After injury, Pettersen's Solheim role changes

By Randall MellAugust 16, 2017, 9:15 pm

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa – This Solheim Cup seemed fated to begin and end with Suzann Pettersen.

The first tee is always wild in this event, with its boisterous traditions, from the patriotic celebrations to the creative chants, but Pettersen’s arrival this year promised to make it more awkward in its edgy, nervy and chaotic welcome to the week’s drama.

Nobody quite knew what we should expect when Pettersen stepped to the first tee Friday in foursomes, her first time back on American soil as a European in the Solheim Cup since that furor broke out in Germany two years ago.

Booing?

Heckling?

Or a polite and respectful welcome?

For better or worse, Pettersen’s introduction on the first tee ranked as one of the most anticipated moments of this women’s golf season.

“I hope they don’t heckle her,” U.S. Solheim Cup captain Juli Inkster said Monday. “I hope they respect her and respect her play.”

We won’t know what Friday would have brought.

And we won’t know how Pettersen would have handled the weight of this challenge.

We’ll never know.

The script’s torn to pieces.

With Pettersen’s withdrawal Wednesday with a back injury, this Solheim Cup goes in search of new theater, new heros and anti-heros.

Pettersen was a scriptwriter’s dream, because she was all of that. She was Europe’s hero, America’s anti-hero. Her shoulders seemed broad enough, her will fierce enough to carry that kind of weight.


Solheim Cup: Articles, photos and videos

Team records: United States | Europe


“I don’t think anything really affects Suzann,” Inkster said before hearing news of Pettersen’s withdrawal. “I don’t think it’s going to be a big deal.”

It’s difficult to imagine that somehow, deep down, Pettersen might be relieved. There will be some folks who suspect that, but it doesn’t fit her M.O.

Pettersen, who said she slipped a disc in her back while running last weekend back in her Norwegian homeland, was asked if she was worried about getting a hostile reception on the first tee.

“No,” she said. “Very disappointed not to play, obviously. To be able to play for the crowds they say we are going to have this weekend, it’s probably going to be the biggest crowds we’ve ever had.”

Now that’s quintessential Pettersen.

Catriona Matthew is replacing her. Matthew is no slouch at 47. The Scot also gets a huge dose of the credit for helping the Euros turn themselves around against the Americans. She’s 15-10-8 in these matches. She was 3-1 in Germany as a 45-year-old.

Now Pettersen takes Matthew’s place as a vice captain. There’s some tiny consolation in that, in the notion that it will help prepare Pettersen to be a captain someday. She’ll bring everything to the captain’s job that she brought as a player.

European captain Annika Sorenstam told Pettersen Wednesday to grab a headset.

“You might change your mind once I start speaking,” Pettersen told her.

“OK, I’m going to mute you,” Sorenstam cracked.

Somehow, some way, you know Pettersen will still be trying to figure out some way to help the Euros win this week.

Even before she was at the center of the controversy that ignited in Germany two years ago, when American Alison Lee scooped up an 18-inch putt she thought the Euros conceded, a mistake that thrust Pettersen into the middle of a firestorm, Pettersen was the face of the European effort.

Pettersen was Europe’s heart and soul.

She was such a large part of Europe turning these biennial matches to its advantage, with the upset in Ireland six years ago, and with the record rout in Colorado four years ago, Europe’s first victory on American soil.

Pettersen, 36, made the Solheim Cup more competitive and more dramatic.

“Suzann is always one of the thorns in the side of the Americans,” Morgan Pressel said in Germany.

This Solheim Cup won’t be quite the same without her. She’s 16-11-6 in these matches. Nobody teeing it up this week has won more Solheim Cup matches on the European or American side.

Nobody teeing it up this week has won more points (19) in the Solheim Cup.

“It made me really sad,” American Michelle Wie said of the Pettersen news. “I don't remember a Solheim without Suzann in it. She has always been such a big part of the European team. I remember going against her, being really good friends, always. They were matches you knew were going to get intense, were going to be really fun.”

That’s why this week won’t be the same without Pettersen inside the ropes.

Vegas lists Woods at 20-1 to win a major in 2018

By Will GrayNovember 22, 2017, 12:53 pm

He hasn't hit a competitive shot in nearly a year, but that hasn't stopped one Las Vegas outlet from listing Tiger Woods among the favorites to win a major in 2018.

The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook published betting odds this week on dozens of players to win any of the four majors next year. Leading the pack were Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth at 3/2, with Rory McIlroy next. But not far behind was Woods, who has been sidelined since February because of a back injury but was listed at 20/1.

Woods will make his much-anticipated return next week at the Hero World Challenge, and next month he will turn 42. Next summer will mark the 10-year anniversary of his last major championship victory, a sudden-death playoff win over Rocco Mediate at the 2008 U.S. Open.

Here's a look at the odds for several marquee players on winning any of the four biggest events in golf next year:

3/2: Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth

5/2: Rory McIlroy

7/2: Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day

9/2: Justin Rose

5/1: Brooks Koepka

15/2: Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Paul Casey

10/1: Adam Scott

12/1: Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Marc Leishman, Thomas Pieters, Patrick Reed

15/1: Daniel Berger, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Patrick Cantlay, Branden Grace, Kevin Kisner, Alex Noren, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Charl Schwartzel, Brandt Snedeker, Bubba Watson

20/1: Tiger Woods, Francesco Molinari, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Tony Finau, Martin Kaymer

25/1: Ryan Moore, Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson, Lee Westwood, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Chappell, Bryson DeChambeau, Bill Haas, Jason Dufner, Charley Hoffman

30/1: Pat Perez, Gary Woodland, Bernd Wiesberger, Brian Harman, Padraig Harrington, Emiliano Grillo, Ross Fisher, Si Woo Kim, J.B. Holmes

Open Qualifying Series kicks off with Aussie Open

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 4:24 pm

The 147th Open is nearly eight months away, but there are still major championship berths on the line this week in Australia.

The Open Qualifying Series kicks off this week, a global stretch of 15 event across 10 different countries that will be responsible for filling 46 spots in next year's field at Carnoustie. The Emirates Australian Open is the first event in the series, and the top three players among the top 10 who are not otherwise exempt will punch their tickets to Scotland.

In addition to tournament qualifying opportunities, the R&A will also conduct four final qualifying events across Great Britain and Ireland on July 3, where three spots will be available at each site.

Here's a look at the full roster of tournaments where Open berths will be awarded:

Emirates Australian Open (Nov. 23-26): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Joburg Open (Dec. 7-10): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

SMBC Singapore Open (Jan. 18-21): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Mizuno Open (May 24-27): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

HNA Open de France (June 28-July 1): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The National (June 28-July 1): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Dubai Duty Free Irish Open (July 5-8): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The Greenbrier Classic (July 5-8): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open (July 12-15): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

John Deere Classic (July 12-15): Top player (not otherwise exempt) among top five and ties

Stock Watch: Lexi, Justin rose or fall this week?

By Ryan LavnerNovember 21, 2017, 2:36 pm

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

RISING

Jon Rahm (+9%): Just imagine how good he’ll be in the next few years, when he isn’t playing all of these courses for the first time. With no weaknesses in his game, he’s poised for an even bigger 2018.

Austin Cook (+7%): From Monday qualifiers to Q-School to close calls on the Web.com, it hasn’t been an easy road to the big leagues. Well, he would have fooled us, because it looked awfully easy as the rookie cruised to a win in just his 14th Tour start.

Ariya (+6%): Her physical tools are as impressive as any on the LPGA, and if she can shore up her mental game – she crumbled upon reaching world No. 1 – then she’ll become the world-beater we always believed she could be.  

Tommy Fleetwood (+4%): He ran out of gas in Dubai, but no one played better on the European Tour this year than Fleetwood, Europe’s new No. 1, who has risen from 99th to 18th in the world.   

Lexi (+1%): She has one million reasons to be pleased with her performance this year … but golf fans are more likely to remember the six runners-up and two careless mistakes (sloppy marking at the ANA and then a yippy 2-footer in the season finale) that cost her a truly spectacular season.


FALLING

J-Rose (-1%): Another high finish in Dubai, but his back-nine 38, after surging into the lead, was shocking. It cost him not just the tournament title, but also the season-long race.  

Hideki (-2%): After getting blown out at the Dunlop Phoenix, he made headlines by saying there’s a “huge gap” between he and winner Brooks Koepka. Maybe something was lost in translation, but Matsuyama being too hard on himself has been a familiar storyline the second half of the year. For his sake, here’s hoping he loosens up.

Golf-ball showdown (-3%): Recent comments by big-name stars and Mike Davis’ latest salvo about the need for a reduced-flight ball could set up a nasty battle between golf’s governing bodies and manufacturers.

DL3 (-4%): Boy, the 53-year-old is getting a little too good at rehab – in recent years, he has overcome a neck fusion, foot injury, broken collarbone and displaced thumb. Up next is hip-replacement surgery.

LPGA Player of the Year (-5%): Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu tied for the LPGA’s biggest prize, with 162 points. How is there not a tiebreaker in place, whether it’s scoring average or best major performance? Talk about a buzzkill.

Titleist's Uihlein fires back at Davis over distance

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 12:59 am

Consider Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein unmoved by Mike Davis' comments about the evolution of the golf ball – and unhappy.

In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, the outlet which first published Davis' comments on Sunday, Uihlein took aim at the idea that golf ball distance gains are hurting the sport by providing an additional financial burden to courses.

"Is there any evidence to support this canard … the trickle-down cost argument?” he wrote (via Golf.com). “Where is the evidence to support the argument that golf course operating costs nationwide are being escalated due to advances in equipment technology?"

Pointing the blame elsewhere, Uihlein criticized the choices and motivations of modern architects.

"The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate," he wrote.

The Titleist CEO even went as far as to suggest that Tiger Woods' recent comments that "we need to do something about the golf ball" were motivated by the business interersts of Woods' ball sponsor, Bridgestone.

"Given Bridgestone’s very small worldwide market share and paltry presence in professional golf, it would seem logical they would have a commercial motive making the case for a reduced distance golf ball," he added.

Acushnet Holdings, Titleist's parent company, announced in September that Uihlein would be stepping down as the company's CEO at the end of this year but that he will remain on the company's board of directors.