Ciganda's hole-out eagle caps big day for Europe

By Randall MellSeptember 18, 2015, 7:56 pm

ST. LEON-ROT, Germany – Carlota Ciganda’s caddie didn’t need a towel to tend to his player’s club after she holed out from 135 yards for eagle in a spectacular end to Friday’s play at the Solheim Cup.

He needed a fire extinguisher.

Charley Hull and Anna Nordqvist brought just as much heat on the Americans helping Europe turn momentum its way in afternoon fourballs, and yet the Europeans still have some work to do closing out the session. With Friday’s suspension of play due to darkness, the United States has a chance to neutralize Europe’s good work in Saturday morning’s resumption of fourballs.

Europe won the first two afternoon fourball matches to take a 4-2 lead with two suspended matches still to complete.

Germany’s Sandra Gal and Caroline Masson are 1 up with three holes to go in one suspended match.

Ciganda and Mel Reid are all square with one hole to go in the other.

The Europeans owned the afternoon. They put some frenzy into the end of the day with Ciganda and Reid turning around their match late against Cristie Kerr and Lexi Thompson. With the Euros 2 down, Reid birdied the 16th to cut the deficit to 1 down. Ciganda followed by holing out with a 9-iron at the 17th to square the match.

Solheim Cup: Articles, photos and videos

The shot put a jolt into the European ranks, who didn’t want the session to end. Ciganda and Reid moved on to the 18th tee, but Kerr and Thompson never made it there, not wanting to finish with the sun disappearing on the horizon.

“It got pretty dark,” Kerr said. “It’s too dark to be out here.”

Though momentum tilted hard to the Europeans, so much still depends on Saturday’s finish to the suspended fourball matches.

The Europeans could sweep the fourballs, taking a 6-2 lead, or the Americans could still win the two suspended matches, pulling to a 4-4 tie.

Two years ago, the Europeans swept the Saturday afternoon fourballs on their way to a record 18-10 rout of the Americans.

Morgan Pressel reminded Kerr what is still possible Saturday morning.

“I told her the best part is (Ciganda) holed out and Mel made that great putt on 16, but you can still come out tomorrow morning and win this match,” Pressel said. “So, it doesn't really matter. It will make those shots meaningless, in the sense of points put on the board.”

A 65-minute rain delay Friday afternoon led to the suspension of play due to darkness.

Pressel was glad to see play halted.

“I think with the rain delay, we definitely needed a little break in their momentum,” Pressel said. “Same thing with darkness. The girls were running to 18 to tee off, but it was so dark it wasn't appropriate. They wanted to finish, because they know the momentum is in their favor.”

Ciganda was explaining her hole out to reporters outside the interview room in the media center Friday evening when U.S. captain Juli Inkster passed by on her way in.

“Really?” Inkster teased Ciganda. “Are you kidding me?”

Ciganda’s terrific shot reverberated into the night, with European fans celebrating as they left the grounds in darkness, chanting, dancing and singing their theme song, “Ole, Ole.”

Standing over her last shot, Ciganda said she wanted to hit pitching wedge.

“I thought I could hit it that hard,” Ciganda said. “My caddie told me a 9-iron, `You have to hit it hard. It's cold now, so it's not going to fly much.’ And I hit it, and it looked really good.

“I have no words. It’s unbelievable.”

Inkster, who has played more Solheim Cups (9) than any American, knows how quickly things change in these matches.

“Hopefully, tomorrow we'll turn things around and get some momentum,” Inkster said.

Thompson was the American star of the fourballs. She made five birdies and an eagle in a fireworks show against Ciganda and Reid, but the Europeans had more firepower.

Hull and Nordqvist joined Ciganda as the European stars of the afternoon fourballs.

Hull, the quirky 19-year-old Englishwoman, won both of her matches Friday closing out with clutch walk-off putts.

In the morning foursomes, Hull made a 25-foot birdie putt at the 17th hole to help her and Reid defeat Michelle Wie and Brittany Lincicome, 2 and 1.

In the afternoon fourballs, Hull made a 15-foot putt for par at the 16th to help her and Gwladys Nocera defeat Angela Stanford and Alison Lee, 3 and 2. Hull made seven birdies in the match, five in a row on the back nine.

“I feel like I putt well under pressure at the Solheim,” Hull said.

Hull’s flighty sense of humor has endeared her to European and American fans. Two years ago, she charmed American audiences as a fearless rookie in the matches in Colorado, going 2-1. She routed Creamer, 5 and 4, in singles and then asked for her autograph.

“I just speak and what comes out of my mouth comes out of my mouth,” Hull said. “Sometimes, they love it. And I'm just me.”

Nordqvist also made seven birdies in her fourball match. She almost didn’t need fellow Swede Caroline Hedwall to defeat Morgan Pressel and Paula Creamer, 4 and 3. While Hedwall’s Solheim Cup record improved to 8-1-1, she struggled.

“Anna did great,” said Pressel, who teamed with Creamer to win a morning foursomes match. “She was pretty much out there on her own today.

“We just made too many mistakes, didn't put any pressure on them. Anna played great, every iron was inside 10-15 feet.”

As great as Nordqvist, Hull and Ciganda were, the Americans can minimize the damage done with a strong Saturday morning finish.

Getty Images

Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

Getty Images

Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

Getty Images

DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

Getty Images

LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.