Captain Koch prepared for more Solheim Cup success

By Jay CoffinSeptember 17, 2015, 4:52 pm

ST. LEON-ROT, Germany – Carin Koch earned a master’s degree in Ryder Cup philosophy last year in Scotland.

The European Solheim Cup captain was a VIP guest of Paul McGinley at Gleneagles and was given behind-the-scenes access to each move the dynamic European Ryder Cup captain made; Every impassioned speech, all team meetings, the reasoning for pairings and lineups, everything that helped deliver Europe a 16 ½ to 11 ½ beat down of the Americans.

“Just learning how he worked with his team and his preparation,” Koch said, “yeah, it's just been good having the help of the past captains like that.”

Said McGinley: “She has been open to learning and asking questions in the past two years from many sources knowing what to filter as it relates to her task as captain. She’s gathered a lot of information and worked very hard, the players know that. It will give them confidence in their leader that she’s prepared.”

Koch has been hesitant to discuss details about everything she learned from that experience but it’s clear McGinley’s help was invaluable. It’s impossible for it not to have been.

Truth is, though, even without McGinley’s guidance, Koch has all the tools necessary to deliver Europe its third consecutive Solheim Cup victory.

Nearly everything Koch has touched in the Solheim Cup has turned to gold. In 2000 at Loch Lomond, she was a captain’s pick and a rookie who fought back from a 3-down deficit in singles against Michele Redman to win the match and clinch the Solheim Cup. The U.S. had won the three previous Solheim Cups and this European victory was a key to keeping the matches historically relevant.

Two years later in Minnesota, Europe lost, but Koch went 4-0-1 and was the sole reason why her team took a 9-7 advantage heading into Sunday singles. The Americans won 8 ½ points in singles to win the cup, but Koch was as dominant as any player has ever been on a losing team.

Koch didn’t play particularly well in 2003 in her native Sweden (1-2-1) but Europe did not need her help and won handily. Again, in 2005, Koch was 2-1-1 in a losing effort.

Granted, Koch was paired with Annika Sorenstam on five occasions during her four appearances and they went 4-1 together, but still, Koch is 10-3-3 in her Solheim Cup career as a player.

On the administrative side, Koch was an assistant captain to her Swedish role model Liselotte Neumann two years ago outside Denver when Europe delivered the biggest thrashing in Solheim Cup history. It marked the first time that the U.S. lost on home soil.

You get the point. Koch is much more than just a pretty face.


Photos: Carin Koch through the years

“She’s experienced on and off the course in Solheim’s and know what works from both angles,” McGinley said. “She believes in not reinventing the wheel.”

Although the Europeans have won the last two Solheim Cup they still arrive here on home soil as underdogs. Their collective world ranking is much lower than the U.S. and some of their key players from two years ago (Sweden’s Caroline Hedwall, in particular) are not playing well.

However, one advantage Koch has is that she can look at her team and see numerous successful pairings from the last two victorious cups. She sent out her two top-ranked players in Friday’s first foursomes match. Suzann Pettersen and Anna Nordqvist are 2-0 together and they’re facing Morgan Pressel and Paula Creamer, who has struggled most of the year.

Nearly every European player has said they don’t care who they play with, that they’re happy to play with whomever Koch feels is the best fit. Players usually say that in these team events but you get the feeling that it happens to be true with this European team.

Koch, 44, has long been known as one of the friendliest players on the LPGA and you won’t find one person, no matter which country they’re from, that has a negative word to say about her. She genuinely has a kind soul. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a raging fire in her belly to stomp the Americans into the ground for the third straight time.

It’s no surprise that, so far, Koch has managed every detail to perfection. She surrounded herself with three Swedish assistant captains (Sorenstam, Sophie Gustafson, Maria McBride) who make a formidable team and her captain’s picks (Hedwall, Karine Icher, Caroline Masson, Catriona Matthew) were players who are past Solheim Cup stalwarts and ones she believe will best fit her team strategy.

This is Koch’s team. She’s going to do things her way.

“I think you change as you go along a little bit with the people that are around you,” Koch said. “But I think my plan from the start, it’s my captaincy, I want to be myself and do what I can for the team and that hasn’t really changed.”

Koch downplays her role as a captain saying her top priority is “to create that atmosphere in the team room that we’ve always had and just to have fun together and make sure they focus on the job that needs to be done.”

They’ll be focused, they’ll have fun, they’ll be united and, win or lose, they’ll play well for their captain.

“She's a likeable, charismatic, nice person who people believe and will play for,” McGinley said.

Sounds familiar.

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.