Lopez Diverse in Day 1 Pairings

By Associated PressSeptember 8, 2005, 4:00 pm
2005 Solheim CupCARMEL, Ind. -- U.S. captain Nancy Lopez gathered her potential Solheim Cup players for a practice session last month. She welcomed them to Crooked Stick, talked about American pride and winning back the cup.
 
And then her eyes welled with tears.
 
``She cried five times that day,'' Laura Diaz said. ``We started counting.''
 
By now, it has become a running joke.
 
During the gala dinner Wednesday night at an Indianapolis hotel, Lopez took to the stage shortly before 10 p.m. Within five minutes, her voice cracked and her lips quivered. When the wife of the late Karsten Solheim gave Lopez and European captain Catrin Nilsmark necklaces, Lopez was bawling.
 
'What are we on ... 11 now?'' Rosie Jones said when asked how many times her captain had lost it this week.
 
Then it was time for Lopez's press conference. First came an opening statement, and she talked about what an honor it has been to be the captain. Then, the moderator opened the floor to questions.
 
``I'll try not to cry,'' Lopez said, flashing that infectious smile.
 
But while the players joke about her ability to cry watching reruns of ``Little House on the Prairie,'' Lopez has accomplished what she set out to do.
 
This group of Americans has never felt more like a team.
 
``Nancy has been fantastic,'' said Beth Daniel, who competed against Lopez throughout her career. ``This may be the most fun I've had on a Solheim Cup team, the way she has bonded this team.''
 
When the matches start Friday, Lopez will find out if it pays off.
 
The ninth Solheim Cup begins with four alternate-shot matches, and Lopez already has shown equal treatment to her 12 players by sending out all three rookies Friday morning.
 
Leading off for the Americans is 19-year-old Paula Creamer and the 48-year-old Daniel, the youngest and oldest players in Solheim Cup history. They will face Carin Koch and Catriona Matthew.
 
Lopez put 22-year-old rookie Natalie Gulbis with Cristie Kerr, and 21-year-old Christina Kim with Pat Hurst. Among those who will be on the bench Friday morning are Juli Inkster, Meg Mallon and Jones, who have combined to play in the Solheim Cup 18 times.
 
Diaz, who is five months pregnant, and Michele Redman will play in the final match against the European juggernaut of Annika Sorenstam and Suzann Pettersen, who won together twice in Sweden last time.
 
``I've got three young players that I might have to ride hard this weekend, so why not start them in the first matches?'' she said. ``Get them warmed up, get them calm. The more I put them out there, the better they will be.''
 
Lopez has invested extraordinary amounts of time and creativity with her team. She has had dinner with anyone who had a chance to make the team, even Creamer in the early summer she was still outside the top 10 in the standings.
 
And it really picked up steam two weeks ago after the U.S. team was set. Lopez joined them in Columbus, Ohio, for the announcement, then drove with them to Crooked Stick in a chartered motor home.
 
They cracked jokes at each's expense, sang and took pictures. Lopez undoubtedly shed a tear or two.
 
``Everyone was dancing and telling jokes, and plenty of things that need to stay in that motor home,'' Creamer said.
 
When the players arrived earlier this week at the team hotel, they found red, white and blue balloons in their rooms, gifts, inspirational books and handwritten notes from Lopez.
 
``Pretty unbelievable,'' Kerr said. ``She's a special lady. Forget what she's done on a golf course. I don't think you will meet a better person. She's been all about us. We have been all about each other and team. The bond that this team has molded ... there's a lot of good thoughts, a lot of goodwill, a lot of good energy.''
 
It is difficult to forget what Lopez did on the golf course.
 
She gave the LPGA Tour its first jolt of attention in 1978 as a 21-year-old rookie with a smile that attracted thousands of fans. The gallery and media attention grew as she won five straight tournaments, and finished the year with nine victories. She ended her career with 48 victories, three majors and a spot in the LPGA Hall of Fame.
 
The Solheim Cup began in 1990, so Lopez only played in the first one, going 2-1-0.
 
She is having much more fun as a captain.
 
``I've always liked doing parties for my kids,'' said Lopez, who has three daughters. ``I think I'm a good planner.''
 
She has talked to previous Solheim Cup captains, but was motivated more by watching the Ryder Cup last September, when the U.S. men seemed to be disjointed in getting walloped by Europe.
 
``That was my goal two years ago was to make sure that my team felt like one,'' she said. ``I watched the Ryder Cup, and it was sad because I didn't see that.''
 
But for all the good times, she has not lost sight of the cup.
 
The United States leads the series, 5-3, and has never lost at home. Europe is gaining, coming close to winning three years ago in Minnesota, fully confident that their big hitters can carry them to victory at Crooked Stick.
 
``That's what we've been working for, to win,'' Lopez said. ``It will be very disappointing if we don't.''
 
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    Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

    By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 12:25 am

    ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

    The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.

    Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.

    ''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''

    The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.


    Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship


    Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.

    Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.

    ''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''

    Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

    Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.

    First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.

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    Henley will try to put heat on Casey in final round

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:55 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – While it will be a tall task for anyone to catch Paul Casey at the Travelers Championship, the man who will start the round most within reach of the Englishman is Russell Henley.

    Henley was in the penultimate group at TPC River Highlands on Saturday, but he’ll now anchor things during the final round as he looks to overcome a four-shot deficit behind Casey. After a 3-under 67, Henley sits at 12 under through 54 holes and one shot clear of the three players tied for third.

    Henley closed his third round with a run of five straight pars, then became the beneficiary of a pair of late bogeys from Brian Harman that left Henley alone in second place.


    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    “Could have made a couple more putts, but to end with two up-and-downs like that was nice,” Henley said. “I felt a little bit weird over the shots coming in, put me in some bad spots. But it was nice to have the short game to back me up.”

    Henley has won three times on Tour, most recently at the 2017 Houston Open, and he cracked the top 25 at both the Masters and U.S. Open. But with Casey riding a wave of confidence and coming off an 8-under 62 that marked the best round of the week, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in order to nab trophy No. 4.

    “I think I can shoot a low number on this course. You’ve got to make the putts,” Henley said. “I’m definitely hitting it well enough, and if I can get a couple putts to fall, that would be good. But I can’t control what he’s doing. I can just try to keep playing solid.”

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    Back from back injury, Casey eyeing another win

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:36 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Given his four-shot cushion at the Travelers Championship and his recent victory at the Valspar Championship, it’s easy to forget that Paul Casey hit the disabled list in between.

    Casey had to withdraw from The Players Championship because of a bad back, becoming the only player in the top 50 in the world rankings to miss the PGA Tour’s flagship event. He flew back to England to get treatment, and Casey admitted that his T-20 finish at last month’s BMW PGA Championship came while he was still on the mend.

    “I wasn’t 100 percent fit with the back injury, which was L-4, L-5, S-1 (vertebrae) all out of place,” Casey said. “Big inflammation, nerve pain down the leg and up the back. I didn’t know what was going on.”


    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    Thanks in large part to a combination of MRIs, back adjustments and anti-inflammatories, Casey finally turned the corner. His T-16 finish at last week’s U.S. Open was the first event for which he felt fully healthy since before the Players, and he’s on the cusp of a second title since March after successfully battling through the injury.

    “We thought we were fixing it, but we weren’t. We were kind of hitting the effects rather than the cause,” Casey said. “Eventually we figured out the cause, which was structural.”

    Casey started the third round at TPC River Highlands two shots off the lead, but he’s now four clear of Russell Henley after firing an 8-under 62 that marked the low round of the week.

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    Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:15 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.

    This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.

    Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.


    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.

    “My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”

    Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.

    “Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”