U.S. Solheim team could be youngest squad ever

By Randall MellMay 29, 2013, 10:54 pm

Buckle up, Solheim Cup hopefuls.

This summer could be a bumpy ride with potentially the youngest American team ever coming together.

After this week’s Shoprite Classic, just six LPGA events will remain before the American Solheim Cup team is set and three of those events are major championships with double points up for grabs. Next week’s Wegmans LPGA Championship launches a potentially volatile summer of movement in the qualifying standings.

“That’s why I’m not getting overly excited about the points list yet,” U.S. Solheim Cup captain Meg Mallon told GolfChannel.com. “There are just so many points to get.”

The American and European teams will be announced Aug. 4 at the conclusion of the Ricoh Women’s British Open with the Solheim Cup scheduled Aug. 16-18 at Colorado Golf Club in suburban Denver.

Full U.S., European Solheim Cup team standings

Euro captain Liselotte Neumann is at the UniCredit Ladies German Open this week to watch prospective team members. It’s one of just five events remaining before the European team is set.

The American team will be made up of eight players off the U.S. Solheim Cup points list and two off of the Rolex World Rankings. Mallon gets two captain’s picks.

The European team will include four players off the Ladies European Tour points list and four off the Rolex World Rankings. Neumann gets four captain’s picks.

If the American team were decided today, there would be at least four Solheim Cup rookies on the team with the squad’s average age 26.0 years old. Lexi Thompson (18), Jessica Korda (20), Lizette Salas (23) and Jennifer Johnson (21) would all make their first appearances in the international team event. The youngest American team ever averaged 27.5 years old back in ’09 when the Americans won at Rich Harvest Farms.

The Americans have never lost on their home soil and the possibility looms that Mallon could be trying to defend that record with four or more Solheim Cup rookies. Since the Solheim Cup rosters were expanded to 12 players in 1996, there have never been more than five Solheim Cup rookies on an American team. There were five on the 2002 USA team that rallied from a two-point deficit on the final day to beat the Euros at Interlachen.

Stacy Lewis (28), Cristie Kerr (35), Paula Creamer (26), Angela Stanford (35) and Brittany Lincicome (27) look as if they’re all locks to make the team as the top five players on the American points list. They’re all Solheim Cup veterans. Kerr and Stanford are the only players over age 30 among those who currently sit within qualifying standards.

Thompson, Korda and Salas currently hold the final three spots off the points list. Brittany Lang (27) and Johnson, winner of the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic two weeks ago, currently hold the two roster spots off the Rolex World Rankings.

“We pretty much felt like the top five were a lock from last year because they accumulated so many points, but Lizette Salas, Jessica Korda and Lexi Thompson have stepped up the most this year and are really trying to cement their positions on the team,” Mallon said. “It’s fun to watch these three very talented and determined players.

“But, it’s still wide open. You saw what Jennifer Johnson did leapfrogging a bunch of people with a win. It’s why I’m sitting back and waiting because anybody can do that in the next six weeks.”

Gerina Piller, Katie Futcher and Danielle Kang also sit right on the edge of qualifying as Americans looking to make their first Solheim Cup team.

The possibility of some major turnover on the American roster exists with six players on the U.S. team that lost in Europe two years ago sitting outside the qualifying standard in various states of sluggish form.

Juli Inkster, Morgan Pressel, Michelle Wie, Christina Kim, Vicky Hurst and Ryann O'Toole played on that American team that lost in Ireland but Pressel has posted the lone top-10 finish among them this season.

With so many young first-timers possibly making the team, Mallon could be looking for veteran leadership as her captain’s picks to help solidify the roster.

“Considering I have five solid veterans who have played in Solheim Cups, I feel very good about that,” Mallon said. “That being said, with the possibly of four or five rookies making the team, I would definitely look for experience and players who are playing well going into the event. That combination would be the ideal situation for me.”

If Pressel, 25, doesn’t qualify for the team, she looms as a strong captain’s pick candidate. She was 4-0 in the last Solheim Cup and sports a 7-2-2 overall Solheim Cup record. She has a strong overall match play record having won the U.S. Women’s Amateur and finishing third in the Sybase Match Play Championship a year ago. She’s rebounding from a left-hand injury that derailed her in the second half of last season.

Inkster, 52, who has played in an American record nine Solheim Cups, told GolfChannel.com in April that she wasn’t really interested in playing again and believed it was time for some younger Americans to step up. Mallon, though, isn’t discounting Inkster making her 10th team.

“It’s Juli speak,” Mallon said. “In a way, it’s a motivator for her as well. I fully expect Juli to play well this summer with a carrot there in the Solheim Cup. She’s not a ceremonial golfer. She’s not out there just to play. She’s out there to play well. If she finds her game, she will put herself in contention to win tournaments.”

Wie has a 4-3-1 record in two Solheim Cups but she has missed five of 10 cuts this year with no finish better than a tie for 28th.

Natalie Gulbis, slowed by back problems in the past and a bout of malaria earlier this year, is 5-4-1 in three Solheim Cups.

“There are several factors that go into the captain’s picks,” Mallon said. “One is the golf course we’re playing. We are playing at altitude. We’re playing a second shot golf course where you need to have control of your golf ball. So, that’s one part of the pie. Another is experience. Having match-play experience would be great if it was Solheim Cup experience. Another factor is just flat out playing well at the time. That’s a significant factor, and so is the chemistry of the team. You have to have good chemistry in pairings.”

The European squad may feature three or more Solheim Cup rookies.

In the current European standings, Spain’s Carlota Ciganda, Norway’s Suzann Pettersen, Sweden’s Caroline Hedwall and Germany’s Caroline Masson hold the top four spots. Off the Euro Rolex World Rankings list, Scotland’s Catriona Matthew, Spain’s Azahara Munoz, France’s Karine Icher and Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist hold the top four spots.

Ciganda and Masson would be Solheim Cup rookies.

Spain’s Beatriz Recari, Germany’s Sandra Gal and England's Laura Davies loom as potential captain’s picks.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook played a six-hole stretch in 6 under and shot an 8-under 64 in breezy conditions Saturday to take the lead at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook began the run at La Quinta Country Club with birdies on Nos. 4-5, eagled the sixth and added birdies on No. 7 and 9 to make the turn in 6-under 30.

After a bogey on the 10th, he birdied Nos. 11, 12 and 15 and saved par on the 18th with a 20-footer to take a 19-under 197 total into the final round on PGA West's Stadium Course. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player is making his first start in the event. He won at Sea Island in November for his first PGA Tour title.

Fellow former Razorbacks star Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were a stroke back. Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 on the Stadium Course. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. They are both winless on the PGA Tour.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Jon Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium Course to reach 17 under. The top-ranked player in the field at No. 3, Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

Scott Piercy also was two strokes back after a 66 at the Stadium.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on PGA West's Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course, and Harkins shot 68 on the Stadium Course.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium Course to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time.

The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. The Southern California recruit had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over for the week.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine – and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Mickelson misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.

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Defending champ Gana co-leads Latin America Amateur

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 11:20 pm

Toto Gana moved into early position to try to win a return trip to the Masters Saturday by grabbing a share of the first-round lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship.

The defending champ posted a 3-under-par 68 at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Chile, equaling the rounds of Argentina’s Mark Montenegro and Colombia’s Pablo Torres.

They are one shot ahead of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz and Mario Carmona, Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti and Jaime Lopez Rivarola and the Dominican Republic’s Rhadames Pena.

It’s a bunched leaderboard, with 19 players within three shots of each at the top of the board in the 72-hole event.

“I think I have my game under control,” said Gana, 20, a freshman at Lynn University. “I hit the ball very well, and I also putted very well. So, I am confident about tomorrow.”

The LAAC’s champion will get more than a Masters invitation. He also will be exempt into the The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event he is eligible to play this year. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

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LAAC returning to Casa de Campo in 2019

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 8:23 pm

The Latin America Amateur Championship will return to Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic in 2019 (Jan. 17-20), event organizers announced Saturday in Chile, where this year’s championship is underway.

The LAAC champion receives an invitation to play the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club every spring.

The champion is also exempt into The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event for which he is eligible to compete. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

The championship got its start in 2015 with Chile’s Matias Dominguez winning at Pilar Golf in Argentina. In 2016, Casa de Campo hosted, with Costa Rica’s Paul Chaplet winning. At 16, he became the first player from Central America to compete in the Masters. In 2017, Chile’s Toto Gana won the title at  Club de Golf de Panama.