Europe Locked and Loaded
Captain Helen Alfredsson has announced her team for the Solheim Cup next month. Laura Davies will make a remarkable 10th appearance, becoming the only player to have competed in every competition. Fellow veteran Trish Johnson is a winner on the Ladies European Tour this season, as is Catriona Matthew, who captured the Scandinavian TPC Hosted by Annika the week after the Ricoh Womens British Open. Gladys Nocera, Sophie Gustafson, Annika Sorenstam and Suzann Pettersen all bring experience in the matches, with Gustafson and Sorenstam no doubt delighting the home galleries in Sweden.
The other two automatic qualifiers were Bettina Hauert and Becky Brewerton, both of whom play all of their golf on the LET. Hauert is a winner this season, as is Brewerton, who captured her maiden title in Ireland last month. Remarkably, Brewerton becomes the first Welsh player to compete in the Solheim Cup, some 11 years after the event was staged on Welsh soil.
Captain Alfredsson then made the team up to 12 with three captains picks: Maria Hjorth, Iben Tinning and Linda Wessberg were announced on Tuesday in a press conference in Stockholm. Hjorth and Tinning are experienced Solheim campaigners having played in five between them; Wessberg joins Brewerton and Hauert in making her first appearance. It seems the Ricoh Womens British Open performances of both Wessberg and Hjorth made a big impact on the decision making. Hjorth finished tied for second, with Wessberg playing in the final group with Lorena Ochoa, eventually finishing tied 7th.
I agree with the Hjorth pick; shes ranked No. 1 on the New Star Money List in Europe and Wessberg also seems to make sense having won this year and having played a bit on the LPGA Tour, where she is non-exempt and currently 66th on the Money List from 10 events. The big surprise comes in Iben Tinning, a player ranked 18th in Europe, 148th in the world rankings, and without a win since 2005. Granted, she does have Solheim experience and gave birth to her son, Mads, in the March last year, but I think players like Rebecca Hudson, Mhairi McKay, Janice Moodie and Karen Stupples will be bitterly disappointed with that decision.
Europeans Banking on Good Finishes at The Barclays:
Fourteen European players will tee it up in the inaugural event of the FedExCup Playoffs. I believe, though, that because of the way these playoffs work, only about four have a realistic chance of actually pulling off the $10 million victory after the TOUR Championship. They would be: Luke Donald, Padraig Harrington, Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose. They must sneak a top-5 finish and a victory over The Barclays and Deutsche Bank stretch to keep their dreams alive, because I dont see Tiger giving away much ground.
Ive been on the Rose bandwagon all season; so far he hasnt produced me a victory in the U.S., but what a time this would be to do it! His record this year is tremendous; if you take the world rankings purely for 2007, he would be No.2 behind Woods. Hes also ranked second on the European Tour Order of Merit, behind Padraig Harrington. And despite not winning he has one of the best records in the 2007 majors.
Dinwiddie Done Good:
Robert Dinwiddie, not a name you will be too familiar with -- readers in North Carolina and England may have a few bells ringing -- but you might just be hearing this name a lot more over the next few years. Dinwiddie is a former Walker Cup player from England, who went to the University of North Carolina and subsequently has made his home in the Tar Heel State. He Monday qualified for the Wachovia Championship this season, but missed the cut in his first PGA TOUR start. Hes played the majority of his rookie season on the European Challenge Tour and after a solid start to the year -- his best finish being tied 3rd -- he went out and won the last two events. Last week in Geneva he carded a 63 to snatch the Rolex Trophy title from overnight leader Ross McGowan.
Dinwiddie has been working with U.S.-based Englishman Nick Bradley, who tells me the pair began their work in March of this year. Immediately I saw he had fine pedigree he said, all we needed to do was tighten a few things up. The work must have been paying off as Dinwiddie is now second on the Challenge Tour Rankings and just one more win away from automatic promotion to the European Tour. Bradley told me this week that there is no doubt in his mind that Dinwiddie will be a European Tour winner in his career. After an exciting couple of weeks, Robert, whos 24, has returned to Charlotte for some rest. His next outing on the Challenge Tour is set for the ECCO Tour Championship, in Denmark next week.
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Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas
Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.
Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.
Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.
McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.
Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?
Memo to the golf gods:
If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?
Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?
It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.
With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.
It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.
We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.
We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.
Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.
Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line. Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.
We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors.
In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.
While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.
Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.
Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.
Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.
While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.
Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.
So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?
McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever
With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.
The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.
Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.
"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."
McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.
But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.
"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."
What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire
Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.
Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft
Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft
Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft
Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts
Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts
Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x