Solheim Fever Descends on Sweden
Ask European team member Annika Sorenstam, the No. 1 player in the world and a native of Sweden. Sweden is the host of this years celebration of womens golf Sept. 12-14.
Theyre excited, she said of her fellow Swedes, and Im excited.
Its going to be a great event for many reasons. Its the first time we can really showcase Sweden, its such a big event. I know theyve sold something like 80,000 tickets. So, Im expecting that the whole country will be there, and I hope the golf will be as good as the tournament.
American Juli Inkster admits the butterflies have started working on her psyche. But she wouldnt want to be anyplace else.
You work two years to get here, and then you wonder why you do it, because its so nerve-wracking, she confessed.
But its a lot of fun. Weve got a great team. Its going to be a great challenge, but its going to be a lot of fun.
In addition to Inkster, the American team will include Beth Daniel, Laura Diaz, Rosie Jones, Cristie Kerr, Meg Mallon, Michele Redman, Kelly Robbins, Angela Stanford and Wendy Ward. Heather Bowie and Kelli Kuehne complete the 12-person team as captain Sheehan's two captain's picks.
Europe will counter with Sorenstam and fellow Swede Sophie Gustafson, Germany's Elisabeth Esterl, Iben Tinning of Denmark, Ana B. Sanchez of Spain, Scotland's Mhairi McKay and England's Laura Davies. Nilsmark selected as her captains picks Patricia Meunier-Lebouc of France, Norway's Suzann Pettersen, Sweden's Carin Koch, and Scotlands Catriona Matthew and Janice Moodie.
'This is a fun time for me,' said Sheehan after she announced her team. 'I have a couple of young players as picks, and we have such depth on our team, such experience and so many great players that I felt that it would be great to have some young new blood and enthusiasm coming from the younger players to sort of inject some adrenaline in our team.
Sheehans picks of Bowie (28) and Kuehne (26) represent the youth that she wants to impart to her team. The veteran leadership will come from Daniel (seven appearances), Mallon (six), Jones and Robbins (five) and Inkster (four appearances).
The 2003 U.S. team will include two rookies to the event: Stanford, who is three-year tour veteran, and Bowie, who is in her fourth year on tour.
Sheehan believes it is one of the strongest teams in Solheim Cup history. Why?
Because we have a lot of experience and the younger players that I have, the rookies are all very strong and confident players and every single one of them has a lot of great match play history, she said. Match play records. Kelli Kuehne probably has one of the best for a rookie. Cristie Kerr is, she's unbelievable. Cristie Kerr has done something that not many people can do. And that is transform herself.
Davies has played in all seven previous Solheim Cups for Europe. Sorenstam has appeared in five. The remainder of the Europeans are one- or two-time competitors with a scattering of first-timers.
Laura has always loved the Solheim Cup, Sheehan said. She really is the heart and sole I think of the European team and so she's getting ready. She's putting her game face on.
Koch, who has missed significant time this season after giving birth to her second child, is an impressive 7-0-1 and was unblemmished in 2002 until halving the final match on the course on Sunday against Daniel.
'The Solheim Cup is probably the showcase event for all of women's golf in the world,' said Sheehan. 'We know that and the players always rise to the occasion and always play incredible exciting golf.
I look forward to the experiences being The Solheim Cup captain for the American side. I have been through it once. It was the most wonderful experience being a winning captain. And I look forward to bringing the Cup home.'
Qualifying points for the U.S. team were awarded weekly to the top-10 finishers and ties at official LPGA tournaments. Points were doubled at the four major championships every year. The LPGA's four major tournaments are the Kraft Nabisco Championship, McDonald's LPGA Championship Presented by AIG, U.S. Women's Open and the Weetabix Women's British Open.
The Solheim Cup will be televised by The Golf Channel in the United States. The Golf Channel will televise at least 27 hours of live golf during this year's Solheim Cup, plus both the opening and closing ceremonies and a 30-minute wrap-up show after the first two days of competition. In addition, The Golf Channel will re-air in primetime three hours of the most compelling portions from each day's competition.
It will be a lifetime experience for the women, says Sheehan.
The Solheim Cup experience is none other than extraordinary for these players. They spend two years trying to get on the team and it is unbelievable, the pressure that they will be under for those matches at the Solheim Cup. (The matches) will be more than they have ever experienced before. And the rookies have no idea how unbelievable this is going to be for them.
Lincicome grouped with two rookies in Barbasol
Brittany Lincicome will tee it up with a pair of rookies when she makes her first start in a PGA Tour event Thursday at the Barbasol Championship at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.
Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, is scheduled to go off the 10th tee at 9:59 a.m. ET in the first round with Sam Ryder, 28, and Conrad Shindler, 29. They’re off the first tee Friday at 2:59 p.m. ET
Lincicome will become just the sixth woman to play in a PGA Tour event, joining Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie.
“The first three or four holes, I’ll be a nervous wreck, for sure,” Linicome said.
Lincicome thrilled by reception from male pros
Brittany Lincicome wondered how PGA Tour pros would greet her when she arrived to play the Barbasol Championship this week.
She wondered if there would be resentment.
She also wondered how fans at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky., would receive her, and if a social media mob would take up pitchforks.
“I can’t stop smiling,” Lincicome said Tuesday after her first practice round upon arriving. “Everyone has been coming up to me and wishing me luck. That means a lot.”
PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, husband of LPGA pro Gerina Piller, welcomed her immediately.
Other pros sought her out on the practice putting green.
She said she was also welcomed joining pros at a table in player dining.
Fans have been stopping her for autographs.
“It has been an awesome reception,” said Dewald Gouws, her husband, a former long-drive competitor. “I think it’s put her much more at ease, seeing the reception she is getting. There’s a lot of mutual respect.”
Lincicome, 32, wasn’t sure if she would be playing a practice round alone Tuesday morning, but when she made her way to the first tee, Domenico Geminiani was there, just about to go off.
He waved Lincicome over.
“He said, `Hey, Brittany, do you want to join me?’” Gouws said. “Come to find out, Dom’s a pretty cool guy.”
Geminiani made it into the field as a Monday qualifier.
“The two of us were both trying to figure things out together,” Lincicome said.
Keene Trace will play to 7,328 yards on the scorecard. That’s more than 800 yards longer than Highland Meadows, where Lincicome finished second at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic last weekend. Keene Trace was playing even longer than its listed yardage Tuesday, with recent rains softening it.
Nicknamed “Bam Bam,” Lincicome is one of the longest hitters in the women’s game. Her 269.5 yard average drive is 10th in the LPGA ranks. It would likely be dead last on the PGA Tour, where Brian Stuard (278.2) is the last player on the stats list at No. 201.
“I think if I keep it in the fairway, I’ll be all right,” Lincicome said.
Lincicome is an eight-time LPGA winner, with two major championships among those titles. She is just the sixth woman to compete in a PGA Tour event, the first in a decade, since Michelle Wie played the Reno-Tahoe Open, the last of her eight starts against the men.
Lincicome will join Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Wie in the elite ranks.
Zaharias, by the way, is the only woman to make a 36-hole cut in PGA Tour history, making it at the 1945 L.A. Open before missing a 54-hole cut on the weekend.
What are Lincicome’s expectations?
She would love to make the cut, but . . .
“Just going to roll with it and see what happens,” she said. “This is once in a lifetime, probably a one-and-done opportunity. I’m just going to enjoy it.”
Lincicome grew up playing for the boys’ golf team at Seminole High on the west coast of Florida. She won a couple city championships.
“I always thought it would be cool to compete against the guys on the PGA Tour,” Lincicome said. “I tend to play more with the guys than women at home. I never would have gone out and told my agent, `Let’s go try to play in a PGA Tour event,’ but when Tom Murray called with this opportunity, I was really blown away and excited by it. I never in a million years thought I would have this opportunity.”
Tom Murray, the president of Perio, the parent company of Barbasol and Pure Silk, invited Lincicome to accept one of the tournament’s sponsor exemptions. Lincicome represents Pure Silk.
Lincicome said her desire to play a PGA Tour event is all about satisfying her curiosity, wanting to know how she would stack up at this level. She also wants to see if the experience can help take her to the next level in the women’s game.
As a girl growing up, she played Little League with the boys, instead of softball with the girls. She said playing the boys in golf at Seminole High helped her get where she is today.
“The guys were better, and it pushed me to want to be better,” Lincicome said. “I think playing with the guys [on the PGA Tour], I will learn something to take to LPGA events, and it will help my game, for sure.”
Lincicome has been pleased that her fellow LPGA pros are so supportive. LPGA winner Kris Tamulis is flying into Kentucky as moral support. Other LPGA pros may also be coming in to support her.
The warm fan reception Lincicome is already getting at Keene Trace matters, too.
“She’s already picked up some new fans this week, and hopefully she will pick up some more,” Gouws said. “I don’t think she’s putting too much expectation on herself. I think she really does just want to have fun.”
Stunner: Inbee Park steps aside for Int. Crown
There was a big surprise this week when the LPGA announced the finalized lineups for the UL International Crown.
Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park won’t be teeing it up for the host South Koreans Oct. 4-7 in Incheon.
She has withdrawn, saying she wanted another Korean to be able to experience the thrill of representing her country.
It’s a stunner given the importance the LPGA has placed on taking the UL International Crown to South Korea and its golf-crazy allegiance to the women’s game in the Crown’s first staging outside the United States.
Two-time major champion In Gee Chun will replace Park.
"It was my pleasure and honor to participate in the first UL International Crown in 2014 and at the 2016 Olympics, and I cannot describe in one word how amazing the atmosphere was to compete as a representative of my country,” Park said. “There are so many gifted and talented players in Korea, and I thought it would be great if one of the other players was given the chance to experience the 2018 UL International Crown.”
Chun, another immensely popular player in South Korea, was the third alternate, so to speak, with the world rankings used to field teams. Hye Jin Choi and Jin Young Ko were higher ranked than Chun but passed because of commitments made to competing in a Korean LPGA major that week. The other South Koreans who previously qualified are So Yeon Ryu, Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim.
Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.
Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.
“I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”
Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.
“It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”
The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.
“All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”