Neumann making all the right Solheim Cup moves

By Jay CoffinAugust 18, 2013, 3:04 am

PARKER, Colo. – Annika Sorenstam had loads of time on her hands Wednesday afternoon.

You’d think, as a vice captain of the European Solheim Cup team, she’d be running around putting out more fires than Smokey the Bear.

That, however, was not the case on this steamy afternoon at Colorado Golf Club.

“Lotta, she’s driving the ship,” Sorenstam said. “Everybody’s at ease. It’s very peaceful. We don’t feel stressed. She has this calmness about her.”

Lotta, of course, is Liselotte Neumann, Europe’s unflappable captain whom Sorenstam idolized while growing up in Sweden. When Neumann won the 1988 U.S. Women’s Open it made Sorenstam realize that she wanted to make a living playing golf.

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That decision turned out well.

Aside from Sorenstam’s 72 LPGA victories and 10 major championships, she played in eight Solheim Cups. This is her second turn as a vice captain, following a stint in 2011.

So when Sorenstam says that this is the most prepared she’s ever seen a team the day before the event, it speaks volumes. She knows what she’s talking about. She wouldn’t sing such praises unless they were overwhelmingly true.

Since everything Neumann did before the Solheim Cup went according to plan, why should we be surprised that her thoughtful methods have worked during the matches, when they mattered most?

Let’s not sugarcoat the circumstances, it’s a surprise that Europe enters Sunday singles with a 10 1/2 to 5 1/2 advantage. But it shouldn’t be a surprise that Europe has an advantage.

Neumann knows what she’s doing and has the conviction the stick to her plan. She was mildly criticized for not selecting Sandra Gal as one of her four captain’s selections. Instead she went with Caroline Hedwall, Guilia Sergas, Jodi Ewart Shadoff and 17-year-old Charley Hull.

Those four have gone a combined 6-3 the past two days and Hedwall has dominated with a 4-0 record of her own.

“I’m a really bad loser,” Hedwall quipped afterward.

It was three of the four captain’s picks that helped Europe dominate the Americans, 4-0, Saturday afternoon in fourballs. The lineup was a gutsy strategy, but it was a move that had Neumann’s signature stamped all over it.

Heading into the crucial session, Neumann opted to rest Solheim Cup dynamos Suzann Pettersen, Anna Nordqvist and Catriona Matthew, who have played in a combined 17 Solheim Cups. Many believed Neumann should’ve trotted out her top players in an attempt to earn as many points as possible. Instead, she has a rested lineup and a nearly insurmountable five-point lead.

But Neumann went with a lineup of eight players who had played in only a combined 11 Solheim Cups, all playing in either her first or second cup. Meanwhile, Americans had match-play wizards like Cristie Kerr, Paula Creamer and Morgan Pressel in the lineup.

“I think we did a pretty gutsy thing today, resting some of the girls,” Neumann said. “Because I knew how important the singles were going to be tomorrow. Sitting out Catriona and Anna and Suzann, and I knew they really needed to be rested for the singles.

“But to think these girls were just going to step up to the plate like this and take all the matches in the afternoon? It’s unbelievable.”

Two of Europe's six rookies – Ewart Shadoff and Hull – led the way in the first match of the afternoon against Creamer and Lexi Thompson. The match was close all day but it was Hull who made the biggest impact.

Standing on the par-3, 17th tee, Thompson had already hit her tee shot to 5 feet, so Hull went directly at the hole and the ball ended 4 feet away. Thompson missed her birdie attempt, Hull made hers and took a 1-up advantage into the home hole, where they ultimately won the match.

“It was a very surreal experience, actually,” Hull said. “Two rookies together, nobody expects us to win, but we played so well, we really did.”

Neumann may be the only person on the planet who did believe her fresh-faced rookies had a chance to win, saying “I just had a feeling about them.”

Just as Neumann has had a feeling about her team, her team has had a feeling all along that Neumann would be a great captain. The respect oozes from players, which makes them play harder for the Swede.

“It’s been an honor to have her as a captain,” Beatriz Recari said. “I will never forget my – this first Solheim Cup for me, with her as a captain. She’s been so kind and encouraging.”

Said Ewart Shadoff: “She’s so laid back, nothing seems to phase her. We’re all similar too. We’re reserved players for the most part.”

“She’s really cool.”

Cool in Colorado seems to be paying off nicely.


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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.

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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.


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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.

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Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

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Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."