Solheim report cards are in!

By Jay CoffinSeptember 25, 2011, 5:59 pm


Captain Rosie Jones C

Captains are either heroes or goats, that’s just the way it works. Minor tweaks and attention to detail are what decide matches that are this close. Pairing Stacy Lewis and Angela Stanford twice in foursomes was a big mistake and not resting Cristie Kerr a session, knowing her wrist was fragile, was another. Playing Paula Creamer all five sessions wasn’t an egregious error. Jones did get a huge boost from oft-criticized pick Ryann O’Toole, who ended with a 2-0-2 record, validating the pick. But bottom line, the Americans had more talent and lost.

Morgan Pressel (4-0-0) A+

Pressel was fuming when she sat the opening session but responded with four consecutive victories and was the MVP for the U.S. She won with three different partners, then was scrappy in singles when she fought back from a 2-down deficit to defeat Anna Nordqvist.

Christina Kim (1-0-1) A

Thought to be one of the weaker players on this U.S. team because she arrived in poor form, Kim stepped up big in her two matches. Kim and Ryann O’Toole found a rhythm in fourballs and Kim drummed Maria Hjorth, 4 and 2, in singles.

Paula Creamer (3-1-1) B+

Creamer was a horse again for the U.S., playing all five matches, but she ran out of gas in singles and played poorly in a 6-and-5 rout by Catriona Matthew. Still, without Creamer, the U.S. wouldn’t have been close going into Sunday. Without her playing well on Sunday, the Americans just didn’t have enough firepower.

Ryann O’Toole (2-0-2) B

An emotional week for O’Toole ended on a major downer as she lost the last two holes in singles with a 2-up lead. Even though she’s disappointed, she never lost a match outright and played four times. Many people believed she would play only twice after having struggled mightily the past month.

Vicky Hurst (1-1-0) B

The captain’s pick didn’t play much and she lost her Friday fourball match, 5 and 4, with Brittany Lincicome but Hurst contributed with three birdies. Although she didn’t play at all on Day 2 she stepped up in singles and beat Melissa Reid, who has won three times on the Ladies European Tour this year.

Brittany Lincicome (2-2-0) C

Lincicome’s record may look like she deserves a better grade but she lost a big singles match to Solheim Cup rookie Christel Boeljon in a place where she should’ve thrived. When Lincicome plays well, she’s tough to beat. When she plays poorly, she loses interest.

Cristie Kerr (2-2-1) C

Kerr should’ve been more honest with Rosie Jones and insist she sit out a session before singles. Playing so much with an injured wrist was bound to catch up with her, and not playing in singles cost her team a point. It would’ve been better to sit a session Saturday and guarantee a Sunday start.

Brittany Lang (1-3-0) C

Lang’s three team matches were disappointing but she was partnered in two of them with Juli Inkster, who did not play well, then paired with Michelle Wie in fourballs when they ran into a hot-putting Laura Davies. She stepped up in singles and won 6 and 5.

Juli Inkster (0-2-1) C

Inkster clearly does not have the stamina she once did and didn’t play well in both foursome matches with Brittany Lang as a partner. But the veteran gutted out a crucial half-point in singles against Laura Davies by winning the 18th hole with a par.

Michelle Wie (1-3-0) C-

It was a strange week for Wie. She and Cristie Kerr won the first match of the Solheim Cup, then she never won again. It's difficult to knock her singles performance, though. She gutted it out but lost to Suzann Pettersen, who closed with three consecutive birdies. Wie birdied two of the last five but it wasn’t enough.

Stacy Lewis (1-3-0) D+

This wasn't the rookie Solheim Cup performance Lewis was looking for. Hand it to her for hanging tight with Sophie Gustafson in a good singles match, but Lewis and Angela Stanford clearly had tension in both of their foursome matches.

Angela Stanford (0-3-0) D

Stanford should’ve been more of a leader in these matches as she has great experience playing on foreign soil for the Solheim Cup. But she and Stacy Lewis were like oil and water in both foursome matches. She could’ve redeemed herself in singles but didn’t and was the only player on either team to leave without gaining a point.


Captain Alison Nicholas A

This is the only grade you can give to a captain of a winning team, isn’t it? Nicholas learned from her captaining mistakes from two years ago and made all the right moves this time. It’s impressive that Europe answered all the questions about being relevant all week. It’s also impressive that the Europeans won even though the Americans had a much deeper team according to the world rankings. Captaining a winning Solheim Cup team for Europe seals Nicholas’ place in history.

Sophie Gustafson (4-0-0) A+

Gustafson was dominant this week and was the only European to earn four points. She had favorable matchups all week but still showed up and was rock solid. Her singles victory over Stacy Lewis was gritty and she was 2 under in nasty conditions.

Suzann Pettersen (3-1-0) A

Would love to give her an A+ but the lone defeat kept that from happening. She will forever be a Solheim Cup legend for making birdies on the last three holes of singles against Michelle Wie to capture the full point in a 1-up victory. Those who have questioned her guts in big moments will never do so again.

Caroline Hedwall (2-1-1) A

Hedwall was one of the clear surprises for Europe. She thrived in her first match with Sophie Gustafson, then went 1-1 on Day 2. But it all comes down to singles, and coming back from 2 down with two holes remaining against Ryann O’Toole to halve the match clinched the Solheim Cup for Europe.

Catriona Matthew (2-0-2) A

Matthew never gets the attention she deserves because of her quiet demeanor but she always delivers. Her Solheim Cup record is now 12-7-6 and she is 5-1 overall in singles. Her dominating performance against Paula Creamer in singles set the tone for the day.

Azahara Munoz (2-1-1) A

The Spaniard stepped up big and you rarely saw her without a smile. Munoz went 1-0-1 with Catriona Matthew as her partner but struggled with Maria Hjorth in fourballs. But her performance in singles was brilliant. She made birdie on the 17th hole against Angela Stanford to guarantee at least a half-point.

Christel Boeljon (1-2-0) B

Boeljon sat all of Day 1 and played well in both her matches on Day 2 but did not get any help from either of her partners. She gets a good grade for her ability to take down Brittany Lincicome in singles. It was a crucial point when momentum was key.

Laura Davies (1-1-1) C

Davies turned back the clock Saturday when she made five birdies in 15 holes to win Europe’s only point of the afternoon. But she’s docked points for failing to win a full point in singles when she had a 1-up advantage over Juli Inkster on the last hole. She made bogey.

Anna Nordqvist (2-2-0) C

Nordqvist played terribly in her opening foursome match when she had a shank and a skull, both finding water. She was 2 up after eight holes against Morgan Pressel in singles, then lost the next five holes. More was expected from her.

Sandra Gal (0-2-1) C-

Gal looked shaky in her first Solheim Cup. Her half-point came while teaming with Catriona Matthew in fourballs, and she lost another fourball match teamed with Christel Boeljon. It was disappointing that she didn’t put up more of a fight in singles against Brittany Lang.

Melissa Reid (1-3-0) C-

She showed promise and the game to be a Solheim Cup player for a long time but the three-time winner on the Ladies European Tour won only one match, which came as a result of Laura Davies’ five birdies in 15 holes in fourballs. Other than that, it was an unspectacular week. She never should’ve lost to Vicky Hurst in singles.

Maria Hjorth (1-3-0) D+

Most of Hjorth’s grade comes from a sloppy singles performance against Christina Kim, who won 6-and-5. The Swede has been a Solheim stalwart in the past but she did not bring her best to Ireland this year. She’s lucky Europe won, too. If not, her singles loss would look more glaring.

Karen Stupples (1-2-0) D

Stupples was excited to redeem herself from a poor Solheim performance in 2005 when she went 0-2. She never got it going and cost Europe a full point Friday morning with a chunked chip shot on 18. Her only point came because Cristie Kerr conceded her singles match.

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What's in the Bag: CJ Cup winner Koepka

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 23, 2018, 12:50 am

Brooks Koepka closed strong to win the CJ Cup in South Korea, and he also took over the No. 1 ranking. Here's a look inside his bag.

Driver: TaylorMade M3 (9.5 degrees)

Fairway Woods: TaylorMade M2 Tour HL (16.5 degrees)

Irons: Nike Vapor Fly Pro (3); Mizuno JPX-900 Tour (4-PW)

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM7 Raw (52, 56 degrees), SM7 Raw TVD (60 degrees)

Putter: Scotty Cameron T10 Select Newport 2 prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x

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HOFer Stephenson: Robbie wants to play me in movie

By Will GrayOctober 22, 2018, 4:20 pm

Margot Robbie has already starred in one sports-related biopic, and if she gets her way a second opportunity might not be far behind.

Robbie earned an Academy Award nomination for her work last year as former Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding in the movie, I Tonya. She also has a desire to assume the role of her fellow Aussie, Jan Stephenson, in a movie where she would trade in her skates for a set of golf clubs.

That's at least according to Stephenson, who floated out the idea during an interview with Golf Australia's Inside the Ropes podcast shortly after being announced as part of the next class of World Golf Hall of Fame inductees.

"We've talked about doing a movie. Margot Robbie wants to play me," Stephenson said.

There certainly would be a resemblance between the two Australian blondes, as Robbie has become one of Hollywood's leading ladies while Stephenson was on the cutting edge of sex appeal during her playing career. In addition to several magazine covers, Stephenson also racked up 16 LPGA wins between 1976-87 including three majors.

Robbie, 28, has also had starring roles in Suicide Squad and The Wolf of Wall Street.

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Monday Scramble: Who's No. 1 ... in the long run?

By Ryan LavnerOctober 22, 2018, 4:00 pm

Brooks Koepka becomes golf’s new king, Sergio Garcia enjoys the Ryder Cup bump, Danielle Kang overcomes the demons, Michelle Wie goes under the knife and more in this week’s edition of Monday Scramble:

Brooks Koepka added an exclamation point to his breakout year.

His red-hot finish at the CJ Cup not only earned him a third title in 2018, but with the victory he leapfrogged Dustin Johnson to become the top-ranked player in the world for the first time.

That top spot could become a revolving door over the next few months, with Johnson, Justin Thomas and Justin Rose all vying for No. 1, but it’s a fitting coda to Koepka’s stellar year that included two more majors and Player of the Year honors.

For a player whose team searches long and hard for slights, there’s no questioning now his place in the game.

1. DJ won three events this season, but he wasn’t able to create much separation between him and the rest of the world’s best players.

Koepka’s rise to No. 1 made him the fourth player to reach the top spot this year, and the third in the past month.

Who has the greatest potential to get to No. 1 and stay there? Johnson is the best bet in the short term, but he’s also 34. Koepka will be a threat in the majors as long as he stays healthy. So the belief here is that it’ll be Justin Thomas, who is 25, without weakness and, best of all, hungry for more success.  

2. Koepka had an eventful final round at the CJ Cup. Staked to a four-shot lead in the final round, his advantage was trimmed to one after a sloppy start, then he poured it on late with an inward 29. He punctuated his historic victory with an eagle on the 72nd hole, smirking as it tumbled into the cup.

It was his fifth career Tour title – but only his second non-major. Weird.

3. How appropriate that golf’s most underappreciated talent – at least in his estimation – became world No. 1 in a limited-field event that finished at 2 a.m. on the East Coast. Somehow he’ll spin this into being overlooked, again.

4. Sergio Garcia carried all of that Ryder Cup momentum into the Andalucia Valderrama Masters, where he earned the hat trick by capturing his third consecutive title there.

While the rest of the world’s best gathered in Korea or rested for global golf’s finishing kick, Garcia won the weather-delayed event by four shots over Shane Lowry. Garcia’s foundation hosts the tournament, and he extended his crazy-good record there: In 14 career appearances at Valderrama, he has three wins, seven top-3s, nine top-5s and 13 top-10s.

Garcia, who went 3-1 at the recent Ryder Cup, became the first player since Ernie Els (2004) to win the same European Tour event three years in a row.

5. Gary Woodland probably doesn’t want 2018 to end.

He was the runner-up at the CJ Cup, his second consecutive top-5 to start the season. He made 11(!) birdies in the final round and now is a combined 37 under par for the first two starts of the new season.

6. This definitely wasn’t the Ryder Cup.

Four shots back, and the closest pursuer to Koepka, Ian Poulter had a chance to put pressure on the leader in the final round. Instead, he was left in the dust, mustering only three birdies and getting waxed by seven shots (64-71) on the last day. Poulter tumbled all the way into a tie for 10th.

7. It hasn’t been the easiest road for Danielle Kang since she won the 2017 Women’s PGA.

The 26-year-old said she’s dealt with anxiety for months and has battled both putting and full-swing yips. Her problems were so deep that a week ago, she stood over the ball for four minutes and couldn’t pull the trigger.

No wonder she said that she was “pretty stunned” to hold off a bevy of challengers to win her second career title at the Buick LPGA Shanghai.

“I’m finally at a place where I’m peaceful and happy with my game, with my life,” she said.

8. In the middle of the seven-way tie for second in China was Ariya Jutanugarn, who will return to No. 1 in the world for the second time this season.

9. Also in that logjam was another former top-ranked player, Lydia Ko, who had tumbled all the way to 17th. Ko hasn’t been able to build off of her slump-busting victory earlier this summer, but she now has six consecutive top-16 finishes and at least seems more comfortable in her new position.

“Sometimes you get too carried away about the awards and rankings,” she said. “It just becomes so much. I think it’s more important to keep putting myself there and … shooting in the 60s, and that way I think it builds the confidence and the rankings kind of sort itself out.”

Here's how Tiger Woods explained his pitiful performance at the Ryder Cup: “I was tired because I hadn’t trained for it. I hadn’t trained this entire comeback to play this much golf.”

Of course, he looked just fine a week earlier at East Lake, where he snapped a five-year winless drought with one of the most memorable weeks of his legendary career. His training wasn’t a topic of conversation there.

It's reasonable to expect that the emotional victory took a lot of out of him, but if he was so gassed, why did he sit only one team session and go 36 on Saturday? By Sunday night, Woods looked like he was running on empty, so either he wasn't upfront with captain Jim Furyk about his energy levels, or Furyk ran him out there anyway.

This week's award winners ...  

Can’t Catch a Break: Michelle Wie. The star-crossed talent announced that she’ll miss the rest of the season to undergo surgery to repair a troublesome hand injury. Maybe one of these years she’ll be able to play a full schedule, without physical setbacks.  

Grab the Mic: Paul Azinger. Taking Johnny Miller’s seat in the booth, Azinger will call all four days of action at every Golf Channel/NBC event, beginning at the WGC-Mexico Championship. He was the most logical (and best) choice to follow the inimitable Miller.

Take That, Dawdler: Corey Pavin. It was Pavin – and not the notoriously slow Bernhard Langer – who earned the first slow-play penalty on the PGA Tour Champions in what seemed like ages. The one-shot penalty dropped him to 15th in the event.

Long Time Coming: Jason Day. His tie for fifth at the CJ Cup was his best finish worldwide since … The Players? Really. Wow.

The Tumble Continues: Jordan Spieth. In the latest world rankings, Spieth is officially out of the top 10 for the first time since November 2014. A reminder that he finished last year at No. 2.

Clutch Performances: Andalucia Masters. Both Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and Richie Ramsay both moved inside the top 116 in the Race to Dubai standings, securing their European Tour cards for next season. Gonzo tied for fifth in the regular-season finale, while Ramsay was joint 11th.

That’s Messed Up: CJ Cup purse. As colleague Will Gray noted, the purse for the 78-man event was $9.5 million – or $400K more than the first 15 events of the Tour schedule combined. The difference between the haves and have-nots has never been larger.

Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Justin Thomas. The defending champion never could get started in Korea, closing with his low round of the week, a 4-under 68, just to salvage a tie for 36th. Sigh.  

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Azinger: 'Can't see anybody beating Tiger' at his best

By Will GrayOctober 22, 2018, 2:44 pm

There's a new world No. 1, and a fresh crop of young guns eager to make their mark on the PGA Tour in 2019. But according to Paul Azinger, the player with the highest ceiling is still the same as it was when he was walking inside the ropes.

Azinger was named Monday as lead golf analyst for NBC Sports, and on "Morning Drive" he was asked which player is the best when all are playing their best. The former PGA champion pondered new world No. 1 Brooks Koepka and former No. 1 Dustin Johnson, but he came back around to a familiar answer: Tiger Woods.

"I just can't see anybody beating Tiger when Tiger's at his best. I just can't see it," Azinger said. "He's not his best yet, but he's almost his best. And when Tiger's his best, there's more that comes with Tiger than just the score he shoots. That crowd comes with Tiger, and it's a whole 'nother dynamic when Tiger's at his best. And I'm just going to have to say that when Tiger's at his best, he's still the best."

Woods, 42, started this year ranked No. 656 in the world but had a resurgent season that included a pair of near-misses at The Open and PGA Championship and culminated with his win at the Tour Championship that ended a five-year victory drought. For Azinger, the question now becomes how he can follow up a breakthrough campaign as he looks to contend consistently against players from a younger generation.

"That's why we watch, to see if he can maintain that. To see what he's capable of," Azinger said. "Now longevity becomes the issue for Tiger Woods. In seven or eight years, he's going to be 50 years old. That goes fast. I'm telling you, that goes really fast."

When Woods returns to action, he'll do so with a focus on the upcoming Masters as he looks to capture the 15th major title that has eluded him for more than a decade. With bombers like Koepka and Johnson currently reigning on the PGA Tour, Azinger believes the key for Woods will be remaining accurate while relying on the world-class iron play that has been a strength throughout his career.

"I think he's going to have to recognize that he's not the beast out there when it comes to smacking that ball off the tee. But I'd like to see him try to hit a couple more fairways periodically. That'd be nice," he said. "If he can drive that ball in the fairway, with that putter, we've seen what his putter is capable of. The sky's the limit, boys."