Inkster remakes U.S. team in her image - and wins

By Randall MellSeptember 20, 2015, 7:29 pm

ST. LEON-ROT, Germany – You knew the Americans were a different team when they marched on stage for the Solheim Cup’s opening ceremony wearing Chuck Taylor Converse basketball shoes.

No six-inch stilletos this time, no overly fanciful bling, either.

They literally came to work with lunch buckets.

After preaching for nearly two years that she wanted a team with a blue-collar work ethic, U.S. captain Juli Inkster gave each of her players metal lunch buckets as gifts at week’s start that were painted red, white and blue.

Criticized for being more about style than substance, this American bunch delivered the latter in excess in Sunday’s unforgettable 14½ to 13½ comeback victory.

They did so transforming themselves in the image of their captain, and what a makeover it proved to be.

These American women took an exhilarating journey together going from record-breaking losers to record-setting winners.

This was virtually the same group that lost to the Europeans in a Solheim Cup record rout two years ago. Alison Lee was the only addition to this team who wasn’t there for the 18-10 loss at Colorado Golf Club. With Sunday’s victory in Germany, the Americans avoided losing this event for a third consecutive time with the largest comeback in Solheim Cup history. Down 10-6 going into singles, they claimed the cup winning eight of Sunday’s 12 singles matches and halving another. They’re the first team in cup history to come back from being four or more points down going into the final session.

“It's an incredible feeling to have this journey with these 12 ladies,” Inkster said. “They never gave up. They played with class and integrity, and they played with heart and fire in their belly.”

In Inkster-like, old school fashion, the U.S. team overcame more than a staggering deficit and the dispiriting controversy surrounding a phantom concession at the end of fourballs. They overcame the stinging sentiment that American women’s golf is losing its heart with the country’s best players too caught up in the fame and the celebrity of professional golf.

“If this doesn’t show that we American girls have heart, I don’t know what else we can do,” Paula Creamer said.

Somebody should have hooked up heart monitors to the 12 Americans carrying home the cup. It’s a pretty good bet they were all beating in sync with Inkster’s.

“I think each one of us had a little bit of Juli in us this week,” Stacy Lewis said.

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Inkster steered this team away from excessive “rah-rah stuff,” as she called it, and from face paint and those elaborate red, white and blue manicures. She got them focused more on pure golf amid the chaos of Solheim Cup week and did her best to get players to stick to routines that helped them week to week in their regular LPGA jobs. She even had them shaking hands after winning holes instead of prancing or high fiving.

And she somehow managed to do it all without forcing her way on them. In fact, she encouraged them to be themselves within the team construct.

In the end, Inkster walked away loving her team and what they gave her.

“I don't think there's anything wrong having style and substance,” Inkster said. “You want to have your own thing. You want to do your own. You want to go out and beat someone's brains out, and then put on some high heels and go out to dinner. That's what they do, and I'm all for that.

“I just wanted us to try to really just focus on the golf this week and on what we were trying to do. I think they did a great job of that.”

Inkster got 12 individuals to bond in a way they never had before in the Solheim Cup, borrowing from former U.S. Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger’s pod system. She did so after bringing in an expert to put them all through personality tests. Inkster even took that test herself.

“There were like 50 yes-and-no questions,” Brittany Lincicome said. “Things like whether we considered ourselves outgoing, or a leader.”

The team was divided into three pods of four players.

“Everybody bought into it,” Lewis said. “We became closer because of it.”

They even had a “Princess Pod,” they joked in a festive aftermath. Paula Creamer, Cristie Kerr, Morgan Pressel and Lexi Thompson good naturedly claimed ownership of the princess moniker.

“I don't think I've ever wanted to win more in my life than for this team and for Juli Inkster,” Kerr said. “It's been a great journey, amazing how she brought us together.”

This American team overcame one setback after another.

At week’s start, Alison Lee fell ill with food poisoning or a stomach virus that knocked her out of the opening foursomes session. Inkster was eager to team her with Michelle Wie, but she had to scramble last minute. The team could have taken that as a sign that the week was doomed to unravel one way or another again.

There was an emotional setback early Sunday morning, with the conclusion of Saturday’s suspended fourballs. That’s when controversy broke out over a phantom concession. That’s when Lee scooped up her ball at the 17th, thinking Suzann Pettersen and Charley Hull conceded her 18-inch par putt to halve the hole and keep the match square. They didn’t and the Americans lost the hole and the match.

Lee was devastated, in tears. The loss meant the difference between entering singles down 10-6 instead of 9-7. It was a large setback to deal with shortly before singles began.

“I think they were ready to go, but I also think that maybe just lit the fire a little bit more,” Inkster said. “I think in their bellies they wanted to just maybe do a little bit more. And that little bit more got us the Solheim.”

Inkster makes fun of her lack of organizational skills. She wore the wrong colors to a team practice. She forgot her credit card when she took the team out for dinner one night. Somehow, though, even that seemed to loosen the team up, giving them permission to be their imperfect selves but believe in their strengths.

Mostly, what Inkster did in Germany is bring out the best in every player.

We saw it in Creamer. Inkster made her a controversial captain’s pick with Creamer struggling this summer and then sent Creamer out in the lead-off match with Morgan Pressel to start the Solheim Cup. They brought home a point. She sent Creamer out in the all-important anchor match Sunday in singles and Creamer delivered again, clinching the victory in a 4-and-3 rout of Sandra Gal.

“I wanted to just go play some good golf, not only for our country and for our team, but for myself, as well,” Creamer said. “I just wanted to go out and prove a lot of things, and I think I did a good job of that.”

We saw something special from Gerina Piller when she buried that clutch 8-foot putt at the 18th hole to beat Caroline Masson 1 up. Piller knew if she missed that putt, the cup was Europe’s. She had to make it to keep the Americans alive. The pressure was immense on a talented player still seeking her first LPGA title.

We saw something special in Angela Stanford, mired in an awful Solheim Cup slump, beating Pettersen, the player the Americans most wanted to beat. Stanford was brilliant in the 2-and-1 victory, erasing all those sour Solheim Cup memories and taking down the player at the heart of the morning controversy.

We saw that in Pressel beating Catriona Matthew, who hadn’t lost her last six Solheim Cup singles matches, since way back in 1998.

We saw it in Kerr magnificently making eight birdies in a nine-hole stretch winning her match.

“For the last six years, we've been waiting to hold that trophy up again,” Pressel said. “Being on those teams, it hurts. Sitting out in the closing ceremonies, watching Team Europe, we've been there. We know how it feels. We certainly didn't want to go into Iowa (in 2017) hearing about it all over again.”

Instead, the Americans will go to Iowa to defend the cup. And who knows, maybe Inkster will be leading them as captain again.

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Singh's lawsuit stalls as judge denies motion

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 7:54 pm

Vijay Singh’s attempts to speed up the proceedings in his ongoing lawsuit against the PGA Tour have been stalled, again.

Singh – who filed the lawsuit in New York Supreme Court in May 2013 claiming the Tour recklessly administered its anti-doping program when he was suspended, a suspension that was later rescinded – sought to have the circuit sanctioned for what his attorneys argued was a frivolous motion, but judge Eileen Bransten denied the motion earlier this month.

“While the court is of the position it correctly denied the Tour’s motion to argue, the court does not agree that the motion was filed in bad faith nor that it represents a ‘persistent pattern of repetitive or meritless motions,’” Bransten said.

It also doesn’t appear likely the case will go to trial any time soon, with Bransten declining Singh’s request for a pretrial conference until a pair of appeals that have been sent to the court’s appellate division have been decided.

“What really should be done is settle this case,” Bransten said during the hearing, before adding that it is, “unlikely a trail will commence prior to 2019.”

The Tour’s longstanding policy is not to comment on ongoing litigation, but earlier this month commissioner Jay Monahan was asked about the lawsuit.

“I'll just say that we're going through the process,” Monahan said. “Once you get into a legal process, and you've been into it as long as we have been into it, I think it's fair to assume that we're going to run it until the end.”

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Videos and images from Tiger's Tuesday at Torrey

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 7:45 pm

Tiger Woods played a nine-hole practice round Tuesday at Torrey Pines South, site of this week's Farmers Insurance Open. Woods is making his first PGA Tour start since missing the cut in this event last year. Here's a look at some images and videos of Tiger, via social media:

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Power Rankings: 2018 Farmers Insurance Open

By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:59 pm

The PGA Tour remains in California this week for the Farmers Insurance Open. A field of 156 players will tackle the North and South Courses at Torrey Pines, with weekend play exclusively on the South Course.

Be sure to join the all-new Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge - including a new One & Done game offering - to compete for prizes and form your own leagues, and log on to to submit your picks for this week's event.

Jon Rahm won this event last year by three shots over Charles Howell III and C.T. Pan. Here are 10 names to watch in La Jolla:

1. Jon Rahm: No need to overthink it at the top. Rahm enters as a defending champ for the first time, fresh off a playoff win at the CareerBuilder Challenge that itself was preceded by a runner-up showing at Kapalua. Rahm is perhaps the hottest player in the field, and with a chance to become world No. 1 should be set for another big week.

2. Jason Day: The Aussie has missed the cut here the last two years, and he hasn't played competitively since November. But he ended a disappointing 2017 on a slight uptick, and his Torrey Pines record includes three straight top-10s from 2013-15 that ended with his victory three years ago.

3. Justin Rose: Rose ended last year on a tear, with three victories over his final six starts including two in a row in Turkey and China. The former U.S. Open winner has the patience to deal with a brutal layout like the South Course, as evidenced by his fourth-place showing at this event a year ago.

4. Rickie Fowler: This tournament has become somewhat feast-or-famine for Fowler, who is making his ninth straight start at Torrey Pines. The first four in that run all netted top-20 finishes, including two top-10s, while the last four have led to three missed cuts and a T-61. After a win in the Bahamas and T-4 at Kapalua, it's likely his mini-slump comes to an end.

5. Brandt Snedeker: Snedeker has become somewhat of a course specialist at Torrey Pines in recent years, with six top-10 finishes over the last eight years including wins in both 2012 and 2016. While he missed much of the second half of 2017 recovering from injury and missed the cut last week, Snedeker is always a threat to contend at this particular event.

6. Hideki Matsuyama: Matsuyama struggled to find his footing after a near-miss at the PGA Championship, but he appears to be returning to form. The Japanese phenom finished T-4 at Kapalua and has put up solid results in two of his four prior trips to San Diego, including a T-16 finish in his 2014 tournament debut. Matsuyama deserves a look at any event that puts a strong emphasis on ball-striking.

7. Tony Finau: Finau has the length to handle the difficult demands of the South Course, and his results have gotten progressively better each time around: T-24 in 2015, T-18 in 2016 and T-4 last year. Finau is coming off the best season of his career, one that included a trip to the Tour Championship, and he put together four solid rounds at the Sony Open earlier this month.

8. Charles Howell III: Howell is no stranger to West Coast golf, and his record at this event since 2013 includes three top-10 finishes highlighted by last year's runner-up showing. Howell chased a T-32 finish in Hawaii with a T-20 finish last week in Palm Springs, his fourth top-20 finish this season.

9. Marc Leishman: Leishman was twice a runner-up at this event, first in 2010 and again in 2014, and he finished T-20 last year. The Aussie is coming off a season that included two wins, and he has amassed five top-10s in his last eight worldwide starts dating back to the Dell Technologies Championship in September.

10. Gary Woodland: Woodland played in the final group at this event in 2014 before tying for 10th, and he was one shot off the lead entering the final round in 2016 before Mother Nature blew the entire field sideways. Still, the veteran has three top-20s in his last four trips to San Diego and finished T-7 two weeks ago in Honolulu.

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Davis on distance: Not 'necessarily good for the game'

By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:28 pm

It's a new year, but USGA executive Mike Davis hasn't changed his views on the growing debate over distance.

Speaking with Matt Adams on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio, Davis didn't mince words regarding his perception that increased distance has had a negative impact on the game of golf, and he reiterated that it's a topic that the USGA and R&A plan to jointly address.

"The issue is complex. It's important, and it's one that we need to, and we will, face straight on," Davis said. "I think on the topic of distance, we've been steadfast to say that we do not think increased distance is necessarily good for the game."

Davis' comments echoed his thoughts in November, when he stated that the impact of increased distance has been "horrible" for the game. Those comments drew a strong rebuke from Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein, who claimed there was "no evidence" to support Davis' argument.

That argument, again reiterated Tuesday, centers on the rising costs associated with both acquiring and maintaining increased footprints for courses. Davis claimed that 1 in 4 courses in the U.S. is currently "not making money," and noted that while U.S. Open venues were 6,800-6,900 yards at the start of his USGA tenure, the norm is now closer to 7,400-7,500 yards.

"You ask yourself, 'What has this done for the game? How has that made the game better?'" Davis said. "I think if we look at it, and as we look to the future, we're asking ourselves, saying, 'We want the game of golf to be fun.' We want it to continue to be challenging and really let your skills dictate what scores you should shoot versus necessarily the equipment.

"But at the same time, we know there are pressures on golf courses. We know those pressures are going to become more acute."