidence in him. It proved a spark to Scott’s resurgence. Inkster can see the same thing happening with Creamer.

Creamer felt good about her conversation with Inkster, too.

“Juli obviously wanted to ask me where I was mentally, and how I was doing,” Creamer said. “I believe in myself. I told her I know you can count on me. It was just a very raw conversation. I felt like I told her everything and didn’t hold anything back, and same with her.”

Inkster said Creamer has strong support from players who qualified. That factored into the decision, too.

Inkster passed over Jessica Korda, Christina Kim, Mo Martin and Austin Ernst. Inkster said that was the toughest part of her role.

Lang, 30, is 5-4-2 in her three Solheim Cup appearances. She has had a solid summer, finishing sixth at the Meijer Classic and fifth at the Marathon Classic.

“I’m so thrilled and excited,” Lang said. “I’ve played well recently, and I’m just really honored Juli [and assistant captains] Wendy [Ward] and Pat [Hurst] had confidence in me.”

Eight Americans made the team off the final U.S. points list: Stacy Lewis, Lexi Thompson, Cristie Kerr, Michelle Wie, Brittany Lincicome, Morgan Pressel, Angela Stanford and Gerina Piller. Two Americans made it off the Rolex world rankings list: Alison Lee and Lizette Salas.

Eleven of the 12 Americans heading to Germany were part of that historic loss in Colorado two years ago, when the Europeans beat the Americans in a record 18-10 rout. It marked the first time the Americans lost on home soil and the first time they lost the cup twice in a row since the matches began in 1990. Europe defeated the Americans 15-13 in Ireland in four years ago.

“I think a lot of girls that were a part of that kind of have a chip,” Lang said. “We have been doing things a little differently. You can’t do things the same way and expect them to change. Juli, Pat and Wendy have a nice plan, nice setup, and are confident in what they’re doing.”

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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.