European Solheim Cup team capsules

By Randall MellSeptember 20, 2011, 11:45 am

Captain Alison Nicholas will lead the European team against the United States in the 12th edition of the Solheim Cup at Killeen Castle in Dunsany, Ireland. Here is a breakdown of the 12 European team members, in alphabetical order (Click here for U.S. team capsules):

Christel Boeljon

Age: 24

Record: First appearance

World ranking: No  58

Victories: 1 LET title

The lowdown: Boeljon won the Turkish Airlines Open this year  She made the team by grabbing the fourth and last spot off the LET points list, becoming the first player from the Netherlands to make the Solheim Cup. She’s been in the hunt frequently in Europe this season with five top-10s and two second-place finishes to go with her maiden victory. After playing collegiately at Purdue, Boeljon returned to the United States this year to play in her first major, the Kraft Nabisco. She tied for 15th.


Laura Davies

Age: 47

Record: 21-17-5 (Singles: 5-5-1)

World ranking: No  88

Victories: 20 LPGA titles, 44 LET titles (4 majors)

The lowdown: The Englishwoman will be playing in a record 12th Solheim Cup, more than any European or American  She’s poised to become the all-time points leader in Solheim Cup history. Her 23½ points rank second only to Annika Sorenstam’s 24. Davies locked up her spot on this year’s team with five LET titles last year. She’s not been in particularly good form this year, with just one top-10 on the LET or LPGA tours. She’s missed four of her last five cuts in LPGA events.


Sandra Gal

Age: 26

Record: First appearance

World ranking: No  42

Victories: 1 LPGA title

The lowdown: With a victory at the LPGA’s Kia Classic, Gal vaulted into the European Solheim Cup picture, eventually making the team as one of four captain’s picks. Her victory enacted a special LET provision gaining her membership on that tour. The German has two other LPGA top-10s this year. Gal showed some good form tying for fifth at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship just two weeks ago.


Sophie Gustafson

Age: 37

Record: 9-12-6 (Singles: 2-4-1)

World ranking: No  39

Victories: 5 LPGA titles, 15 LET titles

The lowdown: Gustafson should feel confident at Killeen Castle, where she won the Irish Open last year. The Swede ought to be comfortable anywhere in Ireland, where she’s won four Irish Opens and six Irish titles overall. She earned a spot on her eighth Solheim Cup team off the world rankings list. She’ll be looking to improve around her Solheim Cup fortunes after winning just two of her last 13 matches in the biennial competition.


Caroline Hedwall

Age: 22

Record: First appearance

World ranking: No  41

Victories: 3 LET titles

The lowdown: The Swedish rookie takes a hot game to Ireland. After winning the LET Q-School event, she went on to win four tournaments around the world this year, three LET events and an Australian Tour event. She won Uniqa Ladies Open just two weeks ago.


Maria Hjorth

Age: 37

Record: 5-7-5 (Singles 0-3-1)

World ranking: No  21

Victories: 5 LPGA titles, 2 LET titles

The lowdown: Hjorth has won events in each of the last two LPGA seasons. The Swede earned a spot on her fifth Solheim Cup team off the world rankings list. She’s the second highest ranked European in the world at No  21 on the Rolex rankings. Only Suzann Pettersen ranks higher. Hjorth was 2-1-2 for the Euros in the loss at Rich Harvest Farms in ’09.


Catriona Matthew

Age: 42

Record: 10-7-4 (Singles 4-1)

World ranking: No  32

Victories: 4 LET titles, 3 LPGA titles (1 major)  

The lowdown: The Scot makes her sixth Solheim Cup appearance, earning a spot off the world rankings list. Matthew has a formidable Solheim Cup record, especially in singles, where she’s been beaten once in five tries. Matthew defeated current U S  captain Rosie Jones in 2003. She recorded the winning point by topping Jones the last time the Euros won the Solheim Cup.


Anna Nordqvist

Age: 24  

Record: 2-2 (Singles 0-1)

World ranking: No  31

Victories: 2 LPGA titles (1 major)

The lowdown: Nordqvist qualified for her second Solheim Cup off the world rankings list. She’s not a long hitter, but her accuracy makes her a dependable partner. She was 2-1 with partners in the last Solheim Cup. The Swede has shown the ability to come up big in the biggest events. Her two LPGA titles are the LPGA Championship and the LPGA Tour Championship.


Azahara Munoz

Age: 23

Record: First appearance

World ranking: No  46

Victories: 1 LET title

The lowdown: The Spaniard made her first Euro squad as one of the four Euro captain’s picks. She was the LPGA’s Rookie of the Year last season and won in her professional debut on the LET, winning the Madrid Ladies Masters in ’09.


Suzann Pettersen

Age: 30

Record: 9-7-5 (Singles 0-3-2)

World ranking: No  2

Victories: 8 LPGA titles, 5 LET titles (1 major)

The lowdown: The best player on the Euro roster, Pettersen is the definitive leader of this team. She’s No  2 in the world rankings, making her the highest ranked player in this event. Pettersen’s formidable as a partner with a 9-4-2 record in foursomes and four-balls, but she’s yet to win a singles match in five tries.


Melissa Reid

Age: 24

Record: First appearance

World ranking: 33

Victories: 3 LET titles

The lowdown: England’s Reid brings winning momentum to Ireland after taking the title Sunday at the LET’s Spanish Open. It was her second Euro Tour victory this year. She’s been third or better in three of her last four starts in Europe. She was Europe’s Rookie of the Year in ’08 and earned her Solheim Cup spot leading the LET points list.


Karen Stupples

Age: 38  

Record: 0-2

World ranking: No  51

Victories: 2 LPGA titles, 2 LET titles (1 major)

The lowdown: Stupples was left off the last European squad but returns this year by virtue of a captain’s pick. She’ll be eager to record her first Solheim Cup victory. She lost both her matches in her debut in ’05. The Englishwoman won her major at home, taking the Women’s British Open at Sunningdale in ’04.

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Stock Watch: Spieth searching for putting form

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:50 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Patton Kizzire (+8%): By today’s accelerated standards, he’s a late bloomer, having reached the Tour at age 29. Well, he seems right at home now, with two wins in his last four starts.

Rory (+7%): Coming off the longest break of his career, McIlroy should have no excuses this year. He’s healthy. Focused. Motivated. It’s go time.

Chris Paisley (+5%): The best part about his breakthrough European Tour title that netted him $192,000? With his wife, Keri, on the bag, he doesn’t have to cut 10 percent to his caddie – she gets the whole thing.

Brooke Henderson (+3%): A seventh-place finish at the Diamond Resorts Invitational doesn’t sound like much for a five-time winner, but this came against the men – on a cold, wet, windy, 6,700-yard track. She might be the most fun player to watch on the LPGA. 

New European Ryder Cuppers (+2%): In something of a Ryder Cup dress rehearsal, newcomers Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton each went undefeated in leading Europe to a come-from-behind victory at the EurAsia Cup. The competition come September will be, um, a bit stiffer.



FALLING

Jordan’s putting (-1%): You can sense his frustration in interviews, and why not? In two starts he leads the Tour in greens in regulation … and ranks 201st (!) in putting. Here’s guessing he doesn’t finish the year there.

Brian Harman’s 2018 Sundays (-2%): The diminutive left-hander now has five consecutive top-10s, and he’s rocketing up the Ryder Cup standings, but you can’t help but wonder how much better the start to his year might have been. In the final pairing each of the past two weeks, he’s a combined 1 under in those rounds and wasn’t much of a factor.

Tom Hoge (-3%): Leading by one and on the brink of a life-changing victory – he hadn’t been able to keep his card each of the past three years – Hoge made an absolute mess of the 16th, taking double bogey despite having just 156 yards for his approach. At least now he’s on track to make the playoffs for the first time.

Predicting James Hahn’s form (-4%): OK, we give up: He’d gone 17 events without a top-15 before his win at Riviera; 12 before his win at Quail Hollow; and seven before he lost on the sixth playoff hole at Waialae. The margins between mediocre play and winning apparently are THAT small.

Barnrat (-5%): Coming in hot with four consecutive top-10s, and one of only two team members ranked inside the top 50 in the world, Kiradech Aphibarnrat didn’t show up at the EurAsia Cup, going 0-3 for the week. In hindsight, the Asian team had no chance without his contributions. 

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Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might

By Tim RosaforteJanuary 16, 2018, 1:40 pm

Bernhard Langer goes back out on tour this week to chase down more than Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record of 45 career victories. His chase is against himself.

“I’m not playing to beat Hale Irwin’s record,” Langer told me before heading to Hawaii to defend his title at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. “I play golf to play the best I can, to be a good role model, and to enjoy a few more years that are left.”

Langer turned 60 on Aug. 27 and was presented a massage chair by his family as a birthday gift. Instead of reclining (which he does to watch golf and football), he won three more times to close out a seven-win campaign that included three major championships. A year prior, coming off a four-victory season, Langer told me after winning his fourth Charles Schwab Cup that surpassing Irwin’s record was possible but not probable. With 36 career victories and 11 in his last two years, he has changed his tone to making up the nine-tournament difference as “probable.”

“If I could continue a few more years on that ratio, I could get close or pass him,” Langer told me from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “It will get harder. I’m 60 now. It’s a big challenge but I don’t shy away from challenges.”


Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin at the 1991 Ryder Cup (Getty Images)


Langer spent his off-season playing the PNC Father/Son, taking his family on a ski vacation at Big Sky in Yellowstone, Montana, and to New York for New Year’s. He ranks himself as a scratch skier, having skied since he was four years old in Germany. The risk of injury is worth it, considering how much he loves “the scenery, the gravity and the speed.”

Since returning from New York, Langer has immersed himself into preparing for the 2018 season. Swing coach Willy Hoffman, who he has worked with since his boyhood days as an as assistant pro in Germany, flew to Florida for their 43rd year of training.

“He’s a straight shooter,” Hoffman told me. “He says, 'Willy, every hour is an hour off my life and we have 24 hours every day.'"

As for Irwin, they have maintained a respectful relationship that goes back to their deciding singles match in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Last year they were brought back to Kiawah Island for a corporate appearance where they reminisced and shared the thought that nobody should ever have to bear what Langer went through, missing a 6-footer on the 18th green. That was 27 years ago. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

"I enjoy hanging out with Hale," Langer says.

Langer’s chase of Irwin’s record is not going to change their legacies. As Hoffman pointed out, “Yes, (Bernhard) is a rich man compared to his younger days. He had no money, no nothing. But today you don’t feel a difference when you talk to him. He’s always on the ground.”

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McIlroy: Ryder Cup won't be as easy as USA thinks

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:18 pm

The Americans have won their past two international team competitions by a combined score of 38-22, but Rory McIlroy isn’t expecting another pushover at the Ryder Cup in September.

McIlroy admitted that the U.S. team will be strong, and that its core of young players (including Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler) will be a force for the next decade. But he told reporters Tuesday at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship that course setup will play a significant role.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said, referring to the Americans’ 17-11 victory in 2016. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

At every Ryder Cup, the home team has the final say on course setup. Justin Rose was the most outspoken about the setup at Hazeltine, saying afterward that it was “incredibly weak” and had a “pro-am feel.” 

And so this year’s French Open figures to be a popular stop for European Tour players – it’s being held once again at Le Golf National, site of the matches in September. Tommy Fleetwood won last year’s event at 12 under.

“I’m confident,” McIlroy said. “Everything being all well and good, I’ll be on that team and I feel like we’ll have a really good chance.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that. The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.” 

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Floodlights may be used at Dubai Desert Classic

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 12:44 pm

No round at next week’s Dubai Desert Classic will be suspended because of darkness.

Tournament officials have installed state-of-the-art floodlighting around the ninth and 18th greens to ensure that all 132 players can finish their round.

With the event being moved up a week in the schedule, the European Tour was initially concerned about the amount of daylight and trimmed the field to 126 players. Playing under the lights fixed that dilemma.

“This is a wonderful idea and fits perfectly with our desire to bring innovation to our sport,” European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said. “No professional golfer ever wants to come back the following morning to complete a round due to lack of daylight, and this intervention, should it be required, will rule out that necessity.”

Next week’s headliners include Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson.