U.S., Europe vying for underdog role at Solheim Cup

By Randall MellJune 1, 2015, 6:44 pm

The Americans have declared themselves the underdog with the Solheim Cup only a few months away.

With the Europeans winning the last two, nobody seems to be arguing.

But maybe somebody should.

Anna Nordqvist’s victory Sunday at the ShopRite Classic raises the question about who really ought to be favored with the Americans and Euros jockeying to make the teams that go to Germany in September. Nordqvist ended a 14-month winless drought for Europeans in LPGA events. In fact, the Swede is the only Euro to win an LPGA event since Suzann Pettersen won late in the 2013 season.

If you look at the Rolex world rankings, LPGA player records and major championship performances, there’s no way Europe should be favored to beat the Americans. In fact, the Americans ought to be lopsided favorites.

Going into last weekend’s LPGA event, there were five Americans among the top 11 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings. There was one European.

Americans Stacy Lewis, Brittany Lincicome, Cristie Kerr, Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie were all inside the top 11. Suzann Pettersen was the only European.

Over the last 14 months, Americans have won 13 LPGA titles, the Euros just one.

If you’re thinking the Rolex rankings might be weighted too heavily against the Ladies European Tour, look at major championship performances. The records just as definitively favor the Americans.

Over the last 23 major championships played, Americans have won eight, the Euros just one.

It might seem a silly matter, debating who ought to be designated the underdog, but it’s a big deal how teams crave the label going to these international team events. Apparently, there’s power in the underdog mentality. The same thing happens going to the Ryder Cup. Everybody wants to be the underdog.

You can’t blame American captain Juli Inkster for seizing on the designation.

“We are definitely coming in as the underdogs,” Inkster said earlier this spring. “We’ve lost the last two, and we’re playing on their home soil.”

Spoken like that, it makes sense. It’s a smart tactical move on Inkster’s part. It shifts the pressure on to the Europeans.

European captain Carin Koch knew exactly what Inkster was doing.

“In my eyes, it’s Team USA that’s under pressure,” Koch said.

The Euros rocked the Americans in a record rout in the last Solheim Cup in Colorado. It marked the first time since the biennial competition began in 1990 that the Euros won on American soil. It has fueled this feeling the Euros are the team to beat, but if Americans really analyze it, they ought to be insulted in how this picture looks from a long view.

If Americans are really the underdogs, what’s the designation mean? It means the Americans have massively better records as individuals, but the betting public thinks they can’t play together. They think they’re a lousy team. That’s what it means.

Maybe there’s motivation in that. Maybe there’s a chip-on-the-shoulder, us-against-the-world mentality in that.

Bookmakers don’t look like they’re going to fall for it, though.

While Solheim Cup odds haven’t gone up at most betting houses yet, the few bookmakers who are posting odds are making the Americans the favorites. William Hill has the Americans as 4/6 favorites, BetFred has them as 8/11 favorites and Paddy Power as 8/13 favorites.

“We want to win three in a row,” Koch said. “That’s our big goal. It’s another tournament. It has nothing to do with what happened in Colorado or what happened the time before then. We start over, and it's the Solheim Cup 2015 at St. Leon Rot. This is the event. We're there to win, but we're also there to have a great match and to just have a lot of fun.”

Apparently, they’ll be having fun with the advantage of being an underdog despite being the home team and having won the last two Solheim Cups.

It all makes you wonder what being an underdog really means.

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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.