Americans Dig Hole Then Storm Back

By Sports NetworkSeptember 12, 2003, 4:00 pm
LODDEKOPINGE, Sweden -- The United States took three of four points in Friday afternoon's fourball matches to pull closer to the European team at the Solheim Cup. The European team holds a 4 1/2 - 3 1/2 lead after one day at Barsebck Golf & Country Club.
U.S. veterans Juli Inkster and Beth Daniel bested the previously undefeated tandem of hometown favorites Annika Sorenstam and Carin Koch, 1-up. The defeat was Koch's first in her 10th Solheim Cup match.
The American pairing of Cristie Kerr and Kelli Kuehne got the scoring started Friday afternoon with a 2-and-1 victory over Catriona Matthew and Laura Davies in the session's first match.
Patricia Meunier-Lebouc, who is four months pregnant and restricted to one match a day, teamed with Suzann Pettersen to beat Americans Meg Mallon and Angela Stanford, 3 and 2.
The final match of Friday's action went 18 holes but the U.S. pulled out their third victory of the session when Michele Redman and Rosie Jones beat Sophie Gustafson and Iben Tinning, 1-up.
The Americans did not get off to a good start Friday morning in the alternate-shot format. Sorenstam and Pettersen handled Laura Diaz and Heather Bowie, 4 and 3, Matthew and Janice Moodie trounced Inkster and Wendy Ward, 5 and 3, while Gustafson and Elisabeth Esterl bounced Jones and Mallon, 3 and 2.
Daniel and Kelly Robbins halved their match against Koch and Davies when Koch missed a 10-foot par save at 18. In the afternoon session, Daniel and Koch once again went the full 18 but the crucial hole proved to be the 17th.
After Inkster sank a five-foot birdie putt at 16 and Sorenstam rolled home a seven-footer for birdie to match Inkster, the teams made their way to 17 all-square.
Inkster and Daniel had the best looks at birdie but Inkster's try never found the bottom of the cup. Sorenstam and Koch both made pars but Daniel holed an eight-footer for birdie to give the Americans a 1-up advantage with one to play.
'It's quite a relief to go into 18 1-up on those two,' said Daniel. 'They really are a great pair. We had to work pretty hard to beat them.'
Daniel and Inkster both found the right side of the green at 18 and so did Sorenstam, who knocked it closer than either American. Koch landed in a greenside bunker and was out of the hole after her blast failed to fall into the cup. Daniel and Inkster both two-putted for pars and Sorenstam's birdie try flew past the hole, giving the Americans the valuable full point.
'We didn't get too far down,' said Inkster, who never trailed by more than a 1-down margin in Friday afternoon's session. 'We kept them within our sights and then we made some good birdies on the back side.'
'I think it was a great match,' said Koch, who moved her Solheim Cup record to 7-1-2 in three appearances. 'We played Juli and Beth, who are two of the best in the world. If we made a couple more putts we would have really gotten going.'
The only other match to reach the closing hole at Barsebck was the anchor match. Redman bogeyed the seventh to fall 1-down and that remained the score until the 14th, as the teams halved with birdies three times in between.
At 14, Redman chipped in from off the green to square the match and Jones took the lead with a 12-foot birdie at the par-three 15th. Redman made a gutsy 12- footer to halve the 16th and the teams halved No. 17.
Both Americans drove through the fairway at 18 but reached the green with their second shots. Tinning landed 35 feet from the cup, while Gustafson's approach stopped 25 feet past the hole. The Americans missed their birdie tries that could have sealed the match, but Tinning missed her try as well.
That left it up to Gustafson but her birdie putt didn't disappear in the cup, meaning the Americans closed the gap to one.
'This was big because we really had to hang in there on the front side just to stay with them,' said Jones. 'Michele really brought it on the back nine. I just kind of hung in there and helped out a little bit.'
Kerr and Kuehne went 2-up around the turn but Europe won the 10th to get 1-down. Kerr made a five-footer to win the 11th then Kuehne drained a seven-footer at 13 to go 3-up.
The Europeans won the 16th to extend the match but the teams halved 17 to give the U.S. the victory.
Pettersen and Meunier-Lebouc were 1-up around the turn and birdied two of the first three holes on the second nine to get 3-up. Mallon and Stanford never got closer and the match ended when the teams halved 16 with birdies.
In the first Solheim Cup outside of the United States or United Kingdom, play began under foggy conditions and with heavy hearts. All participants are sporting black ribbons in honor of the slain Swedish foreign minister Anna Lindh, who was murdered earlier in the week.
Play was contested for almost 30 minutes before the fog became too much. The morning session was stopped for over 90 minutes but when play resumed, the Europeans took full advantage with 3 1/2 points in the foursomes matches.
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    DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

    By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

    ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

    The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

    ''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

    In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

    ''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

    The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

    ''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

    The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.

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    Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 2:52 pm

    Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.

    Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:

    As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.

    Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.

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    Hot Seat: Rory jumps into the fire early

    By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 2:11 pm

    The world’s top tours head to desert regions this week, perfect locales for The Hot Seat, the gauge upon which we measure the level of heat the game’s top personalities are facing ...

    Sahara sizzle: Rory McIlroy

    McIlroy won’t have to look far to see how his form measures up to world No. 1 Dustin Johnson at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    McIlroy will make his 2018 debut with Johnson in his face, literally.

    McIlroy will be grouped with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood in the first two rounds.

    Players like to downplay pairings early in a tournament, but it’s hard to believe McIlroy and Johnson won’t be trying to send each other messages in this European Tour event in the United Arab Emirates. That’s the alpha-dog nature of world-class players looking to protect their turf, or in the case of McIlroy, take back his turf.

    “When you are at the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Trevor Immelman said about pairings during Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge last month.

    And that was an offseason event.

    “They want to show this guy, ‘This is what I got,’” Immelman said.

    As early season matchups go, Abu Dhabi is a heavyweight pairing that ought to be fun.

    So there will be no easing into the new year for McIlroy after taking off the last three months to regroup from the stubborn rib injury that plagued him last season. He is coming off a winless year, and he will be doing so alongside a guy who just won the first PGA Tour event of 2018 in an eight-shot rout. Johnson’s victory in Hawaii two weeks ago was his fifth since McIlroy last won.

    “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place, and that was because of where I was physically,” McIlroy said of 2017. “I feel prepared now. I feel ready, and I feel ready to challenge. I feel really good about where I’m at with my health. I’ve put all that behind me, which has been great.”

    Sonoran Smolder: Phil Mickelson

    Mickelson will turn 48 this summer.

    His world ranking is sliding, down to No. 43 now, which is the lowest he has ranked in 24 years.

    It’s been more than four years since he last won, making him 0 for his last 92 starts.

    There’s motivation in all of that for Mickelson. He makes his 2018 debut at the CareerBuilder Challenge in the Palm Springs area this week talking like a man on a renewed mission.

    There’s a Ryder Cup team to make this season, which would be his 12th straight, and there’s a career Grand Slam to claim, with the U.S. Open returning to Shinnecock Hills, where Mickelson finished second in ’04.

    While Mickelson may not feel old, there are so many young stars standing in his way that it’s hard not to be constantly reminded that time isn’t on his side in these events anymore.

    There has only been one player in the history of the game to win a major championship who was older than Mickelson is right now. Julius Boros won the PGA Championship when he was 48 back in 1968.

    Campaign fever: Jordan Spieth

    Spieth’s respect in the game’s ranks extends outside the ropes.

    He was just selected to run for the PGA Tour Player Advisory Council’s chairman position. He is facing Billy Hurley III in an election to see who will succeed Davis Love III on the Tour’s Policy Board next year.

    Spieth, just 24, has already made Time Magazine’s list of the “100 Most Influential People.” He made that back in 2016, with the magazine writing that “he exemplifies everything that’s great about sports.” Sounds like a campaign slogan.

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    CareerBuilder Challenge: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 1:10 pm

    The PGA Tour shifts from Hawaii to Southern California for the second full-field event of the year. Here are the key stats and information for the CareerBuilder Challenge. Click here for full-field tee times.

    How to watch (all rounds on Golf Channel):

    Thursday, Rd. 1: 3-7PM ET; live stream:

    Friday, Rd. 2: 3-7PM ET; live stream:

    Saturday, Rd. 3: 3-7PM ET; live stream:

    Sunday, Rd. 4: 3-7PM ET; live stream:

    Purse: $5.9 million ($1,062,000 to winner)

    Courses: PGA West, Stadium Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,113); PGA West, Nicklaus Tournament Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,159); La Quinta Country Club, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,060) NOTE: All three courses will be used for the first three rounds but only the Stadium Course will be used for the final round.

    Defending champion: Hudson Swafford (-20) - defeated Adam Hadwin by one stroke to earn his first PGA Tour win.

    Notables in the field

    Phil Mickelson

    * This is his first start of 2018. It's the fourth consecutive year he has made this event the first one on his yearly calendar.

    * For the second year in a row he will serve as the tournament's official ambassador.

    * He has won this event twice - in 2002 and 2004.

    * This will be his 97th worldwide start since his most recent win, The Open in 2013.

    Jon Rahm

    * Ranked No. 3 in the world, he finished runner-up in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

    * In 37 worldwide starts as a pro, he has 14 top-5 finishes.

    * Last year he finished T-34 in this event.

    Adam Hadwin

    * Last year in the third round, he shot 59 at La Quinta Country Club. It was the ninth - and still most recent - sub-60 round on Tour.

    * In his only start of 2018, the Canadian finished 32nd in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

    Brian Harman

    * Only player on the PGA Tour with five top-10 finishes this season.

    * Ranks fifth in greens in regulation this season.

    * Finished third in the Sentry Tournament of Champions and T-4 in the Sony Open in Hawaii.

    Brandt Snedeker

    * Making only his third worldwide start since last June at the Travelers Championship. He has been recovering from a chest injury.

    * This is his first start since he withdrew from the Indonesian Masters in December because of heat exhaustion.

    * Hasn't played in this event since missing the cut in 2015.

    Patrick Reed

    * Earned his first career victory in this event in 2014, shooting three consecutive rounds of 63.

    * This is his first start of 2018.

    * Last season finished seventh in strokes gained: putting, the best ranking of his career.

    (Stats provided by the Golf Channel editorial research unit.)