U.S. looking to regain Solheim supremacy

By Randall MellSeptember 14, 2015, 1:00 pm

ST. LEON-ROT, Germany – They lost their mojo in Europe.

The last time the American Solheim Cup team flew across the Atlantic Ocean to play, everything changed.

Heading to Ireland in 2011, the United States was a juggernaut in the event, winners of three consecutive Solheim Cups and heavy favorites to make it four in a row. The Americans seemed to be on a mission to make the competition irrelevant, because that’s what routing the Euros again threatened to do.

And that’s what most everyone expected.

Oddsmakers listed the Americans as the heavy favorite at a 4/9 betting price.

A wolf would get better odds against a lamb, but not much better.

There were seven Americans among the top 20 in the world rankings that week and just one European.

The Americans couldn’t lose ... but they did.

“Ireland kind of made the Solheim Cup what it is now,” said Stacy Lewis, the top-ranked American woman today.

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Capsules: United States | Europeans

The Europeans didn’t just win the Solheim Cup at Killeen Castle. They transformed it.

With the most thrilling comeback in the cup’s history, the Euros reinvigorated the competition. In a head-spinning final 30 minutes of play, they made the Solheim Cup matter more than it ever has.

Trailing very late in the final three matches in Sunday singles that year, the Europeans improbably turned around all three of them to win the cup.

Suzann Pettersen, Azahara Munoz and Caroline Hedwall led the bold charge, coming from behind in bing-bang-boom fashion to give the Euros a 15-13 victory.

“That was huge,” said Carin Koch, the European Solheim Cup captain today. “That was one of the most amazing Sundays in any match-play event, counting the Ryder Cup, just the turnaround there. I think the Americans really felt they had it, and just at the end everything went Europe’s way.

“It was really important because there was talk about the Americans being too dominant. To come back, and win the last two now, it’s big.”

Even Rosie Jones, disappointed as she was as the American captain at the time, appreciated the exhilarating nature of the finish and the bigger picture playing out.

“It was probably the best Solheim Cup ever,” Jones said. “It was unbelievable.”

The compelling theater elevated everything about the cup.

“This is probably our biggest stage, besides, maybe, the U.S. Open,” said Juli Inkster, captain of this year’s American team. “It’s gotten some momentum now as far as history. It’s got some fight into it, which is fun.”

The United States might have lost the cup in Ireland, but two years later they would lose something more in Colorado. The Americans weren’t just beaten on their own soil for the first time. The Euros beat them in a record rout (18-10).

The Americans lost some pride in the thorough thrashing at Colorado Golf Club.

“I think a lot of girls who were a part of that kind of have a chip,” said Brittany Lang, one of Inkster’s two captain’s picks this year.

As in a chip on their shoulder.

The United States arrives at St. Leon-Rot Golf Club in Germany this week looking to win back lost pride. Eleven Americans on the team that lost in Colorado are here. Alison Lee is the only new face, replacing Jessica Korda, who didn’t qualify. 

“I don’t think it’s revenge,” Inkster said. “We’re motivated. The Europeans have earned the right to carry the last two Solheims, and we have to earn the right to win it back.”

No American team had lost two Solheim Cups in a row before Colorado, and Inkster doesn’t want to be the first to lose three in a row. As a player, Inkster won more points (18½) in Solheim Cup play than any other American. She was 15-12-7 in nine Solheim Cups appearances. She’s looking to lead a team more focused on playing golf than on all the over-the-top patriotic hoopla that has preoccupied past teams.

“They've got to want it,” Inkster said of her American squad. “They've got to maybe dig a little deeper and maybe get rid some of the outside agencies. I'm trying to get them just to play golf like they play [in LPGA events] as they tee it up every week, and not worry about all the other little outside things that sometimes, with the Solheim team themes, they get involved with. Just kind of get it back to basics and see how that works.”

Inkster is showing just how much she wants the cup back. The 55-year-old won a Legends Tour event in Indiana two weeks ago, and then she whipped more than half the European team at the Evian Championship last weekend. Only three of the 12 Euros on this year’s squad posted better scores than Inkster, who tied for 38th.

“I feel as though Juli Inkster is the right captain at the right time,” said Hall of Famer Judy Rankin, who captained Inkster on the 1998 Solheim Cup team. “I think they are going to get down to business. I think she's very aware of things like rest, things like just really doing everything so that you can do the job at hand. She is such a respected person that this team will in every sort of way respond to, I'm sure.”

The Americans are favored by bookmakers again despite the fact that Europe has won the last two Solheim Cups and enjoys the advantage of being the home team this year.

Here’s why:

  • The Americans’ average world ranking is 25.6, the Euros’ 52.9.
  • The Americans have combined to win 10 major championships, the Euros four.
  • The Americans have won 16 LPGA titles over the last two years, the Europeans four. If you think that comparison is bogus because the LPGA is an American-based tour, know that all but two players on the European roster are playing the LPGA full time.

The match-play mojo belongs to the Europeans, but the Americans are in Germany equipped to take it back.

“I think we're all aware that they don't want to lose three in a row, and they're going to come out really strong,” Koch said. “I think they have a great captain in Juli. I like Juli, and they all look up to her. I think she's a great person, and she'll do a lot of good for the team. There’s no doubt it’s going to be a tough match.”

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Singh's lawsuit stalls as judge denies motion

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 7:54 pm

Vijay Singh’s attempts to speed up the proceedings in his ongoing lawsuit against the PGA Tour have been stalled, again.

Singh – who filed the lawsuit in New York Supreme Court in May 2013 claiming the Tour recklessly administered its anti-doping program when he was suspended, a suspension that was later rescinded – sought to have the circuit sanctioned for what his attorneys argued was a frivolous motion, but judge Eileen Bransten denied the motion earlier this month.

“While the court is of the position it correctly denied the Tour’s motion to argue, the court does not agree that the motion was filed in bad faith nor that it represents a ‘persistent pattern of repetitive or meritless motions,’” Bransten said.

It also doesn’t appear likely the case will go to trial any time soon, with Bransten declining Singh’s request for a pretrial conference until a pair of appeals that have been sent to the court’s appellate division have been decided.

“What really should be done is settle this case,” Bransten said during the hearing, before adding that it is, “unlikely a trail will commence prior to 2019.”

The Tour’s longstanding policy is not to comment on ongoing litigation, but earlier this month commissioner Jay Monahan was asked about the lawsuit.

“I'll just say that we're going through the process,” Monahan said. “Once you get into a legal process, and you've been into it as long as we have been into it, I think it's fair to assume that we're going to run it until the end.”

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Videos and images from Tiger's Tuesday at Torrey

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 7:45 pm

Tiger Woods played a nine-hole practice round Tuesday at Torrey Pines South, site of this week's Farmers Insurance Open. Woods is making his first PGA Tour start since missing the cut in this event last year. Here's a look at some images and videos of Tiger, via social media:

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Power Rankings: 2018 Farmers Insurance Open

By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:59 pm

The PGA Tour remains in California this week for the Farmers Insurance Open. A field of 156 players will tackle the North and South Courses at Torrey Pines, with weekend play exclusively on the South Course.

Be sure to join the all-new Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge - including a new One & Done game offering - to compete for prizes and form your own leagues, and log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to submit your picks for this week's event.

Jon Rahm won this event last year by three shots over Charles Howell III and C.T. Pan. Here are 10 names to watch in La Jolla:

1. Jon Rahm: No need to overthink it at the top. Rahm enters as a defending champ for the first time, fresh off a playoff win at the CareerBuilder Challenge that itself was preceded by a runner-up showing at Kapalua. Rahm is perhaps the hottest player in the field, and with a chance to become world No. 1 should be set for another big week.

2. Jason Day: The Aussie has missed the cut here the last two years, and he hasn't played competitively since November. But he ended a disappointing 2017 on a slight uptick, and his Torrey Pines record includes three straight top-10s from 2013-15 that ended with his victory three years ago.

3. Justin Rose: Rose ended last year on a tear, with three victories over his final six starts including two in a row in Turkey and China. The former U.S. Open winner has the patience to deal with a brutal layout like the South Course, as evidenced by his fourth-place showing at this event a year ago.

4. Rickie Fowler: This tournament has become somewhat feast-or-famine for Fowler, who is making his ninth straight start at Torrey Pines. The first four in that run all netted top-20 finishes, including two top-10s, while the last four have led to three missed cuts and a T-61. After a win in the Bahamas and T-4 at Kapalua, it's likely his mini-slump comes to an end.

5. Brandt Snedeker: Snedeker has become somewhat of a course specialist at Torrey Pines in recent years, with six top-10 finishes over the last eight years including wins in both 2012 and 2016. While he missed much of the second half of 2017 recovering from injury and missed the cut last week, Snedeker is always a threat to contend at this particular event.

6. Hideki Matsuyama: Matsuyama struggled to find his footing after a near-miss at the PGA Championship, but he appears to be returning to form. The Japanese phenom finished T-4 at Kapalua and has put up solid results in two of his four prior trips to San Diego, including a T-16 finish in his 2014 tournament debut. Matsuyama deserves a look at any event that puts a strong emphasis on ball-striking.

7. Tony Finau: Finau has the length to handle the difficult demands of the South Course, and his results have gotten progressively better each time around: T-24 in 2015, T-18 in 2016 and T-4 last year. Finau is coming off the best season of his career, one that included a trip to the Tour Championship, and he put together four solid rounds at the Sony Open earlier this month.

8. Charles Howell III: Howell is no stranger to West Coast golf, and his record at this event since 2013 includes three top-10 finishes highlighted by last year's runner-up showing. Howell chased a T-32 finish in Hawaii with a T-20 finish last week in Palm Springs, his fourth top-20 finish this season.

9. Marc Leishman: Leishman was twice a runner-up at this event, first in 2010 and again in 2014, and he finished T-20 last year. The Aussie is coming off a season that included two wins, and he has amassed five top-10s in his last eight worldwide starts dating back to the Dell Technologies Championship in September.

10. Gary Woodland: Woodland played in the final group at this event in 2014 before tying for 10th, and he was one shot off the lead entering the final round in 2016 before Mother Nature blew the entire field sideways. Still, the veteran has three top-20s in his last four trips to San Diego and finished T-7 two weeks ago in Honolulu.

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Davis on distance: Not 'necessarily good for the game'

By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:28 pm

It's a new year, but USGA executive Mike Davis hasn't changed his views on the growing debate over distance.

Speaking with Matt Adams on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio, Davis didn't mince words regarding his perception that increased distance has had a negative impact on the game of golf, and he reiterated that it's a topic that the USGA and R&A plan to jointly address.

"The issue is complex. It's important, and it's one that we need to, and we will, face straight on," Davis said. "I think on the topic of distance, we've been steadfast to say that we do not think increased distance is necessarily good for the game."

Davis' comments echoed his thoughts in November, when he stated that the impact of increased distance has been "horrible" for the game. Those comments drew a strong rebuke from Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein, who claimed there was "no evidence" to support Davis' argument.

That argument, again reiterated Tuesday, centers on the rising costs associated with both acquiring and maintaining increased footprints for courses. Davis claimed that 1 in 4 courses in the U.S. is currently "not making money," and noted that while U.S. Open venues were 6,800-6,900 yards at the start of his USGA tenure, the norm is now closer to 7,400-7,500 yards.

"You ask yourself, 'What has this done for the game? How has that made the game better?'" Davis said. "I think if we look at it, and as we look to the future, we're asking ourselves, saying, 'We want the game of golf to be fun.' We want it to continue to be challenging and really let your skills dictate what scores you should shoot versus necessarily the equipment.

"But at the same time, we know there are pressures on golf courses. We know those pressures are going to become more acute."