Quick Round With Dottie Pepper
Fans love that about her.
When she led the Americans to victory at the 1998 Solheim Cup at Muirfield Village Golf Club, European players famously placed her image on a punching bag. She was the American teams heart and soul, as apparent in her 5-1 singles record over the years as it was in Europes aggravation with her.
When audio technicians failed to cut off her microphone before going to a commercial break at the last Solheim Cup in Sweden, Pepper uttered a line that made the American team want to place her face on a punching bag. After Sherri Steinhauer missed a short putt at the 18th hole, allowing Europe to halve a match with her and Laura Diaz, Pepper let loose with her famous Choking freaking dogs comment. Though Pepper never meant the line to be aired, it created a furor within the American teams ranks.
Whether Pepper was attacking pins as an elite player, or problems as a TV analyst or magazine columnist, her gift has always been a fearless focus on what she believes matters most. She attacks life, and we like that about her. Smarts and passion work as well for her today in her duties with the Golf Channel and NBC as they did when she was a player.
Pepper, 43, is a 17-time LPGA winner with two major championships on her resume, the 1992 and 99 Kraft Nabisco Championships. Back, neck and wrist injuries led to her retirement after the 2004 season.
With the Solheim Cup just around the corner, senior writer Randall Mell caught up with Pepper for a quick round:
Do you want to be a Solheim Cup captain?
I couldnt fit it in my schedule right now, but maybe down the line that would work.
Youre back in the booth at the Solheim Cup in two weeks. Your Freaking Choking Dogs comment at the last Solheim Cup created a furor. You know it will be revisited. Were you surprised how big a deal that became?
Given the fact that the players werent given the accurate information, Im not surprised. I think once people realized the entire context of the whole thing, it wasnt as horrible as it sounded.
Do you think it hurt your chances to be a Solheim Cup captain?
It possibly could, but theres nothing I could do to change it.
Do you sense the team is over that and do you care? The team is completely different than it was then by quite a few bodies. It hasnt been brought up, frankly, other than busting my chops behind the scenes by people in television. Im saying its a non-factor, but Im sure it will be brought up in the next few weeks. If people really knew what happened, yes, I said it, six-and-a-half seconds after the audio guy was supposed to have turned all of us off. When people realize that, and they understand television, how things are said in breaks, funny and passionate, you may not agree with it, but you would understand it.
Did Sherri Steinhauer or Laura Diaz ever slap you with a white glove as an invitation to a duel?
No, Ill just leave it at that.
Is the Solheim Cup OK the way it is, the United States vs. Europe, or does it need a change to get more of the big international names in the mix?
I think the Solheim Cup has its place as Europe vs. the United States. Do I think someday, maybe not too far down the road, there needs to be something like Americas vs. the world (South, Central and North America), a Presidents Cup sort of event? I do. But the Solheim Cup, as it stands, has its place and a really good one.
What did you think of Beth Daniels Solheim Cup captains picks?
I thought Michelle (Wie) totally earned her place based on this years performance, especially when there were even fewer events than when Paula Creamer made it as a rookie in 2005. Of all the players up for the pick, she was, by far, playing the best. Juli (Inkster), quite frankly, wasnt picked for her golf skills right now. I think she fits the team room for her age experience. I think shes a mom figure thats maybe a little bit necessary because of the youthful nature of this team. Shes not playing very well right now, but the Solheim Cup sometimes turns a player around.
Only one American has won a major championship in the last nine played. No American has been the LPGAs Player of the Year in 15 years, since Beth Daniel, does it matter?
Americans have won (nine of the last 33 LPGA events). Its disappointing, yes. Do I think it matters? Yes. I think the surprising thing is that experience doesnt seem to matter in major championships anymore. You look over the last two-and-a-half years, and theres only been one player who has won more than one, Lorena Ochoa. That is even more of a surprise to me.
Why do you think that is?
I think everyones coming to this tour to prove themselves, but, honestly, I dont know.
Asians are dominating the LPGA. Obviously, with the controversy we saw over the LPGAs failed attempt to implement an English speaking policy, there are folks who think theres a problem. What do you think?
I think Se Ri Pak opened a lot of opportunities for a lot of young girls. The work ethic of these kids is phenomenal. Frankly, I think the American kids, right now, are a little soft. They havent had to work their way out of things and have been given a lot. You come up in a sport like golf and get to the highest levels, theres no other way around it but just to work hard. And, sometimes, if youve been given a lot as a kid, thats a hard deal. Sometimes you have the want for something that you dont really go out and get.
You adapted quickly to the analysts role, even the journalists role with your Sports Illustrated column. For former players, that can be a difficult adjustment, because they dont want to judge, or hurt the feelings, of other players. What was your attitude making the transition?
I was harder on myself as a player than any commentator could have been, or anybody else could have been, and I try to apply that same thing to myself, whether Im in the analysts position, or out on the course, or penning an article. I try to make myself as educated and prepared as I can be on every bit of it. Thats the way I was as a player, and its the way I take my job going forward. As a player, I wanted to know where I was weak, where I wasnt very good, and Ive tried to do the same thing in my role today.
Who should the next LPGA commissioner be?
The absolute best person, regardless of age, sex or job position currently.
Do you still play?
I still play.
How would you do in an LPGA event?
Physically, I dont know that I could put four rounds, or six rounds, together, but Id do OK. My golf isnt horrible.
Email your thoughts to Randall Mell
Spieth stalls on Moving Day at Australian Open
Moving Day? Not so much for Jordan Spieth in Round 3 of the Emirates Australian Open.
Spieth, the defending champion and also a winner in 2014, continued to struggle with his putter, shooting 1-under 70 on Saturday at the Australian Golf Club in Sydney.
“I was leaving them short yesterday and today it was kind of misreading, over-reading. I missed a lot of putts on the high side – playing wind or more break,” he said. “I just really haven’t found a nice marriage between line and speed to get the ball rolling.”
The world No. 2 started the day eight off the pace and was unable to make a charge. He had three birdies and two bogeys, including a 4 at the par-5 finishing hole.
Spieth praised his ball-striking in the wind-swept conditions, but lamented his putting, which has hampered him throughout the week.
“Ball-striking’s been fantastic. Just gotta get the putts to go,” he said.
Spieth, who is scheduled to compete in next week’s Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, is still holding out hope for a third title in four years at this event. He fired a brilliant 63 in very windy conditions to prevail in ’14.
“Tomorrow is forecasted as even windier than today so you can still make up a lot of ground,” he said. “A few years ago I shot a final round that was a nice comeback and anything like that tomorrow can still even be enough to possibly get the job done.”
South Korean LPGA stars lead KLPGA team
South Korea’s LPGA team of all-stars took the early lead Friday on the Korean LPGA Tour in a team event featuring twice as much star power as this year’s Solheim Cup did.
Eight of the world’s top 20 players are teeing it up in the ING Life Champions Trophy/ Inbee Park Invitational in Gyeongju. There were only four players among the top 20 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings when the United States defeated Europe in Des Moines, Iowa.
Park led the LPGA team to a 3 ½-to-2 ½ lead on the first day.
Park, who has been recuperating from a back injury for most of the second half of this season, teamed with Jeongeun Lee5 to defeat Hye Jin Choi and Ji Hyun Kim, 5 and 4, in the lead-off four-ball match.
So Yeon Ryu and Park, former world No. 1s and LPGA Rolex Player of the Year Award winners, will be the marquee pairing on Saturday. They will lead off foursomes against Ji Young Kim and Min Sun Kim.
Nine of the 11 South Koreans who won LPGA events this year are competing. Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim are the only two who aren’t.
The fourball results:
LPGA’s Inbee Park/ Jeongeun Lee5 def. Hye Jin Choi/Ji Hyun Kim, 5 and 4.
LPGA’s Mirim Lee/Amy Yang def. Ji Hyun Oh/Min Sun Kim, 3 and 1.
LPGA’s M.J. Hur/Mi Hyang Lee halved Ji Hyun Kim/Ji Young Kim.
KLPGA’s Ha Na Jang/Sun Woo Bae def. Sei Young Kim/Hyo Joo Kim, 5 and 4.
LPGA’s Na Yeon Choi/Jenny Shin halved Jin Young Ko/Da Yeon Lee
LPGA’s In Gee Chun/Eun Hee Ji halved Jeongeun Lee6/Char Young Kim.
NOTE: The KPGA uses numerals after a player’s name to distinguish players with the exact same name.
Cut Line: Lyle faces third bout with cancer
In this week’s holiday edition, Cut Line is thankful for the PGA Tour’s continued progress on many fronts and the anticipation that only a Tiger Woods return can generate.
The Fighter. That was the headline of a story Cut Line wrote about Jarrod Lyle following his second bout with cancer a few years ago, so it’s both sad and surreal to see the affable Australian now bracing for a third fight with leukemia.
Lyle is working as an analyst for Channel 7’s coverage of this week’s Emirates Australian Open prior to undergoing another stem cell transplant in December.
“I’ve got a big month coming,” Lyle said. “I’m back into hospital for some really heavy-duty treatment that’s really going to determine how things pan out for me.”
Twice before things have panned out for Lyle. Let’s hope karma has one more fight remaining.
Changing times. Last season the PGA Tour introduced a policy to add to the strength of fields, a measure that had long eluded officials and by most accounts was a success.
This season the circuit has chosen to tackle another long-standing thorn, ridiculously long pro-am rounds. While there seems little the Tour can do to speed up play during pro-am rounds, a new plan called a 9&9 format will at least liven things up for everyone involved.
Essentially, a tournament hosting a pro-am with four amateurs can request the new format, where one professional plays the first nine holes and is replaced by another pro for the second nine.
Professionals will have the option to request 18-hole pro-am rounds, giving players who limit practice rounds to just pro-am days a chance to prepare, but otherwise it allows Tour types to shorten what is an admittedly long day while the amateurs get a chance to meet and play with two pros.
The new measure does nothing about pace of play, but it does freshen up a format that at times can seem tired, and that’s progress.
Tweet of the week: @Love3d (Davis Love III) “Thanks to Dr. Flanagan (Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center) for the new hip and great care! Can’t wait to get back to (the PGA Tour).”
Love offered the particularly graphic tweet following hip replacement surgery on Tuesday, a procedure that he admitted he’d delayed because he was “chicken.”
The surgery went well and Love is on pace to return to the Tour sometime next spring. As for the possibility of over-sharing on social media, we’ll leave that to the crowd.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Distance control. The Wall Street Journal provided the octagon for the opening blows of a clash that has been looming for a long time.
First, USGA executive director Mike Davis told The Journal that the answer to continued distance gains may be a restricted-flight golf ball with an a la carte rule that would allow different organizations, from the Tour all the way down to private clubs, deciding which ball to use.
“You can’t say you don’t care about distance, because guess what? These courses are expanding and are predicted to continue to expand,” Davis said. “The impact it has had has been horrible.”
A day later, Wally Uihlein, CEO of Acushnet, which includes the Titleist brand, fired back in a letter to The Journal, questioning among other things how distance gains are putting a financial burden on courses.
“The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate,” Uihlein wrote.
For anyone paying attention the last few years, this day was inevitable and the likely start of what will be a drawn out and heated process, but Cut Line’s just not sure anyone wins when it’s over.
Tiger, take II. Tiger Woods’ return to competition next week at the Hero World Challenge was always going to generate plenty of speculation, but that hyperbole reached entirely new levels this week as players began giving personal accounts of the new and improved 14-time major champion.
“I did talk to him, and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years,’” Day said as he prepared for the Australian Open. “If he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.”
Rickie Fowler added to the frenzy when he was asked this month if the rumors that Woods is driving the ball by him, by 20 to 30 yards by some reports, are true?
“Oh, yeah,” he told Golf.com. “Way by.”
Add to all this a recent line that surfaced in Las Vegas that Woods is now listed at 20-1 to win a major in 2018, and it seems now may be a good time for a restraint.
Golf is better with Woods, always has been and always will be, but it may be best to allow Tiger time to find out where his body and game are before we declare him back.
Searching for answers. Twelve months ago, Hideki Matsuyama was virtually unstoppable and, regardless of what the Official World Golf Ranking said, arguably the best player on the planet.
Now a year removed from that lofty position, which featured the Japanese star finishing either first or second in six of his seven starts as the New Year came and went, Matsuyama has faded back to fifth in the world and on Sunday finished fifth, some 10 strokes behind winner Brooks Koepka, at the Dunlop Phoenix.
“That hurt,” Matsuyama told the Japan Times. “I don’t know whether it’s a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well. It seems there are many issues to address.”
Since his last victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Matsuyama has just two top-10 finishes on Tour and he ended his 2016-17 season with a particularly poor performance at the Presidents Cup.
While Matsuyama’s take seems extreme considering his season, there are certainly answers that need answering.
Video, images from Tiger, DJ's round with Trump
Updated at 9:50 p.m. ET
Images and footage from Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson's round Friday at Trump National in Jupiter, Fla., alongside President Donald Trump:
Trump Jupiter Tiger, Johnson, Faxon,Trumps staff &team treats everyone the best, members and media guests alike, FACT pic.twitter.com/TB61q7Qe3y— Dr. Eric Kaplan (@drekaplan) November 24, 2017
Tiger Woods is scheduled to make his return to competition next week at his Hero World Challenge. But first, a (quick) round with the President.
President Donald Trump tweeted on Friday that he was going to play at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Fla., alongside Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.
After Turkey call I will be heading over to Trump National Golf Club, Jupiter, to play golf (quickly) with Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson. Then back to Mar-a-Lago for talks on bringing even more jobs and companies back to the USA!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 24, 2017
Woods and President Trump previously played last December. Trump, who, according to trumpgolfcount.com has played 75 rounds since taking over the presidency, has also played over the last year with Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els and Hideki Matsuyama.