U.S. shouldn't get too comfy as Solheim favorites

By Randall MellAugust 7, 2017, 9:35 pm

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Annika Sorenstam used to carry a two-shot lead to the first tee before a tournament even began.

Her aura was that formidable.

At her best, she built advantages beyond her Hall of Fame ball-striking, winning at a rate that made her the most intimidating presence of her generation.

She won big, and she won a lot, 72 times in her LPGA career.

Winning is what she did best, better than anyone in the history of the game not named Kathy Whitworth (88) and Mickey Wright (82).

At her best, Sorenstam was the favorite every time she showed up an event.

It won’t be like that for her as the European Solheim Cup captain in Iowa next week.

If anything, Sorenstam will look as if her team is two down before the first ball is struck next week at Des Moines Golf and Country Club.

As Europe’s leader, Sorenstam remains a formidable figure, an icon, but she won’t have the firepower she possessed as a player. On paper, her Euro team appears supremely overmatched.

On paper, this looks like U.S. captain Juli Inkster’s team ought to steamroll Europe.

The 12 women on the American roster have combined to win 58 LPGA titles.

They feature seven major championship winners.

The Euros have combined to win 20 LPGA titles, just 28 LET titles, and they have a mere two major champions on their roster.

The Americans average world ranking is 29.5.

Europe’s average world ranking is almost twice that at 52.6.

The American’s don’t have a single player ranked outside the top 60 in the world. The Euros had three outside the top 100 before Mel Reid sneaked inside that number this week.

There’s also a giant intangible favoring the Americans. They’ll have the home crowd advantage in a larger way than ever before. Record crowds are expected in Des Moines.

It’s probably kind calling kind calling the Euros underdogs,

The rawest are like puppies being sent out into rush-hour traffic.

On paper, this looks like it could be epically ugly.

Most oddsmakers had the Americans as 4/6 favorites going to Germany two years ago. They’re 8/13 favorites this year.

“We probably should be the favorites,” Inkster said. “We won last time. We are playing on a home course, but the bottom line, the team still has to go out there and play. You don’t win on paper. I think my team knows that. We are going to bring our hard helmets and get to work.”

And that’s the thing.

If we’ve learned anything about these biennial international team competitions, whether it’s the Solheim Cup or the Ryder Cup, it’s that the paper these matchups are handicapped on probably ought to be toilet paper.

Match play really has proven to be a great equalizer.

Sorenstam knows how this works.

Four years ago, Sorenstam was an assistant captain when fellow Swede Liselotte Neumann engineered the most head-scratching upset in the history of these matches as Europe’s captain.

Neumann took her “overmatched” squad on to U.S. soil as staggering underdogs. Some bookmakers had the Americans as overwhelming favorites at 4/11 odds.

Neumann’s Euros didn’t just upset the Americans in Colorado. They humiliated them, winning in an 18-10 rout, the largest winning margin in the history of the matches.

Before that Europe had never won these matches on American soil, and nobody saw it coming with that young Euro squad.

Asked about taking four first-time Solheim Cup rookies to Iowa next week, Sorenstam noted the curious nature of Neumann’s team.

“There were six Solheim Cup rookies on that team that won for the first time on American soil,” Sorenstam said. “You look at rookies vs. veterans, but I’m not sure if there’s any rhyme or reason to these. There are different levels of rookies.”

With the Ladies European Tour in a woeful state this year, with so many events canceled, qualifying for the team was limited. That left a lot of questions about Georgia Hall and Florentyna Parker making the team at the top of the points list.

Obviously, Sorenstam sees a lot of potential in this next generation of Euro players. She added Sagstrom and Pedersen as two of her four captain’s picks, both LPGA rookies. By doing so, Sorenstam left 47-year-old veteran Catriona Matthew off the team. Matthew is a European Solheim cup dynamo with a 15-10-8 career record. Matthew was 3-1 in Germany just two years ago. Sorenstam also left veterans Azahara Munoz and Sandra Gal off the team in favor of these rookies.

Hall has proven herself the last month, contending at the Ricoh Women’s British Open last week and at the Ladies Scottish and Thornberry LPGA Classic before that. Sorenstam showed a lot of faith hand picking Sagstrom and Pedersen.

“They are both very strong,” Sorenstam said. “I like the personalities for the team. They are both very driven. I think their games suits the golf course that we are going to play, and they all want to play with these two.”

In team competitions, being an underdog isn’t a bad thing.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

Getty Images

Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

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.