Europe Desperate for Road Win

By Associated PressSeptember 7, 2005, 4:00 pm
2005 Solheim CupCARMEL, Ind. -- Laura Davies somehow feels empty at the Solheim Cup.
She has played in every one since it began in 1990 and has been such a key component of the European team that Davies has teed it up in 32 of a 33 possible matches over 15 years. She has won 17 1/2 points, a record shared with Annika Sorenstam, and she has hoisted the crystal trophy three times.
But never in the United States.
'It's going to happen at some point,' Davies said. 'I would like it to happen when I'm playing. It would be very disappointing not to win here. I think the team we've assembled this time has the chance to do that.'
The next opportunity comes Friday at Crooked Stick, which John Daly made famous in 1991 when he overpowered the course to win the PGA Championship as the ninth alternate.
Europe has the big hitters -- Davies, Sophie Gustafson, Annika Sorenstam and Maria Hjorth are ranked among the top six on the LPGA Tour in driving distance -- so the course would seem to favor their games.
The American advantage is home soil.
And that might be just as big.
'There's nothing better than winning at home,' Juli Inkster said. 'I can't imagine anything worse than losing at home, and we don't plan on doing that.'
But the Americans cannot simply show up, glance at the flag-waving crowd and expect to win. Three years ago in Minnesota, Europe was ahead 9-7 going into the final day until the United States dominated the 12 singles matches and went on to another victory.
'We're very aware of the situation that we haven't won there before,' Carin Koch said. 'That's a big task.
A victory by the road team could be just what these matches need.
The Ryder Cup was merely an exhibition until Europe won for the first time in the United States in 1987 at Muirfield Village, which helped raise interest in the matches and eventually turned it into a bonanza, with big TV ratings, record galleries and no shortage of acrimony among the players.
'We have come pretty close over here, and everybody would love to win here,' European captain Catrin Nilsmark said. 'To break that barrier would be big for not only us, but for the Solheim Cup as a competition. If they lose on home soil, it would be even more hype next time.'
All the Solheim Cup has thus far is some hard feelings.
It started in 1998 when the Europeans were so infuriated with Dottie Pepper's celebrations that they pasted her picture on a punching dummy and took turns whaling away. Two years later at Loch Lomond, the Americans ordered Annika Sorenstam to replay her chip-in for birdie because she went out of turn. Sorenstam was in tears.
Even now, the Americans can sense some needling by the Europeans.
Davies led off Tuesday afternoon by saying the Americans 'don't seem to have quite the fun we have.'
Then came Trish Johnson of England.
'The American team, in all honesty, they try to beat each other every single week of the year apart from once every two years, when all of a sudden they're supposed to be best mates,' Johnson said. 'That's really difficult.'
All of which came to a surprise to the Americans, who drove to Crooked Stick in a motor home for a practice round a few weeks ago and have been all smiles throughout the week.
'We have a blast,' Beth Daniel said. 'For them to say that is absurd. 'They're trying to make people think we don't enjoy it. They're just trying to stir the pot.'
Europe might need all the help it can muster.
It brings the best player in the world in Sorenstam, but Koch is the only other player who has won on the LPGA Tour this year. Eight of the Europeans play most of their golf on the LPGA Tour.
Sorenstam has not won in America since the LPGA Championship brought her halfway home to the Grand Slam. She fizzled in the U.S. Women's Open and has been relatively quiet most of the summer. 'I've just seen how she's playing now,' Nilsmark said. 'And it looks really good. I would say she's strong as ever.'
Europe won two years ago in Sweden by leading from the opening session of alternate-shot matches (3 1/2-1/2). It clinched the cup in the sixth of 12 singles matches, and went on to the largest margin of victory in the Solheim Cup, 17 1/2-10 1/2.
There was hardly any red, white and blue in the gallery at Barseback Golf and Country Club.
'In Sweden, I thought the atmosphere was great. Obviously, we had a lot of fans pulling for us,' Sorenstam said. 'When we come here, it's probably going to be the opposite, but that's what makes this competition so much fun. It's harder away. It's a big challenge for us.
'If you think about it, the golf ball doesn't know which country you're in.'
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    Reed: 'Back still hurts' from carrying Spieth at Ryder Cup

    By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 10:48 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – Friday’s marquee match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play between Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, who are both undefeated in pool play, just keeps getting better and better.

    Following his 1-up victory over Charl Schwartzel on Thursday, Reed was asked what makes Spieth, who defeated HaoTong Li, 4 and 2, so good at match play.

    “I don't know, my back still hurts from the last Ryder Cup,” smiled Reed, who teamed with Spieth at Hazeltine National.

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    The duo did go 2-1-1 at the 2016 Ryder Cup and have a combined 7-2-2 record in Ryder and Presidents Cup play. Reed went on to explain why Spieth can be such a challenging opponent in match play.

    “The biggest thing is he's very consistent. He hits the ball well. He chips the ball well. And he putts it really well,” Reed said. “He's not going to give you holes. You have to go and play some good golf.”

    The winner of Friday’s match between Spieth and Reed will advance to the knockout stage.

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    Reed vs. Spieth: Someone has to go

    By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 10:11 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – The introduction of round-robin play to the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play was a necessary evil. It was needed to stem the tide of early exits by high-profile players, but three days of pool play has also dulled the urgency inherent to match play.

    There are exceptions, like Friday’s marquee match between Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, which is now a knockout duel with both players going 2-0-0 to begin the week in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

    That the stars aligned so perfectly to have America’s most dominant pairing in team play the last few years square off in a winner-take-all match will only add to what promises to be must-see TV.

    Sport doesn’t always follow the script, but the pre-match subtext on this one is too good to dismiss. In one corner, professional golf’s “Golden Child” who has used the Match Play to wrest himself out of the early season doldrums, and in the other there’s the game’s lovable bad boy.

    Where Spieth is thoughtful and humble to the extreme, Reed can irritate and entertain with equal abandon. Perhaps that’s why they’ve paired so well together for the U.S. side at the Ryder and Presidents Cup, where they are a combined 7-2-2 as a team, although Spieth had another explanation.

    “We're so competitive with each other within our own pairing at the Ryder Cup, we want to outdo each other. That's what makes us successful,” Spieth said. “Tiger says it's a phenomenon, it's something that he's not used to seeing in those team events. Normally you're working together, but we want to beat each other every time.”

    But if that makes the duo a good team each year for the United States, what makes Friday’s showdown so compelling is a little more nuanced.

    The duo has a shared history that stretches all the way back to their junior golf days in Texas and into college, when Reed actually committed to play for Texas as a freshman in high school only to change his mind a year later and commit to Georgia.

    That rivalry has spilled over to the professional ranks, with the twosome splitting a pair of playoff bouts with Reed winning the 2013 Wyndham Championship in overtime and Spieth winning in extra holes at the 2015 Valspar Championship.

    Consider Friday a rubber match with plenty of intrigue.

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    Although the friendship between the two is genuine, there is an edge to the relationship, as evidenced by Reed’s comment last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational when he was denied relief on the 11th hole on Sunday.

    “I guess my name needs to be Jordan Spieth, guys,” Reed said.

    While the line was clearly a joke, Reed added to Friday’s festivities when he was asked what makes Spieth such a good match play opponent. “I don't know, my back still hurts from the last Ryder Cup,” smiled Reed, a not-so-subtle suggestion that he carried Spieth at Hazeltine.

    For his part, Spieth has opted for a slightly higher road. He explained this week that there have been moments in the Ryder Cup when his European opponents attempted some gamesmanship, which only angered Reed and prompted him to play better.

    “I've been very nice to [Reed] this week,” Spieth smiled.

    But if the light-hearted banter between the duo has fueled the interest in what is often a relatively quiet day at the Match Play, it’s their status as two of the game’s most gritty competitors that will likely lead to the rarest of happenings in sport – an event that exceeds expectations.

    Both have been solid this week, with Speith winning his first two matches without playing the 18th hole and Reed surviving a late rally from Charl Schwartzel on Thursday with an approach at the 18th hole that left him a tap-in birdie to remain unbeaten.

    They may go about it different ways, but both possess the rare ability to play their best golf on command.

    “I’m glad the world gets to see this because it will be special,” said Josh Gregory, Reed’s college coach who still works with the world No. 23. “You have two players who want the ball and they aren’t afraid of anything. Patrick lives for this moment.”

     Where Reed seems to feed off raw emotion and the energy of a head-to-head duel, Spieth appears to take a more analytical approach to match play. Although he admits to not having his best game this week, he’s found a way to win matches, which is no surprise to John Fields, Spieth’s coach at Texas.

    “Jordan gave us a tutorial before the NCAA Championship, we picked his brain on his thoughts on match play and how he competed. It’s one of those secret recipes that someone gives you,” Fields said. “When he was a junior golfer he came up with this recipe.”

    Whatever the secret sauce, it will be tested on Friday when two of the game’s most fiery competitors will prove why match play can be the most entertaining format when the stars align like they have this week.

    It was a sign of how compelling the match promises to be that when asked if he had any interest in the Spieth-Reed bout, Rory McIlroy smiled widely, “I have a lot of interest in that. Hopefully I get done early, I can watch it. Penalty drops everywhere.”

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    Watch: Bubba casually hits flop shot over caddie's head

    By Grill Room TeamMarch 22, 2018, 9:20 pm

    We've seen this go wrong. Really wrong.

    But when your end-of-year bonus is a couple of brand new vehicles, you're expected to go above and beyond every now and then.

    One of those times came early Thursday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, where Bubba Watson’s caddie Ted Scott let his boss hit a flop shot over his head.

    It wasn’t quite Phil Mickelson over Dave Pelz, but the again, nothing is.

    And the unique warm-up session paid off, as Watson went on to defeat Marc Leishman 3 and 2 to move to 2-0-0 in group play.

    Hey, whatever works.

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    Spieth explains why he won't play in a 'dome'

    By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 9:01 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – No one at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play was as excited about Thursday’s forecast as Jordan Spieth.

    Winds blew across Austin Country Club to 20 mph, which is typical for this time of year in Texas, and Spieth put in a typical performance, beating HaoTong Li, 4 and 2, to remain undefeated entering the final day of pool play.

    The windy conditions were exactly what Spieth, who never trailed in his match, wanted. In fact, demanding conditions factor into how he sets his schedule.

    “I have, and will continue to schedule tournaments away from a dome, because it's just unusual for me. I like having the feel aspect,” said Spieth, who attended the University of Texas and played Austin Country Club in college. “Places with no wind, where it's just driving range shots, it's just never been something I've been used to. So I don't really know what to do on them.”

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    Spieth used the CareerBuilder Challenge as an example. The Coachella Valley event rarely has windy conditions, and as a result he’s never played the tournament.

    “I played in a dome in Phoenix, and I didn't strike the ball well there. Actually I've had quite a few this year, where we didn't have very windy conditions,” said Spieth, who will face Patrick Reed in his final pool play match on Friday. “I don't go to Palm Springs, never have, because of that. Look at where you can take weeks off and if they match up with places that potentially aren't the best for me, then it works out.”