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.

Solheim Cup: Articles, photos and videos

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.

Getty Images

Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

Getty Images

Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

Getty Images

Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

Getty Images

Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.