Countdown to the Cup

By Tom AbbottJune 29, 2009, 4:00 pm
The countdown is on to the Solheim Cup, but will Europe be able to bring a battle to the Americans at Rich Harvest Farms?
With Annika Sorenstam gone and Laura Davies coming into the twilight years of her career, will there be a lack of firepower for the Euros in August?
Rolex Rankings (as of Jun. 28, 2009)

1. Suzann Pettersen 6

2. Helen Alfredsson 10

3. Anna Nordqvist 24

4. Maria Hjorth 29

5. Karen Stupples 41

6. Sophie Gustafson 48

7. Catriona Matthew 62

European Points List (as of Jun. 28, 2009)

1.Gwladys Nocera 200.50

2. Tania Elosegui 117.00

3. Laura Davies 115.17

4. Martina Eberl 114.65

5. Melissa Reid 105.88

6. Marianne Skarpnord 97.12
The Europeans select their team from two lists. Five players come from a European points list, computed by results from Ladies European Tour events and majors and then four are selected from the Rolex Womens World Rankings. The European list takes precedence, with captain Alison Nicholas finishing the 12 woman side with three wildcard selections.
Other names to consider for possible captains selections would be Paula Marti, Lisa Hall, Rebecca Hudson and Minea Blomqvist. Germanys Sandra Gal would not be eligible as she is not a member of the LET.
When you look at these lists, there may be some names that seem unfamiliar. No doubt you would have seen the players from the Rolex Rankings on the LPGA but those from the European Points List, minus Laura Davies, play all of their golf on the LET. This creates a somewhat unknown factor for U.S. captain Beth Daniel and her team, an unknown factor that could create a false sense of security.
Nocera was number one on the Henderson Global Investors money list in Europe last season. Elosegui has had a win and second place in the past month. Eberl is a four-time winner on the LET and Melissa Reid is a very promising 21-year-old Englishwoman who is knocking on the door for her first victory.
The Europeans have the U.S. Womens Open and four LET events remaining before selections are made following the Ricoh Womens British Open. Two of those events are co-sanctioned with the LPGA Tour (Evian Masters and Ricoh) and it will be those two tournaments that will prove vital for both captains in seeing how their players are shaping up. Itll be the first time this season that all the Solheim Cup players will be in the same field. Those two events, plus the U.S. Womens Open will offer additional points, so they will be pivotal in deciding who gets to represent their country. At present, only Nocera, Pettersen and Alfredsson are guaranteed a place on the side.
There is no doubt that the Europeans will need to play very well in order to capture victory at Rich Harvest Farms. The Americans have firepower in Kerr, Creamer, Stanford and recently, Kristy McPherson. If the teams were set today, the Europeans would need to rely heavily on the rookies. The Euros would bring at least four, possibly five with a wildcard. Three of those rookies, Eberl, Reid and Elosegui, have hardly any professional experience, except for the Q-School on American soil. Captain Nicholas will hope that ignorance is bliss when they enter the Solheim Cup cauldron.
A fascinating five weeks remain before the teams are set. Im looking forward to reporting from both Evian and Royal Lytham as the clock ticks down to the final composition of the teams.
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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.