Its Solheim Time - Nuff Said

By George WhiteSeptember 8, 2005, 4:00 pm
You want a little controversy? You got it, and believe me, it wasnt provoked by the media. You want patriotism? Got that, too, and its on both sides of the Atlantic. You want the best woman player, maybe in all of history? Yep, she will be there. And you want a legend to be coaching one of the teams? Yes, you have a legend.
The Solheim Cup is all of this. Paula Creamer is the controversy, saying absolutely that the U.S. will win. Patriotism was rampant at the news conference last week with Go USA! reverberating throughout the American squad. Of course, the Americans will be contesting a team of Europeans led by possibly the greatest womens player in history, Annika Sorenstam. And a legend steps up to lead the U.S. team ' Nancy Lopez.
They settle the score this weekend at Crooked Stick near Indianapolis. You cant say it is a match of the greatest womens players in the world because, like the mens Ryder Cup, no Koreans are present, no Australians, no Japanese or Canadians or South Africans. But it is what it is, two teams of very good players, with several little intriguing twists at play.
First, of course, is Creamers declaration that the U.S. is going to win: They (the European team) better get ready, because they are going to get beat. Paula is only 19, a rookie, not yet experienced enough to guard her sentiments. But I kind of like what she said ' and I would feel the same way if Annika or Laura Davies said it about Europe.
Creamer, you see, isnt anti-Annika or anti-Europe or anti-anything. Deep down, she probably isnt nearly so certain of a U.S. victory. But she is trying valiantly to be positive about her team, and I find that admirable. Lopez refused the opportunity to downplay Paulas unbridled optimism ' She's awesome, she's pumped up. I love it. We want that. You did good, Paula!
And even Davies appreciated Creamers sassy verve. `I like what she said. She's a rookie. She's in that press conference with Nancy Lopez and Beth Daniel. She's a top quality player and she'll only get better. Why shouldn't she be confident? That's good,' said Davies appreciatively.
Sorenstam is bound to score beaucoup points for the Europeans. She has a 16-8 record covering the six Solheims in which she has played, but, like Tiger Woods, she has had troubles in the singles. She has won only three while losing to Tammie Green and Juli Inkster and being halved by Wendy Ward.
That should make the Americans concerned, however, when they see her in a team event ' especially alternate shot (foursomes). She is nearly unbeatable in that one, owning a 9-1-1 record. Her only loss came in 1998 to Dottie Pepper and Brandie Burton when she played with Catrin Nilsmark.
I love the Solheim Cup, said Annika. I do for the reason that it's a team event and we don't play a lot of team events throughout the year. It's a great honor to be selected and kind of represent your country. You know, I represent Europe. And once we do get together, it's a lot of fun.
She hasnt commented directly on Creamers remarks, though its a well-known fact that these sort of things quietly simmer inside her. She deeply resented some of the out-and-out patriotic actions of Pepper, for example, and it was Sorenstam who had to replay a holed chip shot in 2000 when it was determined that she played out of turn.
And then there is Lopez. Nancy played in only one Solheim, the first one in 1990. She was well into her role of being a mother by then, and though she tried very hard to make the team two other times, U.S. captains didnt select her.
Lopez, who had to make similar selections this time when she picked Ward and Beth Daniel for the wild cards and overlooked several deserving players, says she understood. But there can be no mistaking that each time she was considered and rejected, it was painful to her.
I know how they feel, Nancy said of those who werent picked, because there were a couple of times I wasn't chosen for two Solheim Cups. And it's heart-breaking because you know how hard you work and you feel like you deserve to be on the team.
As usual, the Euros arrive with several team members who arent widely known. Ludivine Kreutz and her French compatriot, Gwladys Nocera, are two who made the team via points on the Ladies European Tour but have rarely competed elsewhere, at least as professionals. And it might be noteworthy that Europe has never won on American soil.
But, the Americans misfortunes in the recent Ryder Cups speak volumes about reputations and what that means when it comes down to the nitty-gritty of playing the matches. There is no question that the U.S. has the better singles players. But is the U.S. the best team?
Englishwoman Trish Johnson says it just isn't natural for the U.S. side to really be teammates. '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. That's really difficult,' she said.

Maybe yes, maybe no. But one thing is definite here ' this one is big. It may not be a meeting of the worlds best players, but it is surely the worlds best competition.
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    Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 8:41 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.

    According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.

    Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.

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    Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.

    Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.

    And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.   

    Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.

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    Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

    The Monday morning headline will be …

    REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

    RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

    MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

    JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.

    Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

    HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

    LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

    BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

    COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.

    Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

    HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

    LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

    BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

    COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.

    What will be the winning score?

    HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

    LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

    BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

    COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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    Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

    Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

    Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

    This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

    While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

    Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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    McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

    Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

    “It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”

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    McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

    “Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

    He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.