Risky business: O'Toole the ultimate wildcard

By Randall MellAugust 22, 2011, 12:31 pm

Ryann O’Toole made a bold play seven weeks ago.

She saw a tee sheet showing Cristie Kerr, Suzann Pettersen and Natalie Gulbis playing a Monday practice round together at the U.S. Women’s Open at The Broadmoor, and she saw an opening for one more player.

So O’Toole crashed the party. The unproven rookie squeezed her way onto the first tee with three of the game’s biggest stars.

“With all the rookies out there, they don’t know who’s who, or who is coming up,” O’Toole said. “I wanted them to know of my existence.”

O’Toole, 24, got the trio’s attention demolishing her opening tee shot. She hit one of her 300-yard bullets.

“Cristie Kerr didn’t know who I was,” O’Toole said. “She thought I was Canadian for some reason. When she found out I was American, she said, ‘Holy Cow, we need a girl like you on our Solheim Cup team.’”

Kerr said that while walking down the first fairway with O’Toole that day. And that’s where this wild Solheim Cup story started.

Right there, with just four undistinguished LPGA starts in her brief career, O’Toole made another bold play. She decided she was going to take Kerr at her word. She was going to see if the American Solheim Cup team really could use a player like her.

“That was the first moment the Solheim Cup came into the picture as a thought for me,” O’Toole said Sunday night in a telephone interview. “As a rookie, you don’t really think about that, especially somebody who hasn’t had a lot of starts, or status. But when she said that, it put a new thought, a new goal in my head.”

O’Toole’s bold ambition led to what may be the boldest play in Solheim Cup history.

On Sunday night, U.S. captain Rosie Jones made the stunning announcement that she was choosing O’Toole as one of her two captain’s pick. She was naming a rookie with a paltry seven career LPGA starts to her team. She was putting O’Toole on the roster.

Seven weeks ago, Kerr didn’t have a clue who Ryann O’Toole was. Now, they’re teammates in the most prestigious team competition in women’s golf. It’s a head-spinning tale of risk and reward.

“I know it’s a wild card,” Jones told GolfChannel.com. “I know it’s out there, but I can gamble because I have such a strong foundation of veterans. Having a strong team allows me to do this. And I have the confidence the players are behind me.”

Rookies have played in the Solheim Cup before. They’ve thrived in it. Paula Creamer went 3-1-1 as a rookie in ’05. Michelle Wie was 3-0-1 making the team as a rookie in ’09. But this is different. This is a player with little pedigree making the team on a seven-week summer burst.

O’Toole didn’t even make the postseason lineup at UCLA her senior year.

Before this burst, she was best known for her work on Golf Channel’s “Big Break Sandal Resorts.”

The swiftness of O’Toole’s seven-week Solheim burst is staggering.

With the Solheim Cup idea just beginning to percolate in her mind, O’Toole made a run on the U.S. Women’s Open leaderboard that week at The Broadmoor, where she finished ninth. She created a buzz there with her big drives and big plays. She got more than Kerr, Pettersen and Gulbis knowing who she was.

Though that U.S. Women’s Open run was O’Toole’s only top-10 finish in an LPGA event going to the Safeway Classic last week, she was catching the eyes of future teammates with her potential.

Making her run into contention again at the Safeway, O’Toole was inspired by the words of yet another American star. She was on the practice putting green before the final round when a last blast of motivation hit her.

“I see this ball of pink coming at me out of the corner of my eye,” O’Toole said. “I’m thinking, ‘Paula Creamer is coming up to me. Why is Paula Creamer coming up to me?’ She stops and says ‘Good luck, today’ with a smile on her face. And as she’s walking away, she says, ‘By the way, you are my pick for the Solheim Cup.’

“That definitely lit my fire and energized me.”

O’Toole closed solidly Sunday, tying for fifth knowing a Solheim Cup spot might be on the line.

Is O’Toole the riskiest pick in American Solheim Cup history? Absolutely. But if you look at the Americans competing for that pick, nobody made a huge impression. Nobody stood out more. In fact, there was a lot of gagging with the pick on the line. Katie Futcher played well in the majors, tying for third at the Kraft Nabisco, shooting a 64 to tie for 14th at the Ricoh Women’s British Open and tying for 14th at the Wegmans LPGA Championship, but she missed the cut with so much on the line at the Safeway Classic.

O’Toole ended up 18th on the final U.S. Solheim Cup points list despite her limited starts.

In the end, with so many players failing to make moves on the points list, the Safeway Classic turned into a sudden-death playoff for the captain's picks.

“I was basing too much on performance over the last two years,” Jones said of her evaluations. “I had all kinds of formulas going to show me who was playing the best golf. When it came down to it, I almost had to throw that thing out and say, ‘Who’s going to show me right now they want to play?’”

Jones saw who in O’Toole and Vicky Hurst, who also tied for fifth at Safeway.

“I can’t wait to kick Europe’s butt,” O’Toole said when Jones introduced her as a captain’s pick.

That boldness, Jones acknowledged, is another reason she’s comfortable taking a chance on O’Toole.

“Her confidence, her demeanor on the golf course, I liked that,” Jones said. “I wanted a player who could hold her own over there in Ireland and who would have a ‘Don’t-get-in-my-face attitude,’ who could handle what you go through in the Solheim Cup overseas. You have to have a certain personality. You have to have a little thicker skin, you have to have confidence. I see that in her.”

So Jones rewarded O’Toole’s bold play with some bravado of her own.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

Getty Images

Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.

Getty Images

Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.

The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.

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