Sorenstam named 2017 European Solheim Cup captain

By Randall Mell, Golf Channel DigitalMarch 30, 2016, 6:02 pm

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Annika Sorenstam vs. Juli Inkster.

It’s official.

With Europe naming the Swedish Sorenstam to lead its Solheim Cup team Wednesday morning at the ANA Inspiration, it sets up a dynamic pairing of captains for the 2017 matches.

Sorenstam and Inkster are both Hall of Famers with heavyweight credentials as leaders. They’re both intense competitors comfortable on big stages, and they’ll have big jobs to do steering this biennial international competition into more spirited waters after last year’s controversial finish pitted the Rules of Golf against sportsmanship.

“I cannot tell you how excited I am,” Sorenstam said. “I had hoped and dreamed this opportunity would come along. If I look back in my career, the Solheim Cup has always been an important part of it. We play as individuals for 99 percent of the time, but when we do get together it's just something special.”

Sorenstam, 45, is third on the LPGA’s all-time victory list with 72 titles, trailing only Kathy Whitworth (88) and Mickey Wright (82). Her 10 major championship titles rank behind only Patty Berg (15), Mickey Wright (13) and Louise Suggs (11). Sorenstam’s 22 Solheim Cup victories equals Laura Davies as most in the history of the competition.

Inkster, 55, led the Americans to the greatest comeback in Solheim Cup history last year, overcoming a 10-6 deficit going into Sunday singles. Inkster has won 31 LPGA titles, seven majors. The 15 Solheim Cup matches she won as a player are most in history on the American side.

“Annika had an outstanding playing career and she is a tough competitor, which will make her a great captain for Team Europe,” Inkster said. “I am sure she’ll have her team ready to compete to try to win back the cup, and I hope to have Team USA ready to defend and keep the cup for another two years.”

The American comeback victory in Germany last year was rocked by controversy that promises to echo into next year’s matches in Iowa. Europe’s Suzann Pettersen came under fire after American Alison Lee scooped up an 18-inch putt saying she heard someone concede the putt in a fourball match just prior to the start of singles play. Lee was in tears for being penalized and incurring a loss of the hole after Pettersen created a firestorm insisting the Euros didn’t concede the putt. It set off heated debate over how the Rules of Golf can clash with the spirit of the game and sportsmanship. Pettersen apologized with a public backlash bringing her to tears.

Inkster and Sorenstam were both involved in the aftermath of that, with Inkster critical of the ruling and Sorenstam trying to guide Pettersen into rethinking her decision. Though Sorenstam was an assistant captain for the Euros last year, she found herself in the middle of rising tensions more than once. Sorenstam and Inkster were shown in a spirited exchange earlier in the matches over American complaints that Sorenstam was giving advice to players outside the captain’s agreement. Sorenstam insisted she was “falsely accused.” A similar incident arose in the Solheim Cup in Colorado two years earlier.

Sorenstam knows how intense the atmosphere can become in the international team competition. Back in 2000 at Loch Lomond, Sorenstam holed a 25-foot chip shot that appeared to halve a fourball match against Kelly Robbins and Pat Hurst. Because Sorenstam wasn’t actually away, the Americans made Sorenstam replay the shot, creating a furor in the European ranks that left the tough-minded Sorenstam in tears.

Sorenstam was asked how she will try to balance the intensity of the competition and pressure to win against the kind of sportsmanship questions that have come up in the past.

“That's a good question,” Sorenstam said. “Yeah, it was quite intense last year. I've been part of a few intense Solheims. But, also, that's kind of what makes the tournament the way it is. Our goals have always been to go in there and have a good time, play some good golf and showcase the very best of women's golf, and I think that's going to continue ... But when you get together, and everybody's so passionate, everybody's so engaged and they just want to win, sometimes it gets very emotional. I think we're just going to keep reminding ourselves what we all learned from what's happened in the past, and we all grow and mature and hopefully you'll see that next time.”

What was learned in last year’s controversy?

“I think we have talked about this enough,” Sorenstam said. “I think we've all learned a lesson. I don't think anybody's really happy about what happened. I think we move on and focus on the positive. I think the U.S. team played very, very well on Sunday. I mean they were exceptional. Unfortunately, that doesn't get talked about as much ... I'd like to move forward.”

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Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

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Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

Masters victory

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Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

Green jacket tour

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Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

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Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

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Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

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Victory at Valderrama

Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm