Europe in Control Heading to Singles

By Sports NetworkSeptember 13, 2003, 4:00 pm
LODDEKOPINGE, Sweden -- Annika Sorenstam holed a 20-foot birdie putt at the 17th to halve the hole, then watched as partner Suzann Pettersen drained a 15-footer at 18 to defeat Laura Diaz and Kelly Robbins and give the European team a split in the Saturday fourball matches at the Solheim Cup.
 
The European squad will take a 9 1/2 - 6 1/2 lead into Sunday's singles matches. No team has ever gone on to capture the Solheim Cup after trailing by more than two heading into the final day, so if the United States is to defend its title, the team will have to make history to do it.
 
There are 12 singles matches on Sunday each worth a point and the U.S. has traditionally dominated the singles. They dropped three of four points in the morning foursomes Saturday and will need all of their depth if they are to bring the Cup back to America.
 
In Saturday's other fourball contests, Juli Inkster and Beth Daniel trounced Mhairi McKay and Ana Belen Sanchez, each playing for the first time in the 2003 Solheim Cup, 5 and 4. Americans Kelli Kuehne and Cristie Kerr beat Laura Davies and Sophie Gustafson, 2 and 1, and Catriona Matthew and Janice Moodie handled the U.S. team of Rosie Jones and Wendy Ward, 4 and 3.
 
The anchor match between Sorenstam and Pettersen and Diaz and Robbins was a Solheim Cup classic as the Americans tied the match with a seven-foot birdie by Diaz at the 13th.
 
Robbins chipped close with her third shot at the par-5 16th and seemed poised to take the lead. Pettersen drained a five-footer for birdie then Robbins holed her's to keep the match all-square.
 
At the 17th, Diaz nearly holed her approach but the ball settled four feet from the cup. Sorenstam landed her second on the left fringe, 20 feet from the hole while both Robbins and Pettersen were in trouble on the hole.
 
Since Robbins was away, the Americans had the honor and elected to let Diaz putt right away. She converted the birdie putt but Sorenstam, the hometown favorite and No. 1 player in the world, ran home her birdie putt to match Diaz and take the match to 18 all-square.
 
At the 18th at Barsebck Golf & Country Club, Robbins tried to cut her drive over the trees but her ball hit one and kicked right. Diaz went through the fairway, as did Pettersen but Sorenstam split the short grass with her drive.
 
Robbins hit a remarkable shot that nicked a tree but still landed on the putting surface 50 feet from the hole. Diaz landed her approach on the rough in front of the green but bounced up to three feet. Pettersen played her second to 15 feet at the 18th and Sorenstam left herself with seven feet.
 
Once again the Americans employed the strategy of letting Diaz putt first since she was closer. Diaz pulled her putt and opened a huge door for the Europeans.
 
Robbins missed her miracle birdie attempt then Pettersen completed her perfect run in the team competition with her fourth victory, thanks to that 1-up win.
 
'I'm tired. I'm worn. Physically I don't think there's a problem, but it's just mentally, especially when it's match play,' said Sorenstam. 'It's been a long day. We fought so hard. When I saw it drop, I was just like, 'great, this is over, we got a point.''
 
Diaz spoke afterwards about the missed chance at 18.
 
'Overall I putted pretty well but unfortunately my hands were a little shaky on that last putt,' admitted Diaz.
 
The U.S. seemed ready to take the momentum in the singles with early victories in Saturday's fourballs.
 
Inkster and Daniel, who bested the previously unbeaten Carin Koch and Sorenstam Friday afternoon in fourballs, wasted little time against Sanchez and McKay. Daniel sank a three-foot birdie putt at the first to go 1-up and the U.S. extended the lead when the Europeans could not save par at the fourth.
 
The Americans went 3-up when Inkster chipped in for birdie from the side of the green at the eighth. Inkster and Daniel gave one back with a sloppy bogey at the par-5 ninth but won the 10th with a par.
 
The U.S. side won the 12th and 13th to go 5-up and closed out the match on the next hole.
 
'Beth hit some great shots in the middle of some holes,' said Inkster. 'It's just a pleasure playing with her. We let up once but other than that we kept the pressure on them.'
 
Kuehne and Kerr led after a birdie at six but Gustafson drained a 20-footer for birdie to win the seventh and square the match. The Europeans captured the 11th hole when Kerr missed a seven-footer for par but the Americans knotted it up when Kuehne converted a four-foot birdie putt at the 13th.
 
The teams halved the 14th and 15th holes with some clutch putting but Kuehne once again knocked it close at 16. She rolled home her three footer for birdie and a 1-up lead.
 
Kerr played a brilliant approach from the right side to tap-in range at the 17th. Davies tried to hole her blast out of the bunker but missed and Gustafson's birdie try also failed to fall so the American tandem earned their second fourballs win of the Solheim Cup.
 
'I knew it was close but I didn't know how close it was until I walked up,' said Kerr, referring to her approach at 17. 'I tried to keep my composure because the way they were playing, they're going to make it from wherever they are.'
 
Moodie and Matthew, the Scottish picks by captain Catrin Nilsmark, continued their solid play from Saturday morning, where they halved with Meg Mallon and Robbins.
 
The European duo was 2-up heading to the back nine, thanks to four front-nine birdies. Matthew missed a 20-foot par putt at the 11th to drop the hole and cut the lead to 1-up but Moodie's hot putter carried the team from there.
 
Moodie canned a six-footer for birdie to win the 12th, then won the 14th and 15th when neither American could get up and down for par. That ended the match and gave the European pairing a 2-0-1 record as a team this year at Barsebck.
 
'We know one another well enough and if somebody else is off the hole, we know the other is strong enough to pick it up,' said Moodie. 'I think that's a big difference.'
 
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    The Social: The end was nigh, then it wasn't

    By Jason CrookJanuary 16, 2018, 7:00 pm

    The star power at the Sony Open may have been overshadowed by a missile scare, but there were plenty of other social media stories that kept the golf world on its toes this week, including some insight on Tiger Woods from a round with President Obama and some failed trick shots.

    All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

    By now you've undoubtedly heard about the false alarm in Hawaii on Saturday, where just about everyone, including most Sony Open participants, woke up to an emergency cell phone alert that there was a ballistic missile heading toward the islands.

    Hawaiian emergency management officials eventually admitted the original message was mistakenly sent out, but before they did, people (understandably) freaked out.

    As the situation unfolded, some Tour pros took to social media to express their confusion and to let the Twittersphere know how they planned on riding out this threat:

    While I would've been in that bathtub under the mattress with John Peterson, his wife, baby and in-laws (wait, how big is this tub?), here's how Justin Thomas reacted to the threat of impending doom:

    Yeah, you heard that right.

    “I was like ‘there’s nothing I can do,'” Thomas said. ”I sat on my couch and opened up the sliding door and watched TV and listened to music. I was like, if it’s my time, it’s my time.”

    Hmmm ... can we just go ahead and award him all the 2018 majors right now? Because if Thomas is staring down death in mid-January, you gotta like the kid's chances on the back nine Sunday at Augusta and beyond.

    Before the Hawaiian Missile Crisis of 2018, things were going about as well as they could at Waialae Country Club, starting with the Wednesday pro-am.

    Jordan Spieth might have been the third-biggest star in his own group, after getting paired with superstar singer/songwriter/actor Nick Jonas and model/actress Kelly Rohrbach.

    You'd be hard-pressed to find a more photogenic group out on the course, and the "Baywatch" star has a gorgeous swing as well, which makes sense, considering she was a former collegiate golfer at Georgetown.

    As impressive as that group was, they were somehow outshined by an amateur in another group, former NFL coach June Jones.

    Jones, who now coaches the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats, played his round in bare feet and putted with his 5-iron, a remedy he came up with to battle the yips.

    Former NFL and current CFL coach June Jones: A master of 5-iron putting?

    A post shared by PGA TOUR (@pgatour) on

    Considering he made back-to-back birdies at one point during the day, it's safe to say he's won that battle.

    With Tiger Woods' return to the PGA Tour about a week away, that sound you hear is the hype train motoring full speed down the tracks.

    First, his ex-girlfriend Lindsey Vonn told Sports Illustrated that she hopes this comeback works out for him.

    “I loved him and we’re still friends. Sometimes, I wish he would have listened to me a little more, but he’s very stubborn and he likes to go his own way," the Olympic skiier said. "I hope this latest comeback sticks. I hope he goes back to winning tournaments.”

    Vonn also mentioned she thinks Woods is very stubborn and that he didn't listen to her enough. That really shouldn't shock anyone who watched him win the 2008 U.S. Open on one leg. Don't think there were a lot of people in his ear telling him that was a great idea at the time.

    We also have this report from Golf Channel Insider Tim Rosaforte, stating that the 14-time major champ recently played a round with former president Barack Obama at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., where he received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.

    The Farmers Insurance Open is sure to be must-see TV, but until then, I'm here for all of the rampant speculation and guesses as to how things will go. The more takes the better. Make them extra spicy, please and thanks.

    These poor New Orleans Saints fans. Guess the only thing you can do is throw your 65-inch TV off the balcony and get 'em next year.

    Here's two more just for good measure.

    Farts ... will they ever not be funny?

    Perhaps someday, but that day was not early last week, when Tommy Fleetwood let one rip on his European teammates during EurAsia Cup team photos.

    Fleetwood went 3-0-0 in the event, helping Europe to a victory over Asia, perhaps by distracting his opponents with the aid of his secret weapon.

    Also, how about the diabolical question, "Did you get that?"

    Yeah Tommy, we all got that.

    Ahhh ... golf trick shot videos. You were fun while you lasted.

    But now we’ve officially come to the point in their existence where an unsuccessful attempt is much more entertaining than a properly executed shot, and right on cue, a couple of pros delivered some epic fails.

    We start with Sony Open runner-up James Hahn’s preparation for the event, where for some reason he thought he needed to practice a running, jumping, Happy Gilmore-esque shot from the lip of a bunker. It didn’t exactly work out.

    Not to be outdone, Ladies European Tour pro Carly Booth attempted the juggling-drive-it-out-of-midair shot made famous by the Bryan Bros, and from the looks of things she might have caught it a little close to the hosel.

    PSA to trick-shot artists everywhere: For the sake of the viewing public, if you feel a miss coming on, please make sure the camera is rolling.

    Seriously, though, who cares? Definitely not these guys and gals, who took the time to comment, "who cares?" They definitely do not care.

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    Spieth selected by peers to run for PAC chairman

    By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 6:43 pm

    Jordan Spieth may still be relatively young, but he has gained the confidence of some of the PGA Tour's most seasoned voices.

    Spieth is one of two players selected by the current player directors of the Tour's Policy Board to run for Chairman of the Player Advisory Council (PAC). Spieth will face Billy Hurley III in an election that will end Feb. 13, with the leading vote-getter replacing Davis Love III next year on the Policy Board for a three-year term through 2021.

    Last year's PAC chairman, Johnson Wagner, replaces Jason Bohn as a player director on the Policy Board beginning this year and running through 2020. Other existing player directors include Charley Hoffman (2017-19), Kevin Streelman (2017-19) and Love (2016-18).

    The 16-member PAC advises and consults with the Policy Board and Tour commissioner Jay Monahan on "issues affecting the Tour."

    In addition to Spieth and Hurley, other PAC members for 2018 include Daniel Berger, Paul Casey, Stewart Cink, Chesson Hadley, James Hahn, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Anirban Lahiri, Geoff Ogilvy, Sam Saunders, Chris Stroud, Justin Thomas, Kyle Thompson and Cameron Tringale.

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    Florida golfers encounter python-wrapped alligator

    By Grill Room TeamJanuary 16, 2018, 6:29 pm

    Alligator sightings are pretty common on Southern golf courses - see here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

    Also, here. (RIP, Timmy the Turtle.)

    But here's one that deserves distinction.

    Those images come from the Golf Club at Fiddler's Creek, down in Naples - in case you're booking a vacation to Southwest Florida or just looking for a Hot Deal this week. Hit 'em straight, folks.

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    McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger

    By Associated PressJanuary 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

    ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.

    The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.

    McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.

    McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.

    ''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''

    Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.

    ''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''

    McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.

    ''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''

    The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.

    ''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''

    The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.