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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McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger

By Associated PressJanuary 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.

The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.

McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.

McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.

''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''

Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.

''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''

McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.

''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.

''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''

The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.

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Pre-tourney caution be damned: Stenson rides camel

By Grill Room TeamJanuary 16, 2018, 3:29 pm

If you were under the impression Henrik Stenson's days of engaging in pre-tournament hijinks at HSBC-sponsored events were over, then you don't know the Swedish Superman.

Ahead of this week's HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the 2016 champion golfer of the year decided to have some fun riding (and pretend-spanking) a camel:

If you can't imagine any reason Stenson wouldn't get on a camel, we will point you to the WGC-HSBC Champions back in October, when Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Haotong Li and Hideki Matsuyama took place in this hire-wire act:

Two weeks later, Stenson revealed a rib injury, and a report from the U.K.'s Telegraph stated "that not only was the Shanghai caper to blame, but that Stenson is annoyed about being persuaded to do it in the first place."

Stenson brushed back at that report in this Instagram post, saying that his "comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal."

I’m disappointed to have to pre-emptively withdraw from the Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player, I was looking forward to this important year-end event on the European Tour. At this point I am back home in Orlando waiting to do a scan on my ribs and get the necessary rest. I am still hoping for a quick recovery and have not ruled out playing in Dubai next week at this point. My comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal. The plan as of now will be to participate in the DP World Championship if my body is back to 100%. H

A post shared by Henrik Stenson (@henrikstenson) on

And it would appear he genuinely meant those comments, at least enough to get on a camel.

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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.