Press Pass Ochoa in Solheim Cup

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 12, 2007, 4:00 pm
Press PassEach week, GOLF CHANNEL experts and analysts offer their thoughts and opinions on hot topics in the world of golf with the Press Pass.
 
Hot Topic
Should the Solheim Cup be re-formatted to include international (non-American, non-European) players?
 
Brian Hewitt Brian Hewitt - Columnist, GOLFCHANNEL.com:
Im not sure re-formatting the Solheim Cup is the answer. But womens golf must find a way to get the International women into Cup matches, especially with the ascension of Mexicos Lorena Ochoa to complement Karrie Webb, the Koreans, the Japanese and even a player like Julieta Granada from Paraguay.
 
Mercer Baggs Mercer Baggs - Senior Producer, GOLFCHANNEL.com:
No. Like the Ryder Cup, the Solheim Cup should not be adjusted to fit international players. And as great a team as the internationals could comprise, I don't think the LPGA needs to create a new team event to include them. The PGA TOUR has a hard time getting people to care about the Presidents Cup; I'm not sure the LPGA could sell a similar competition to the public -- at least the U.S. public.
 
Ian Hutchinson Ian Hutchinson - Contrib. Writer, GOLFCHANNEL.com:
That's been talked about for years, but it may be a can of worms that the existing teams don't want to open, at least not at this point in time. That might be a can of whup...ah, never mind. The South Koreans plus Lorena Ochoa sound like a scary team. Then again, it would be interesting to see how that international team would handle the team aspect of the Solheim Cup.
 
Mark Rolfing Mark Rolfing - Analyst, GOLF CHANNEL:
No there will be another international team event in womens golf before you know it.
 

Hot Topic
Is it better for the future of the FedExCup to have someone like Steve Stricker, who has played in all four Playoff events, win the inaugural edition or someone more prominent like Tiger or Phil, who has skipped events?
 
Hewitt:
Whats best is for Tiger and Phil AND Stricker to be dueling late into Sunday afternoon. That will make for higher ratings and, probably, more memories. I think, at this point, its hard to question the strategy of either Mickelson or Woods for skipping events. Both should be fresh for East Lake.
 
Baggs:
Tiger or Phil. Tweaks will be made to the Playoffs next year, and probably the next few years until they get it where they want it. But it's always good business for the TOUR to have one of its two superstars win a big event.
 
Hutchinson:
I've got to go with Stricker. It never hurt any championship to have a longshot come from nowhere to win it, especially someone with the heart of Stricker. Tiger probably will end up winning it, but what does it say about this whole debacle when someone takes a week off and still coasts through and wins it all? If the TOUR needed anybody to sell this whole playoff concept, it was Tiger and he showed early with his actions that majors are all that count to him. Maybe the TOUR should listen to him because that seems to be the general consensus about what counts most on the schedule.
 
Rolfing:
I dont really think it matters whether a player has skipped events or not. I think, probably, in the first year having Tiger Woods win, who has been the best player all year, would validate the Playoffs the most.
 
Hot Topic
Should the FedExCup be moved up even further on the schedule to avoid football season altogether?
 
Hewitt:
Its a nice thought. The problem is then you start having problems squeezing the earlier part of the schedule. This I know for sure: If the Bears had been playing at home at noon, Chicago time, Sunday, the final round attendance at the BMW Championship would have taken a serious hit.
 
Baggs:
If it's possible, the TOUR should make it happen -- even if they have to add a couple of events to the Fall Series. Last Sunday was great golf, but even with Tiger in the mix, it got lost in the opening week of the NFL, college football and the U.S. Open tennis finals.
 
Hutchinson:
I'll answer that question with two other questions. Which two tournaments will get snuffed because of moving the FedExCup up on the schedule? Does Major League Baseball try to avoid the NFL by ending its season at the end of August? If the TOUR is so scared of just a few weeks up against pro and college football, then this game is in some serious trouble.
 
Rolfing:
Im not sure that football is the biggest issue for the Playoffs. For example, in Chicago it was more that the kids had gone back to school and it was a post-Labor Day date that affected attendance. And for Atlanta, it is too close to the heart of the summer now, as evidenced by the poor condition of the greens.
 
Hot Topic
Whats the ONE thing you are most looking forward to this week?
 
Hewitt:
I want to see Phil and Tiger coming to the last hole in the last group Sunday tied for second one shot behind Steve Stricker. From there, let the chips fall where they may.
 
Baggs:
The Solheim Cup. The ladies play with a lot of heart and it should be competitive. The best thing about this week is that you can wake up early and watch the Solheim Cup and then tune in to Tiger and Phil at the TOUR Championship (all on GOLF CHANNEL). Not a bad week for golf fans.
 
Hutchinson:
Definitely the Solheim Cup. Won't it be refreshing to see golf being played with heart and spirit again?
 
Rolfing:
Tiger, Phil and Steve playing together on Thursday and Friday.
 
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    McIlroy gets back on track

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

    There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

    He is well ahead of schedule.

    Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

    “Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

    To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

    And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

    Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

    “I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

    The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

    The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

    But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

    Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

    Everything in his life is lined up.

    Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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    Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

    Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

    Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

    There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


    Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

    The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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    Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

    Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

    It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

    While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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    McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

    Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

    Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

    The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

    McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.