Sleepy Solheim Thoughts
So I'm in the lobby of the hotel, 15 feet from a blackjack table where the house wins if both player and dealer have 17, 18 or 19. In other words, I'm not making sense of a whole lot on a Sunday night in Scandinavia. Let me try to sort out a few items then from the Solheim Cup.
Forget Patty Sheehan's lineup gaffe for a moment. The Euros were the far better team--more explosive, better putters, and stronger ball strikers.
That said, there's no escaping the fact that Sheehan, a spirited, compassionate and funny human being, made a tactical blunder, and not just on Sunday. Michelle Redman should have played the afternoon four-ball on Saturday instead of Wendy Ward, who struggled terribly all three days.
As for the singles, there's simply no way you can put Heather Bowie and Ward in the third and fourth positions Sunday and expect to realistically generate serious momentum. You're three down on the road to start the day. You have to - absolutely HAVE to - gamble that your weaker players, positioned further down in the lineup at say 8, 9 or 10, can feed off the energy and momentum created by the proven commodities. Then if it's close, maybe the home team starts to feel the pressure late.
But to be in a spot where Cristie Kerr, Meg Mallon, Laura Diaz, Beth Daniel and Kelly Robbins don't matter is unthinkable. Certainly Daniel, Diaz and Kerr, as well as they played Saturday, should have been further up the card. I would have slid Bowie and Ward down toward the 8-9 area and maybe dropped hard-nosed Rosie Jones perhaps to 11th. Robbins as anchor is fine.
In any event, it's only a point of discussion, not one to beat to death. Patty stood up as soon as the matches ended and admitted she'd screwed up. She accepted the blame. How many people these days do that? Most would close ranks and get into a hissing contest with the media. So this needn't turn into a 'Let's heap on Patty' party. It's over. It's a golf match.
Looking back, Annika's the MVP. She went 4-1, set the proper tone for her team, and made the clutch putt of the week. Her bolt at 17 on Saturday was one of those moments which take great players to the category of legend. She deserves consideration for Sports Illustrated's Athlete of the Year.
Unfortunate that some may recall Laura Diaz for the missed putt at 18 on Saturday, because up to that point she hit some of the finest, most daring and timely shots you'll ever see in your lifetime. Should she have waited to putt? Maybe, if only to steady the nerves, though I'm not sure that was even humanly possible. That lost point obviously turned the tide. American hope from that point dripped inevitably to the European well.
In addition to Sorenstam, Janice Moodie just destroyed the Americans. She delivered one of the greatest putting displays I've ever seen. Dale Reid should be embarassed for not making Moodie a captain's selection at Interlachen a year ago. And the same can be said in the case of Catriona Matthew, who was also superb.
Looking ahead, it's time for the U.S. veteran core of Daniel, Jones, Mallon, and stalwart Juli Inkster to begin to pass the torch. But to whom? Where's the really exciting, young American talent? Diaz can play, and Kuehne and Kerr seem to thrive more on guile and tenacity than raw skill. But combined, the three own just five LPGA victories. Beth Bauer took a step back this year. Natalie Gulbis? Not now anyway.
Look at the young Euros. They're physically much more impressive than the Americans. Suzann Petterson, Sophie Gustafson and Iben Tinning are all strapping, athletic and hard-hitting types.
Finally, conjecture or criticism aside, the Solheim Cup exceeded whatever expectation I may have had. The excitement on Saturday was as intense as any Ryder Cup I've seen. The quality of shots under pressure was extraordinary. It's a shame the women don't see crowds like this more frequently. A little noise changes the game, doesn't it?
Also, Sweden proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that it's fully capable of hosting a major golf competition. The galleries were knowledgeable,
respectful and enthusiastic.
At the risk of sounding trite, it truly was a memorable week. And now it's time to take one last crack at deciphering the Swedish television offerings, to stare blankly until I nod off. The charter home leaves early. It's time to go.
Watch: Tiger's Saturday birdies at Honda
Tiger Woods was in almost total control of his game for the majority of his third round Saturday at PGA National. And although he was once again bit by the Bear Trap, the 14-time major winner tapped in for birdie at the par-5 18th to post a round of 1-under 69 and fight his way back to even par for the week.
Four back to start the day, Woods parred his first seven holes before pouring in his first birdie via this flagged iron from 139 at the par-4 eighth:
Woods hit three more quality approaches at 9, 10 and 11 but couldn't get a putt to drop.
The lid finally came off the hole at No. 12 when he holed a key 17-footer for par to keep his scorecard clean.
One hole later, Woods added a second circle to that card, converting this 14-footer for a birdie-3 that moved him back into red figures at 1 under par for the week.
Traj talk— Golf Channel (@GolfChannel) February 24, 2018
And now, the putter raise pic.twitter.com/gW5HDorWSr
Unfortunately, the Bear Trap would ensnare Tiger for the second day in a row. Woods, whose iron play had looked as crisp as it had in years, sailed approaches long and left at both the par-3 15th and par-3 17th, leading to bogeys which erased the two birdies he worked so hard to secure.
But just like on Friday, Woods rallied back with a late birdie, this one at the home hole, to steal back a shot.
O. Fisher, Pepperell share lead at Qatar Masters
DOHA, Qatar - Oliver Fisher birdied his last four holes in the Qatar Masters third round to share the lead at Doha Golf Club on Saturday.
The 29-year-old Englishman shot a 7-under 65 for an overall 16-under 200. Eddie Pepperell (66) picked up shots on the 16th and 18th to catch his compatriot and the pair enjoy a two-shot lead over American Sean Crocker (67) in third.
David Horsey (65) was the biggest mover of the day with the Englishman improving 31 places for a share of fourth place at 12 under with, among others, Frenchman Gregory Havret and Italian Andrea Pavan.
Fisher, winner of the 2011 Czech Open, made some stunning putts on his way in. After an eight-footer on the par-4 15th, he then drove the green on the short par-4 16th for an easy birdie, before making a 12-footer on the 17th and a 15-footer on the 18th.
Like Pepperell, Fisher also had just one bogey to show on his card, also on the 12th hole.
''I gave myself some chances coming in and thankfully I made them,'' said Fisher, who has dropped to 369th in the world rankings.
''You can quite easily make a few bogeys without doing that much wrong here, so it's important to be patient and keep giving yourself chances.''
Pepperell, ranked 154th in the world after a strong finish to his 2017 season, has been a picture of consistency in the tournament. He was once again rock-solid throughout the day, except one bad hole - the par-4 12th. His approach shot came up short and landed in the rocks, the third ricocheted back off the rocks, and he duffed his fourth shot to stay in the waste area.
But just when a double bogey or worse looked imminent, Pepperell holed his fifth shot for what was a remarkable bogey. And he celebrated that escape with a 40-feet birdie putt on the 13th.
''I maybe lost a little feeling through the turn, but I bounced back nicely and I didn't let it bother me,'' said the 27-year-old Pepperell, who hit his third shot to within four feet on the par-5 18th to join Fisher on top.
The long-hitting Crocker is playing on invites on the European Tour. He made a third eagle in three days - on the par-4 16th for the second successive round.
Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic
Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
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Uihlein fires back at Jack in ongoing distance debate
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Wally Uihlein challenged Jack Nicklaus’ assault this week on the golf ball.
Uihlein, an industry force as president and CEO of Titleist and FootJoy parent company Acushnet for almost 20 years, retired at year’s start but remains an adviser.
In an interview with ScoreGolf on Friday, Uihlein reacted to Nicklaus’ assertions that the ball is responsible for contributing to a lot of the troubles the game faces today, from slow play and sagging participation to the soaring cost to play.
Uihlein also took the USGA and The R&A to task.
The ball became a topic when Nicklaus met with reporters Tuesday at the Honda Classic and was asked about slow play. Nicklaus said the ball was “the biggest culprit” of that.
“It appears from the press conference that Mr. Nicklaus was blaming slow play on technology and the golf ball in particular,” Uihlein said. “I don’t think anyone in the world believes that the golf ball has contributed to the game’s pace of play issues.”
Nicklaus told reporters that USGA executive director Mike Davis pledged over dinner with him to address the distance the golf ball is flying and the problems Nicklaus believes the distance explosion is creating in the game.
“Mike Davis has not told us that he is close, and he has not asked us for help if and when he gets there,” Uihlein said.
ScoreGolf pointed out that the Vancouver Protocol of 2011 was created after a closed-door meeting among the USGA, The R&A and equipment manufacturers, with the intent to make any proposed changes to equipment rules or testing procedures more transparent and to allow participation in the process.
“There are no golf courses being closed due to the advent of evolving technology,” Uihlein said. “There is no talk from the PGA Tour and its players about technology making their commercial product less attractive. Quite the opposite, the PGA Tour revenues are at record levels. The PGA of America is not asking for a roll back of technology. The game’s everyday player is not advocating a roll back of technology.”
ScoreGolf said Uihlein questioned why the USGA and The R&A choose courses that “supposedly” can no longer challenge the game’s best players as preferred venues for the U.S. Open, The Open and other high-profile events.
“It seems to me at some point in time that the media should be asking about the conflict of interest between the ruling bodies while at the same time conducting major championships on venues that maybe both the athletes and the technology have outgrown,” he said. “Because it is the potential obsolescence of some of these championship venues which is really at the core of this discussion.”