Pressure on as U.S. women try to qualify for Solheim

By Randall MellAugust 20, 2015, 3:45 pm

The pressure will run deep through the field at this week’s Canadian Pacific Women’s Open with more than a winner’s trophy and check as prizes to claim.

It’s the last week Americans can qualify to make the Solheim Cup (and Europeans, too).

There’s pressure on American veterans Paula Creamer, Jessica Korda and Brittany Lang. They’re all outside the qualifying criteria.

There’s pressure on Gerina Piller to hold down the final spot on the U.S. points list.

There’s pressure on rookie Alison Lee to hold down the final spot on the U.S. world rankings list.

There’s pressure on Michelle Wie to show American captain Juli Inkster she’s healthy enough to help the United States win.

And there’s pressure on Inkster, who’s going to disappoint somebody with her two captain’s picks.

“It’s going to be tough,” Inkster said. “I’m not looking forward to it. I’m already stressing out about it. I’ve got to go with my gut and go with who I think is going to fit in best with the team and what we need in the team. It’s never fun to disappoint anybody. So, it’s going to be a tough week for me.”

Wie’s been struggling with left hip, knee and ankle injuries for the last three months. She’s playing the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open, her first start since withdrawing after a fall at the Ricoh Women’s British Open three weeks ago. Inkster’s sure to be watching Wie closely.

“We’ve had a lot of discussions,” Inkster told Golf Channel’s Tom Abbott. “She’s going to be playing this week and see how it goes, but that’s a big question mark right there. I really need her to be 100 percent over there. She said she would be honest with me come Saturday and Sunday. That’s all I can ask.”

The Americans know how important taking a healthy roster to Germany will be. Back in 2011, Cristie Kerr conceded her singles match in Ireland because of a wrist injury. She was the anchor match with the Americans losing, 15-13.

Inkster says she needs players who can give her 36 holes a day.

“If you can’t play 36 holes, you aren’t really helping the team out,” Inkster said.

Piller holds down the eighth and final qualifying spot on the U.S. points list, and she’s fairly safe there. There are only four players who can bump her out of the top eight and three of those players have to win to do so. No. 9 Lizette Salas could move up with a fourth-place or better finish, depending what Piller does. No. 10 Brittany Lang, No. 11 Paula Creamer and No. 12 Jessica Korda need to win to have a chance to move into the top eight. Piller can hold them all off with a good finish. Below is a look at the current U.S. standings, with the point differential between respective players and Piller in parentheses.

A victory this week is worth 60 points, second place is worth 30, third 28.5, with points awarded down to 20th place (3 points).

1. Stacy Lewis: 1009.5 7. Angela Stanford: 326.5
2. Lexi Thompson: 681.5 8. Gerina Piller: 318.5
3. Cristie Kerr: 499.5 9. Lizette Salas (-27)
4. Michelle Wie: 463.5 10. Brittany Lang (-35)
5. Brittany Lincicome: 440.5 11. Paula Creamer (-41)
6. Morgan Pressel: 398.5 12. Jessica Korda (-59.5)

Salas is No. 31 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings and holds the top spot on the U.S. world rankings list. The top two Americans in the world rankings who aren’t already qualified by points will make the team. Lee is second on that list at No. 34 in the world. Lee’s task holding the spot is a lot more difficult than Piller’s with a lot more volatility tied to the world rankings.

There are 10 Americans behind Lee in the world rankings that have mathematical chances to pass her in the world rankings with big weeks. Nobody’s been talking about Jane Park or Jaye Marie Green as possible American team members. They’re ranked No. 75 and No. 112 in the world, respectively, but they both still have chances to make the team via the world rankings list with victories this week.

There are four players within nine spots of Lee in the world rankings: Creamer (No. 37), Korda (No. 39), Lang (No. 41) and Mo Martin (No. 43).

Creamer has a chance to pass Lee in the world rankings with a finish of 20th or better if Lee misses the cut. So much depends on what other players do. The world rankings permutations are so complex, Rolex world rankings administrator Bob Rodgers is going to be on hand this weekend to help the Americans and Europeans crunch the numbers at Vancouver Golf Club.

While it’s difficult to imagine Creamer won’t be a captain’s pick if she doesn’t automatically qualify, Inkster doesn’t sound as if she’s giving anybody assurances. Creamer has played on the last five U.S. Solheim Cup teams. She has a 12-6-5 record.

“It would be hard to leave Paula Creamer off the team, but I need to have my best players,” Inkster told Abbott. “We’ve lost the last two times, and I really want to turn that around.”

Creamer has missed the cut in her last two starts. She has three top-10 finishes this season with her best finishes a T-6 at the Walmart NW Arkansas in June and a T-5 at the Kingsmill Championship in May.

“I've never been in this situation before,” Creamer said. “I've been on five Solheim Cup teams, and I've made my way on every one of them. It is what it is. I wish I would have played a little bit better, but I've been really working on things and trying to just get better in general. I know I can do it. There is no reason why I can't go on and play a good week.”

Korda made the last American team, but she has struggled this summer with an elbow injury. She has missed the cut or withdrawn in five of her last six starts. Korda would love to play, but she says she understands a player can’t expect a captain’s pick.

“There are ten spots to be had, and if you can't play on to those ten spots, then you're not going to play and that’s your own fault,” Korda said. “You had the opportunity and two years to qualify. Sometimes that's the way it happens. I started the season on fifth in the rankings, and now I'm outside of everything.”

Lang takes some solid play over the last two months to Canada. She tied for sixth at the Meijer Classic and tied for fifth at the Marathon Classic. She’s 5-4-2 playing on the last three Solheim Cup teams.

“I fall asleep thinking about the fun Solheims I've had and how much it means to me,” Lang said. “But at the end of the day, that's not going to make me play better. You just have to come out and keep doing what you've been doing.”

Martin, Austin Ernst and Christina Kim have all been identified as being on Inkster’s short list.

“We've had these practices and we've had these dinners,” Inkster said. “You get used to being on a team, and then I tell you you're not on the team, it's going to be tough.”

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.