U.S. Solheim challenge: Bringing Inkster back

By Randall MellAugust 21, 2017, 8:38 pm

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa – On second thought, it is time for the LPGA to form a Solheim Cup task force.

It’s time to bring together the best and brightest minds in the American women’s game to figure out a way to persuade Juli Inkster to captain the United States team for a third consecutive time.

Inkster sounded guardedly open to a possible return when asked after the Americans defeated Europe 16½ to 11½ Sunday, a victory that made Inkster and Judy Rankin the only captains to lead the Americans to victory in back-to-back Solheim Cups, but . . .

“I don’t want to go there,” Inkster said. “I would love to do it, but I think there are other people in line that deserve the chance, but I’ll be there with some hugs.”

Now that’s a problem that needs to be immediately addressed.

No offense to Pat Hurst and Sherri Steinhauer, major champions with winning records in multiple Solheim Cup appearances, logical as potential next ups, but Solheim Cup stock takes a big dive if Inkster doesn’t return.

Dottie Pepper would bring star power, if somehow, some way, she was in consideration, which seems highly doubtful, given the hard criticism she has delivered on this generation of American players, and her insistence that her interests continue to lie elsewhere.

Nancy Lopez would also bring star power, if she’s interested in a return engagement as captain, after being an assistant to Inkster the last two Solheim Cups, a role that has kept Lopez in touch with today’s players, but she isn’t in that line Inkster’s talking about.

Inkster is specially qualified and gifted to keep growing the Solheim Cup’s brand.

Gerina Piller said it Sunday. Inkster’s a “freaking rock star.”


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On the Solheim Cup stage, she really is. Inkster’s the total package. She has the record and resume as one of the all-time great American players. She’s smart, tough and personable, with a heavy dose of good humor, traits that work in the team room and the media center. At 57, she’s still an active player, a mother of two grown daughters who connects so powerfully with the age groups playing the Solheim Cup.

The Solheim Cup’s just better with Inkster out front. The American players are better, too, and not just inside the ropes. Inkster’s such a great model of how American players should approach the game.

So, the challenge here is persuading Inkster that the American effort needs her again, the women’s game needs her again.

And that’s the thing: As a Solheim Cup captain, Inkster would sit in a uniquely influential position within women’s golf, a position of potentially expanding influence. She sounded Sunday like she could grow into that expanded role. We heard it with her advocacy of the women’s game, with her outspoken disappointment in the slights she sees women enduring.

“I'm going to say it right now, and I probably shouldn't say it because I already said it, but I just don't understand how all these companies get away with supporting PGA Tour events and not supporting the LPGA,” Inkster said. “It makes me a little upset, because I think we've got a great product. We deserve our due.”

There’s more good that Inkster can do for American women with two more years in a leadership role, a role she could take to yet another level.

Ultimately, this will come down to a vote. The last three Solheim Cup captains, the LPGA commissioner, the LPGA president and the chairman of the LPGA Board of Directors will vote on who will be the next captain.

It seems like a no-brainer, if somebody can convince Inkster she isn’t taking someone else’s turn. That’s the challenge getting her back.

 

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

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.

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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.