Breaking down the European Solheim Cup team

By Randall MellAugust 12, 2013, 5:50 pm

Captain Liselotte Neumann will lead the European team against the United States in the 13th edition of the Solheim Cup at Colorado Golf Club in Parker, Colo. Below is a breakdown of the 12 European team members in alphabetical order. Click here for a European team photo gallery and click here for the U.S. team capsules.

Carlota Ciganda Carlota Ciganda

Country: Spain

Age: 23

Record: Rookie

World ranking: No. 30

Victories: 3 LET titles

The lowdown: Ciganda took Europe by storm a year ago, winning Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year honors and the Order of Merit. She gained her LPGA card late last year and is an LPGA rookie this season with two top-10 finishes, including a runner-up finish at the North Texas Shootout. She won the LET’s Ladies German Open earlier this year. A former British Amateur champ, Ciganda has plenty of experience on American soil. She’s a former Arizona State standout.

Caroline Hedwall Caroline Hedwall

Country: Sweden

Age: 24

Record: 2-1-1 (Singles: 1-0)

World ranking: No. 29

Victories: 5 LET titles

The lowdown: After winning four times as an LET rookie in 2011, Hedwall was the tour’s Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year. She played a large role in Europe’s upset of the Americans in the Solheim Cup in 2011, accounting for 2½ points, including a pivotal halve turning around her singles match late with Ryann O’Toole. Hedwall has three top-10 LPGA finishes this year. She’s one of Europe’s four captain’s picks.

Charley Hull Charley Hull

Country: England

Age: 17

Record: Rookie

World ranking: No. 147

Victories: None

The lowdown: Hull turned pro at 16 and made it through LET qualifying school last year. She made a strong first impression finishing second in her LET debut as a pro at the Llalla Meryem Cup. She went on to finish second in her first five LET starts. She helped Great Britain & Ireland win the Curtis Cup last year. She’s one of Europe’s four captain’s picks.

Karine Icher Karen Icher

Country: France

Age: 34

Record: 1-2 (Singles: 0-1)

World ranking: No. 24

Victories: 6 LET titles

The lowdown: Icher played in the ’02 Solheim Cup, her only appearance in the biennial competition. Icher has played as an LPGA member the last nine years. Though she has never won an LPGA title, she is getting closer, having recorded nine top-10 finishes over the last two seasons.

Caroline Masson Caroline Masson

Country: Germany

Age: 24

Record: Rookie

World ranking: No. 58

Victories: 1 LET title

The lowdown: Masson moved on to the international golf radar in 2011, holding the 36- and 54-hole leads at the Ricoh Women’s British Open before fading in the final round of Yani Tseng’s victory at Carnoustie. Masson won her first LET title last year and joined the LPGA this year, where she has had a tough transition, missing the cut in eight of her 13 starts but recording a T-13 finish at the Kraft Nabisco and T-12 at the Wegmans LPGA Championship.

Catriona Matthew Catriona Mathew

Country: Scotland

Age: 43

Record: 11-8-6 (Singles: 5-1)

World ranking: No. 8

Victories: 4 LPGA, 5 LET titles (1 major)

The lowdown: Europe’s upset of the Americans in Ireland in ’11 was keyed by Matthew’s 6-and-5 rout of Paula Creamer in the opening Sunday singles match. Matthew is 5-1 in Solheim Cup singles. She’s a formidable veteran of six Solheim Cups and winner of the ’09 Women’s British Open. She was second at the LPGA Championship this year with a T-7 finish at the Kraft Nabisco and T-11 finish at the Women’s British Open.

Azahara Munoz Azahara Munoz

Country: Spain

Age: 25

Record: 2-1-1 (Singles: 1-0)

World ranking: No. 27

Victories: 1 LPGA, 1 LET titles

The lowdown: Munoz proved her match-play mettle winning a vital Sunday singles point from Angela Stanford late in Europe’s upset of the Americans at the ’11 Solheim Cup. She won the LPGA’s Sybase Women’s Match Play Championship last year. Munoz, though, has struggled to find her best form this year, missing the cut in her last two starts and in three of the year’s four majors.

Anna Nordqvist Anna Nordqvist

Country: Sweden

Age: 26

Record: 4-4 (Singles: 0-2)

World ranking: No. 22

Victories: 2 LPGA titles (1 major)

The lowdown: Joins Catriona Matthew and Suzann Pettersen as the only major championship winners on the Euro roster. Nordqvist should be a good foursomes and four-ball partner. She is not a long hitter, but she hits a lot of fairways and greens. She also makes a lot of birdies, ranking fourth in the LPGA stats this year. Nordqvist has been solid in the majors this year, finishing T-12 or better in all of them.

Suzann Pettersen Suzann Pettersen

Country: Norway

Age: 32

Record: 12-8-5 (Singles: 1-3-2)

World ranking: No. 3

Victories: 11 LPGA, 6 LET titles (1 major)

The lowdown: Pettersen defeated Michelle Wie in a vital singles match late in the competition to help the Euros beat the Americans in Ireland in ’11. Pettersen is a formidable ball striker who ranks as one of the straightest big hitters in the game. She and Catriona Matthew are the team leaders for Europe. They’ve won more LPGA/LET titles and more Solheim Cup points than anyone else on the Euro side.

Beatriz Recari Beatriz Recari

Country: Spain

Age: 26

Record: Rookie

World ranking: No. 20

Victories: 3 LPGA, 1 LET titles

The lowdown: A two-time LPGA winner this year, Recari brings a lot of confidence and momentum into her first Solheim Cup. She held off Paula Creamer down the stretch to win the Marathon Classic three weeks ago. Recari will hit a lot of fairways and greens. She isn’t long, but she isn’t a short hitter. She seems to do everything well with a quality all-around game.

Giulia Sergas Giulia Sergas

Country: Italy

Age: 33

Record: Rookie

World ranking: No. 62

Victories: None

The lowdown: One of four captain’s picks, Sergas is making her Solheim Cup debut 13 years after being named the LET Rookie of the Year. An LPGA regular the last 12 seasons, Sergas has yet to win on either the LPGA or LET tours. She has three top-10 finishes in majors in the last two seasons, including a T-4 at last year’s U.S. Women’s Open and a T-7 at the Kraft Nabisco this year.

Jodi Ewart Shadoff Jodi Ewart Shadoff

Country: England

Age: 25

Record: Rookie

World ranking: No. 45

Victories: None

The lowdown: Shadoff took a step up this year, her second full season playing the LPGA tour. She burst onto the major championship stage tying for seventh at the Kraft Nabisco. She has hit a lot of leaderboards this season, though she’s still looking for her first title. In July, she tied for fourth at the U.S. Women’s Open and tied for third at the Marathon Classic. For as long as she is off the tee, she hits a lot of fairways. She also hits a lot of greens, ranking fourth on tour.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.