Inkster's players see the light

By Randall MellAugust 20, 2017, 1:40 am

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa – The Miley Cyrus hit got the fun going early.

Standing on the first tee at day’s start, U.S. Solheim Cup captain Juli Inkster put her hands on her head and swayed her hips to the sweet rhythms of the Cyrus song wafting from the speakers across Des Moines Golf and Country Club.

Party in the USA . . .

The lyrics seemed to echo through Saturday’s morning foursomes and afternoon fourballs as the United States continued to build on its commanding lead in this biennial international team event.

While Inkster refuses to take anything for granted, or acknowledge victory is some foregone conclusion, her team looks poised to roll to its most lopsided victory in the history of the Solheim Cup.

The United States leads Europe 10 ½ to 5 ½ going into Sunday singles.

The Americans overcame a 10-6 deficit going to Sunday singles to win in Germany two years ago, but Europe will have to top that historic comeback. No Solheim Cup team has ever come from five points behind to win these matches.

“We played amazing,” Inkster said. “But, as you know, closing it out is the toughest thing to do. We need one more great day of golf.”

The Americans need only claim 3 ½ of the 12 available points in singles to retain the cup and four to win it outright.

“I know Annika's team will not quit,” Inkster said. “So we'll be ready for the task.”

Inkster’s dance at the first tee Saturday wasn’t her first this week. She seems to have taken possession of that opening tee box, playfully exhorting the crowd and joking with her players. She appears to be sending an unspoken message to every player she is sending out.

“We keep it loose,” Inkster said. “We keep it light. That's just what I'm trying to project.”


Solheim Cup: Articles, photos and videos


She’s doing a fabulous job of it.

“I think this year's different,” said Brittany Lang, who teamed with Brittany Lincicome to shoot 12 under in a 2-up fourball victory. “I think we're focusing on a lot of fun.

“Juli has just wanted us to be a little bit more relaxed, and she said something really cool. She said, `I don't need you to play any better than you do all year in tournaments.’ The Solheim Cup is not usually about fun. It’s about keeping the cup and winning. But since we've started to have fun, we've played some really good golf.”

The Americans crammed a lot of fun into this Saturday as they claimed five of the eight points available on the day, three of the four available in fourballs.

Kerr holed out for eagle from a greenside bunker at the 15th and flung her club in the air. Kerr teamed with Lexi Thompson to shoot 13 under over 16 holes in a 4-and-2 fourballs victory against Georgia Hall and Catriona Matthew.

“We faced a difficult team,” Kerr said. “I told Lexi, we might have to shoot 59 to beat these guys, and we almost made that.”

Kerr and Thompson also won their morning foursomes match. The victories moved Kerr past Inkster for most wins (16) and most points (20) by an American in Solheim Cup history.

Lincicome started her fourballs match with six consecutive birdies, and then Lang holed out from 86 yards in some nasty rough for eagle at the seventh. They combined for a best-ball 61 on the par-73 layout in a tough 2-up victory against Mel Reid and Carlota Ciganda.

“Seemed like the hole was the size of Texas,” Lincicome said.

Lincicome said the six straight birdies is probably her personal record.

Lincicome said she and her husband have a running joke "that if I make three birdies in a row, he has to send me a picture with his shirt off. ... I’m not sure what six gets us."

Lincicome laughed.

“Is my face red?” she said.

Austin Ernst chipped in for birdie at the 15th in fourballs, helping to propel her and Paula Creamer to a 2-and-1 victory against Karine Icher and Madelene Sagstrom. They also won their foursomes match in the morning, improving Creamer to 16-9-5 in her Solheim Cup career, and pushing her past Inkster as the winningest foursomes player in American Solheim history. Creamer is now 7-4-3 in foursomes, with the 8½ points, a point better than Inkster.

“All those Twitter people out there who said I shouldn’t have picked Paula, shame on you,” Inkster said.

Inkster may be holding off on any celebrations, but she will be looking to keep the fun going Sunday.

“I think everybody puts a lot of emphasis on wins and losses,” Inkster said. “These girls have worked really hard two years to make the Solheim Cup team. And, yeah, it's great to win, and, yeah, it would be great to win. But it's not about that.”

Inkster said some of her best memories were from losses, too, from the camaraderie and friendships and the team building.

“They want to be a team,” Inkster said. “But sometimes you have to learn how to be a team. I think they’re learning how to be a team.”

That may be Inkster’s greatest gift to her players as they seek to link her with Judy Rankin as the only Americans to be the winning captains in back-to-back Solheim Cups.

Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

“I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”


RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.

“He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook sank a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at RSM Classic.

Cook has gone 36 holes without making a bogey on the Plantation Course or the Seaside Course at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

Cook was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back.

Bubba (64) fires his lowest round of 2017

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:12 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Bubba Watson’s plan when he left the Dell Technologies Championship in September was to take a few months off and come back fresh in 2018

Those plans changed after a few weeks.

“What we figured out was the mental side, preparing for kindergarten - not for me, for my son - preparing for [wife] Angie's knee surgery. It's been a tough go,” Watson said.

“Being home and being with the family and everything, I realized how much I missed the game of golf, and that's why I wanted to come and play in these tournaments.”


RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


The plan has paid off this week at the RSM Classic, where Watson is tied for 12th place after a second-round 64 on the Seaside course moved him to 7 under par.

Watson, who tied for 51st two weeks ago in Las Vegas, got off to a quick start on Day 2, playing the opening nine in 29. Despite a miscue at the 14th hole, when his tee shot wedged into a tree, he was solid coming in for his best individual round this year.

The left-hander was particularly sharp with his ball-striking after what has been a difficult year.

“I want to play golf now and right now I'm swinging at it pretty nicely,” he said.

S.H. Park (65) builds three-shot lead at LPGA finale

By Doug FergusonNovember 17, 2017, 9:58 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Golf felt so easy to Sung Hyun Park that only when she took out her card to catch up on her scores did she realize she had closed out the front nine with five straight birdies at the CME Group Tour Championship.

Park kept right on attacking.

The 24-year-old from South Korea added a 30-foot eagle putt late in her second round and finished with a 7-under 65, giving her a three-shot lead going into the weekend at Tiburon Golf Club.

Nothing seems to bother her, even the chance to cap off an amazing rookie season by sweeping all the big awards on the LPGA Tour.

''To be honest, I don't feel quite as nervous as I thought I would,'' Park said through an interpreter. ''After the first shot, after the first hole, I felt a lot more comfortable. I'm not feeling as nervous as I thought I might be going into today.''

Leave that to the players chasing her.

Even with a three-putt bogey on the final hole, Park was at 12-under 132 and was three shots clear of Caroline Masson (66) and Sarah Jane Smith (69).


CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


More importantly, none of the other players in the chase for the $1 million Race to the CME Globe bonus or any other big award was within five shots of Park, who is trying to become the first rookie since Nancy Lopez in 1978 to win LPGA player of the year.

Lexi Thompson, who leads the Race to the CME Globe and the Vare Trophy for lowest adjusted scoring average, shot a 67 and wound up losing ground. She was six shots behind and must stay within 10 shots of Park to win the Vare.

So Yeon Ryu, who leads the points-based award for player of the year, managed a 71 with her sore right shoulder but was 11 shots back.

The other two players who need to win the tournament to collect the $1 million bonus also had their work cut out for them. Brooke Henderson had another 70 and was eight shots behind, while world No. 1 Shanshan Feng shot 73 and was 11 shots behind.

Park was in control, only she didn't see it that way.

''I don't think it's quite that far of a lead,'' Park said. ''Two, three shots of a lead can change at any moment. We will have to see what's in store for this weekend.''

Park began her big run with an 18-foot birdie on No. 5, got up-and-down for birdie from just off the green at the par-5 sixth, holed a 25-foot birdie putt on No. 7, and then closed out the front nine with birdie putts from 8 feet and 15 feet.

''I actually didn't know that I was going five birdies in a row,'' Park said. ''Come hole No. 10, I realized that I hadn't been jotting down my scores as diligently, and so I realized it a little bit later on. And it felt great.''

That gave her the lead by one shot over Suzann Pettersen, except that Pettersen faded badly on the back nine.

Pettersen dropped four shots in a three-hole stretch by getting out of position off the tee and she shot 39 on the back nine for a 70 to fall five shots behind.

''I feel like I'm playing good,'' Pettersen said. ''Three bad drives on the back nine cost me four shots. That should not be possible on this course, where the fairways are about 100 yards wide.''

Park was honored at an awards banquet Thursday night as the LPGA rookie of the year. Now, she has more awards in her sights. A victory would give her the award for player of the year. She would capture the money title, which she leads over Ryu. And depending on how the weekend goes, she might be able to surpass Thompson in the race for the Vare Trophy.

Thompson did well to recover from two bogeys on her opening three holes.

''I hit a few really erratic shots in the beginning. It wasn't a good start to the round,'' Thompson said. ''Just tried to stay positive and find something that could work for the last 14, 15 holes.''

Lydia Ko fell six shots behind in her bid to avoid a winless season. She was one shot behind going into the second round but managed only three birdies in her round of 71.

Park, meanwhile, had everything going her way. Even when she pulled her drive on the par-5 14th into a sandy area with a root next to her ball, she picked it clear and sent it through a goal post of trees back to the fairway. Three holes later, she blasted a drive and had only a 7-iron into the green at the par-5 17th, which she hit to 30 feet and made the long putt.

Does anything make her nervous?

''I hate spiders,'' she said. ''But in terms of golf, I always get nervous to this day on the first tee. I can feel my heart pounding.''

It's a feeling that doesn't appear to last very long.