Bunker Shots Solheim Cup

By Randall MellAugust 18, 2009, 4:00 pm
2009 Solheim CupWith the Solheim Cup at hand, we set the storylines for the week with the help of strong womens wisdom.
 
Its no fun to be favored this season
 
My passions were all gathered like fingers that made a fist. Drive is considered aggression today; I knew it then as purpose. ' Actress Bette Davis (1908-89)
 
The U.S. Solheim Cup team is an overwhelming favorite against Europe this week.
 
That ought to scare American captain Beth Daniel.
 
The way this year in golf is going, the U.S. team uniforms ought to be fitted with targets on the backs.
 
In this year of the spoiler we were just witness to one of the greatest upsets in the history of golf. Y.E. Yang played the ultimate spoiler in his victory against Tiger Woods Sunday at the PGA Championship.
 
The Americans are at home with the Solheim Cup to be played Friday through Sunday at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill. The United States is 7-3 in Solheim Cups and has never lost at home (5-0).
 
No American on the 12-woman roster is ranked lower than No. 51 in the Rolex Womens World Golf Rankings. Thats double the number of Europeans within the top 51. A third of the European roster isnt even among the top 100 in the world. Though Scotlands Catriona Matthew won the Ricoh Womens British Open, the European depth was exposed there when the top three players on the Ladies European Tour team points list all failed to make the cut. Frances Gwladys Nocera, Italys Diana Luna and Spains Tania Elosegui were cumulatively 55-over par in the seasons final major.
 
What the Solheim Cup needs . . .
 
Its not true that life is one damn thing after another; it is one damn thing over and over. ' Poet and playwright Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)
 
Theres pressure on Europe this week to win the Solheim Cup for first time on American soil.
 
Theres also pressure just to make the matches relevant.
 
With the Americans heavily favored, with media already grousing that the event needs to be revised to bring top players from other parts of the world into the mix, the last thing the Solheim Cup needs is for the Americans to jump to a quick start and win in a rout.
 
Of course, as the American leader, the last thing Daniel wants to hear is that these matches need an upset, but that would put a giant jolt back into the event.
 
The Ryder Cup was in this same spot not so long ago with Americans dominating that event. The United States had won 13 consecutive Ryder Cups when a new breed of European players sparked a 16 to 11 upset in 1985. Spains Seve Ballesteros, Englands Nick Faldo and Germanys Bernhard Langer helped change the nature of the competition to the point where the Americans were actually the underdog when they upset Europe at Valhalla last year. The competition was expanded from Great Britain/Ireland to all of Europe in 1979.
 
Of course, the Solheim Cup is a match-play event, from alternate-shot to four balls to singles. With match play a format that suits underdogs and upsets, Europe shouldnt be discounted too easily.
 
I do not believe this is going to be as lopsided as some people predict it will be, Golf Channel analyst Dottie Pepper said. I believe Alison Nicholas has a much stronger and deeper team than most people think. I think she got the help she needed from two particular players: Laura Davies, who added an event on her schedule, so she didn't force her captain to have to pick her, and also Catriona Matthew, obviously winning the Women's British Open last week, solidified her spot. She had two veteran players she didn't have to use as picks. I think it allowed her to fill out her team the way she did in a very good way. I don't think its going to be the runaway that so many people think it would be on paper.
 
American Pepper-ing at the Solheim Cup
 
Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. ' Author and activist Helen Keller (1880-1968)
 
Dottie Peppers strong link to the Solheim Cup goes beyond her impressive 5-1 record in singles.
 
If you Google Peppers name, the second item that pops up is YouTubes replay of her Chokin Freaking Dogs comment during the American victory in Sweden two years ago. She made the comment after American Sherri Steinhauer missed a short putt at the 18th hole in foursomes that allowed the Europeans to halve the match. The comment made it onto airwaves after an audio man failed to cut the microphones during a delay going to a commercial. It created a furor within the American teams ranks.
 
With Pepper headed back to the TV booth for Golf Channels Solheim Cup telecast this week, she understands media will revisit the issue.
 
We were in a commercial break, for I believe, YouTube says it's now 6.5 seconds, Pepper said. My niece was quick to bring it up,`Dot Dot, you're on YouTube. Not exactly the way I wanted to make it there. It's pretty obvious we were in a break. Yeah, my passion bled through. As a journalist, you have to take yourself out of the player's mode. In a break, I'm rooting as hard as I can for the American team. I'm a passionate sports buff. When I saw the American team really back pedaling, losing control of the matches, I said what I said. I didn't hide from it. If the players wanted to chew me out, they did. If they elected to handle it differently, they did that, too. I didn't run or hide from it. I stand by what I said. Certainly hope our audio is a little better next time.
 
American captain Beth Daniel was an assistant captain under Betsy King when Peppers comments became an issue.
 
Lets just say nobodys forgotten it, Daniel said. I know she didnt mean for it to be on the air, and I understand it was total emotion, but it was very hurtful to the team. I happened to be standing right on the green when Sherri hit the putt. I thought it was an excellent putt. I dont think it was really relayed how difficult the conditions were, how cold and chilly it was with 40 mph winds. You could have missed a 2-footer on a day like that. Ive come to terms with it. Its time to move on.
 
Steinhauer, whos recuperating from a pair of hip replacement surgeries, is the vice president of the LPGA Board of Directors and will attend this weeks event. She says she hasnt crossed paths with Pepper since the comment was aired.
 
Dotties who she is, and Ill leave it at that, Steinhauer said. Shes feisty, and Im feisty.
 
Getting in playoff position at the Wyndham
 
There is no such thing as inner peace. There is only nervousness and death. 'Author Fran Lebowitz
 
The Wyndham Championship offers PGA Tour pros their last chance to qualify for the FedEx Cup Playoffs, or to improve their point position for a playoff run.
 
The top 125 in FedEx Cup points earn spots at The Barclays in next weeks start to the PGA Tour Playoffs.
 
If they started this week, the Wyndhams defending champion wouldnt be playing in them.
 
Carl Pettersson, who beat Scott McCarron by two shots at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, N.C., to win Wyndham last year, is 151st in FedEx Cup points. He needs at least a solo 10th place finish to have a shot at cracking the top 125. Andres Romero holds the 125th spot, but he isnt in the field this week.
 
Other notable players outside the top 125 who are looking to play their way into the playoffs include Stuart Appleby (138th in points), Rocco Mediate (143rd) and David Duval (149th).
 
Big names searching for big turnarounds
 
Im in love with the potential of miracles. For me, the safest place is out on a limb. 'Actress Shirley MacLaine
 
Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott and John Daly are all in the Wyndham Championship field.
 
Garcia and Scott are suffering through down seasons and are barely qualified for the FedEx Cup playoffs. Garcia may be No. 7 in the Official World Golf Ranking, but hes just 115th in FedEx Cup points. Scott is 111th in points. Daly's last two events include a missed cut at the Buick Open and then a withdrawal following the first round of the PGA Championship citing a bad back.
 
Watch exclusive GolfChannel.com LIVE streaming coverage of Day 1 of the Solheim Cup, Friday from 2 pm- 4 pm ET.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Wyndham Championship
  • Full Coverage - Solheim Cup
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    Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week

    By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 6:06 pm

    Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.

    That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.

    Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.

    From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.

    Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.

    She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.

    She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.

    “Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”

    Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.

    With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.

    The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.

    She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.

    The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.

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    One & Done: 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 5:55 pm

    Beginning in 2018, Golf Channel is offering a "One & Done" fantasy game alternative. Choose a golfer and add the salary they earn at the event to your season-long total - but know that once chosen, a player cannot be used again for the rest of the year.

    Log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to start your own league and make picks for this week's event.

    Here are some players to consider for One & Done picks this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, where Hudson Swafford returns as the defending champion:

    Zach Johnson. The two-time major champ has missed the cut here three years in a row. So why include him in One & Done consideration? Because the three years before that (2012-14) included three top-25s highlighted by a third-place finish, and his T-14 at the Sony Open last week was his fifth straight top-25 dating back to September.

    Bud Cauley. Cauley has yet to win on Tour, but that could very well change this year - even this week. Cauley ended up only two shots behind Swafford last year and tied for 14th the year prior, as four of his five career appearances have netted at least a top-40 finish. He opened the new season with a T-7 in Napa and closed out the fall with a T-8 at Sea Island.

    Adam Hadwin. Swafford left last year with the trophy, but it looked for much of the weekend like it would be Hadwin's tournament as he finished second despite shooting a 59 in the third round. Hadwin was also T-6 at this event in 2016 and now with a win under his belt last March he returns with some unfinished business.

    Charles Howell III. If you didn't use him last week at the Sony Open, this could be another good spot for the veteran who has four top-15 finishes over the last seven years at this event, highlighted by a playoff loss in 2013. His T-32 finish last week in Honolulu, while not spectacular, did include four sub-70 scores.

    David Lingmerth. Lingmerth was in that 2013 playoff with Howell (eventually won by Brian Gay), and he also lost here in overtimei to Jason Dufner in 2016. The Swede also cracked the top 25 here in 2015 and is making his first start since his wife, Megan, gave birth to the couple's first child in December. Beware the sleep-deprived golfer.

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    DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

    By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

    ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

    The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

    ''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

    In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

    ''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

    The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

    ''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

    The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.

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    Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 2:52 pm

    Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.

    Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:

    As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.

    Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.