Europeans Take Commanding Lead

By Sports NetworkSeptember 12, 2003, 4:00 pm
LODDEKOPINGE, Sweden -- The European team collected 3 1/2 of a possible four points to take the lead after Friday morning's foursomes matches at the Solheim Cup.
 
Annika Sorenstam, the No. 1 player in the world and hometown favorite, delighted the galleries Friday as she teamed with Suzann Pettersen in defeating the American tandem of Laura Diaz and Heather Bowie, 4 and 3.
 
'It's nice to win but to play in front of the home crowd - you can feel how much they're pulling for us,' said Sorenstam. 'The atmosphere is just fantastic and it makes it even more special.'
 
The first match of Friday's morning alternate-shot session was the closest as the American team of Beth Daniel and Kelly Robbins halved their match with Laura Davies and Carin Koch for the only points on the United States side.
 
Catriona Matthew and Janice Moodie, the Scottish duo selected to the team by captain Catrin Nilsmark, clobbered the American team of Juli Inkster and Wendy Ward, 5 and 3.
 
Sophie Gustafson and Elisabeth Esterl dispatched captain Patty Sheehan's heavily favored U.S. pair of Rosie Jones and Meg Mallon with relative ease on Friday. The Europeans won, 3 and 2, as they cut off an American rally on the back nine at Barsebck Golf & Country Club.
 
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 session was stopped for over 90 minutes but when play resumed, the Europeans took full advantage.
 
Sorenstam and Pettersen won the first hole Friday when Bowie missed a short par putt. The rout was on from there as Diaz drove into the water at the third and the Americans lost that hole to fall 2-down.
 
Bowie canned a 12-foot birdie putt to win the fifth hole but she missed another short putt to drop the seventh and fall 2-down once again. The Americans bogeyed 10 and 11 and fell 4-down, a deficit they were never able to overcome.
 
The Europeans closed out the match at 15.
 
'I think our games are very similar,' said Sorenstam, referring to her partner. 'We complimented each other really well today. When he needed to, we made a putt or when we needed to, we hit it close.'
 
The opening match started with a 30-foot birdie putt by Daniel to go 1-up but the Europeans took two of the next three holes to go 1-up.
 
On the second nine, Europe held their 1-up lead until the U.S. won the 11th with par. Europe took back the lead with a win at 13 when Robbins failed to save par from six feet.
 
The U.S. side won the 14th with bogey to square the match, then took the 15th with par to go 1-up for the first time since the first hole. Koch ran home a long birdie putt at 16 to draw even and both teams made par at 17, thanks to a clutch 15-footer by Robbins.
 
On the closing hole, Robbins sank a 12-foot bogey putt but Koch, normally the steadiest putter on the European side, missed a 10-foot, par-saving putt right of the hole. The bogeyed left each team with a half point, the only match that kept the Europeans from a clean sweep.
 
Koch is still undefeated in this her third Solheim Cup with a record of 7-0-2.
 
Inkster and Ward were even with Moodie and Matthew at the turn but the Scottish pair caught fire on the second nine. Matthew drained a 25-foot birdie to win the 10th, a seven-footer to win the 11th and Moodie rolled home a 10-foot birdie to capture their third hole in a row and go 3-up.
 
Europe won the 14th with par then Matthew canned a 15-foot birdie putt at the 15th to polish off the 5-and-3 win.
 
'We both played really well this morning,' said Matthew. 'We both judged the pace well. It's great to get off to a good start.'
 
Gustafson set the tone at No. 1 with a chip-in birdie but Mallon matched her with a 10-footer at the same hole. The European side built a 4-up lead after 11 holes when Jones left her bunker shot on the fringe at No. 11.
 
The U.S. side did not give in as they took the 13th and 14th holes to cut their deficit to 2-down but Gustafson and Esterl won the 16th to close out the match.
 
Friday afternoon will feature four fourball matches.
 
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    What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

    Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

    Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

    Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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    Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

    Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

    While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

    The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

    So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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    Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

    By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

    The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

    As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

    Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

    And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

    And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

    McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

    The Ryder Cup topped his list.

    Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

    When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

    “Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



    McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

    Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

    “The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

    European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

    And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

    The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

    Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

    And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

    Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

    The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

    The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

    More bulletin board material, too.

    Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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    Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

    Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

    The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

    It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

    The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

    “I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

    Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.