The other side of Annika at the Solheim Cup

By Randall MellAugust 22, 2017, 4:30 pm

The losing captains in these international team events get torn to shreds.

They get blamed for everything from pairings to picks to international financial markets taking dives.

That’s practically the rule in Ryder Cups and Solheim Cups, but Annika Sorenstam distinguished herself last week as an exception to the rule.

Yes, Europe got routed, 16½ to 11½, but this was an odd Solheim Cup, where the final score didn’t really reflect the entertainment value these teams offered.

Somehow, some way, there was great theater in so many matches within this lopsided matchup, from Danielle Kang’s flamboyant debut making putts from all over the place, to Cristie Kerr’s record-setting performances, to Anna Nordqvist mustering triumphant efforts playing through mononucleosis.

And we even got another memorable comeback Sunday, but it was Lexi Thompson delivering it after losing the first four holes to Nordqvist before regrouping to halve the match. It was a terrific duel that made Sunday’s finish worth watching by itself.



When I remember Sorenstam’s captaincy, I won’t remember the final score as much as I’ll remember seeing Annika open herself up to us like we’ve never seen before.

This is one of the all-time greats, a Hall of Famer who won more LPGA titles (72) than anyone except Kathy Whitworth (88) and Mickey Wright (82), but Sorenstam distinguished herself in this losing effort. She showed her team how to lose with grace and dignity and how to put up a fight even when you are overmatched.

I’ll remember Sorenstam for her inspiring appearance Saturday in the media center, where this captain, who was so measured her entire playing career, let her guard down and invited us into her head and heart. She was as good as you could possibly ask a captain to be answering questions with her team getting trounced worse going into singles than any European team in the history of the Solheim Cup. Chin up, jaw resolutely set, she let us hear how a champion thinks when her back’s to a wall. She struck such a genuine tone. There was a bonus, too, there was her unexpected good humor that night, which sent a couple jolts of laughter through the interview room.

I wrote early in the week that Sorenstam won with cold precision as a player, that she was a bit of a loner in her prime who seemed to use the distance she created with other players to cultivate the aura of intimidation that added to her advantage.

That’s the way it was, but it was unfair in failing to reveal how she has evolved away from the game and how she would be as a captain.

I’ll remember Sorenstam in Des Moines, Iowa, locked arm in arm with her European players, walking up the fairway in solidarity at the end of their defeat, a team that didn’t point fingers or grumble but gave us some good theater in stirring scenes within the rout. Sorenstam built that unified front, something that is harder to do in defeat than victory.



Yes, there was tension between Sorenstam and U.S. captain Juli Inkster coming into these matches, something that happens when two giants of the game have butted heads with valued championships and trophies at stake, but it doesn’t mean there wasn’t mutual respect. There was.

Somewhere in the cosmos, Louise Solheim had to be smiling down when Sorenstam donned a Viking helmet with horns and blonde braids and danced with Inkster on the first tee during Sunday singles.

Inkster and Sorenstam were models of competitive decorum.

I’ll remember so many things beyond the final score in Sorenstam’s captaincy. Yes, you can second guess her captain’s picks, taking rookies over proven veterans like Azahara Munoz and Sandra Gal, but Sorenstam was dealt a tough hand with Suzann Pettersen withdrawing because of a bad back, with Charley Hull missing all of Saturday with a wrist injury, with Nordqvist understandably having to rest at least one session with mono and with Carlota Ciganda losing form at the worst possible time, but Sorenstam never grumbled about it. She showed her team how you meet adversity.

“It was pretty inspiring,” Hull said. “And it was quite cool. You kind of get into the mind of the greatest female golfer that's lived. And that's pretty special.”

Hull couldn’t have said it much better. It’s a shame Sorenstam was so resolute in saying she wouldn’t be pursuing a return as captain next time around, because that might be Europe’s worst loss from this. Europe ought to be clamoring as hard for Sorenstam’s return as captain as the United States is for Inkster’s return. We would all win with that.

McCormick to caddie for Spieth at Aussie Open

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 2:21 pm

When Jordan Spieth returns next week to defend his title at the Australian Open, he will do so without his regular caddie on the bag.

Spieth and Michael Greller have combined to win 14 tournaments and three majors, including three events in 2017. But Greller's wife, Ellie, gave birth to the couple's first child on Oct. 13, and according to a report from the Australian Herald Sun he will not make the intercontinental trip to Sydney, where Spieth will look to win for the third time in the last four years.

Instead, Spieth will have longtime swing coach and native Aussie Cameron McCormick on the bag at The Australian Golf Club. McCormick, who won PGA Teacher of the Year in 2015, is originally from Melbourne but now lives in Texas and has taught Spieth since he was a rising star among the junior golf ranks in Dallas.

While Greller has missed rounds before, this will be the first time as a pro that Spieth has used a different caddie for an entire event. Greller was sidelined with an injury last year in Singapore when Spieth's agent, Jay Danzi, took the bag, and trainer Damon Goddard has subbed in twice when Greller was sick, including this year at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational.

Spieth's torrid 2015 season traced back to his win at The Australian in 2014, and he returned to Oz last year where he won a playoff at Royal Sydney over Cameron Smith and Ashley Hall.

Rahm wins finale, Fleetwood takes Race to Dubai

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 1:42 pm

Jon Rahm captured the final tournament on the European Tour calendar, a result that helped Tommy Fleetwood take home the season-long Race to Dubai title.

Rahm shot a final-round 67 to finish two shots clear of Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Shane Lowry at the DP World Tour Championship. It's the second European Tour win of the year for the Spaniard, who also captured the Irish Open and won on the PGA Tour in January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

"I could not be more proud of what I've done this week," Rahm told reporters. "Having the weekend that I've had, actually shooting 12 under on the last 36 holes, bogey-free round today, it's really special."

But the key finish came from Justin Rose, who held the 54-hole lead in Dubai but dropped back into a tie for fourth after closing with a 70. Rose entered the week as one of only three players who could win the Race to Dubai, along with Sergio Garcia and Fleetwood, who started with a lead of around 250,000 Euros.


DP World Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the DP World Tour Championship


With Fleetwood in the middle of the tournament pack, ultimately tying for 21st after a final-round 74, the door was open for Rose to capture the title thanks to a late charge despite playing in half the events that Fleetwood did. Rose captured both the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open, and was one round away from a two-trophy photo shoot in Dubai.

Instead, his T-4 finish meant he came up just short, as Fleetwood won the season-long race by 58,821 Euros.

The title caps a remarkable season for Fleetwood, who won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship as well as the French Open to go along with a pair of runner-up finishes and a fourth-place showing at the U.S. Open.

"I find it amazing, the season starts in November, December and you get to here and you're watching the last shot of the season to decide who wins the Race to Dubai," Fleetwood said at the trophy ceremony. "But yeah, very special and something we didn't really aim for at the start of the year, but it's happened."

Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 2:05 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.

A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.

In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.

“I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”

Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.


CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


“I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.

Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.

“We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”

How does she feel?

“I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”

Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.

New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:32 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.

Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.

She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.

“I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”

Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.


CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.

“Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.

Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.

“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”