Sorenstam named 2017 European Solheim Cup captain

By Randall Mell, Golf Channel DigitalMarch 30, 2016, 6:02 pm

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Annika Sorenstam vs. Juli Inkster.

It’s official.

With Europe naming the Swedish Sorenstam to lead its Solheim Cup team Wednesday morning at the ANA Inspiration, it sets up a dynamic pairing of captains for the 2017 matches.

Sorenstam and Inkster are both Hall of Famers with heavyweight credentials as leaders. They’re both intense competitors comfortable on big stages, and they’ll have big jobs to do steering this biennial international competition into more spirited waters after last year’s controversial finish pitted the Rules of Golf against sportsmanship.

“I cannot tell you how excited I am,” Sorenstam said. “I had hoped and dreamed this opportunity would come along. If I look back in my career, the Solheim Cup has always been an important part of it. We play as individuals for 99 percent of the time, but when we do get together it's just something special.”

Sorenstam, 45, is third on the LPGA’s all-time victory list with 72 titles, trailing only Kathy Whitworth (88) and Mickey Wright (82). Her 10 major championship titles rank behind only Patty Berg (15), Mickey Wright (13) and Louise Suggs (11). Sorenstam’s 22 Solheim Cup victories equals Laura Davies as most in the history of the competition.

Inkster, 55, led the Americans to the greatest comeback in Solheim Cup history last year, overcoming a 10-6 deficit going into Sunday singles. Inkster has won 31 LPGA titles, seven majors. The 15 Solheim Cup matches she won as a player are most in history on the American side.

“Annika had an outstanding playing career and she is a tough competitor, which will make her a great captain for Team Europe,” Inkster said. “I am sure she’ll have her team ready to compete to try to win back the cup, and I hope to have Team USA ready to defend and keep the cup for another two years.”

The American comeback victory in Germany last year was rocked by controversy that promises to echo into next year’s matches in Iowa. Europe’s Suzann Pettersen came under fire after American Alison Lee scooped up an 18-inch putt saying she heard someone concede the putt in a fourball match just prior to the start of singles play. Lee was in tears for being penalized and incurring a loss of the hole after Pettersen created a firestorm insisting the Euros didn’t concede the putt. It set off heated debate over how the Rules of Golf can clash with the spirit of the game and sportsmanship. Pettersen apologized with a public backlash bringing her to tears.

Inkster and Sorenstam were both involved in the aftermath of that, with Inkster critical of the ruling and Sorenstam trying to guide Pettersen into rethinking her decision. Though Sorenstam was an assistant captain for the Euros last year, she found herself in the middle of rising tensions more than once. Sorenstam and Inkster were shown in a spirited exchange earlier in the matches over American complaints that Sorenstam was giving advice to players outside the captain’s agreement. Sorenstam insisted she was “falsely accused.” A similar incident arose in the Solheim Cup in Colorado two years earlier.

Sorenstam knows how intense the atmosphere can become in the international team competition. Back in 2000 at Loch Lomond, Sorenstam holed a 25-foot chip shot that appeared to halve a fourball match against Kelly Robbins and Pat Hurst. Because Sorenstam wasn’t actually away, the Americans made Sorenstam replay the shot, creating a furor in the European ranks that left the tough-minded Sorenstam in tears.

Sorenstam was asked how she will try to balance the intensity of the competition and pressure to win against the kind of sportsmanship questions that have come up in the past.

“That's a good question,” Sorenstam said. “Yeah, it was quite intense last year. I've been part of a few intense Solheims. But, also, that's kind of what makes the tournament the way it is. Our goals have always been to go in there and have a good time, play some good golf and showcase the very best of women's golf, and I think that's going to continue ... But when you get together, and everybody's so passionate, everybody's so engaged and they just want to win, sometimes it gets very emotional. I think we're just going to keep reminding ourselves what we all learned from what's happened in the past, and we all grow and mature and hopefully you'll see that next time.”

What was learned in last year’s controversy?

“I think we have talked about this enough,” Sorenstam said. “I think we've all learned a lesson. I don't think anybody's really happy about what happened. I think we move on and focus on the positive. I think the U.S. team played very, very well on Sunday. I mean they were exceptional. Unfortunately, that doesn't get talked about as much ... I'd like to move forward.”

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Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish

By Associated PressJuly 23, 2018, 12:25 am

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.

Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.

The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.

Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.

The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.

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Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:07 am

It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.

Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.

The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:

The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.

For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.

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Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.

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Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose

By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 9:17 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.

Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.

The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.

“There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.

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In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.

“To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”

Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.

“To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.