Beth Daniels plan may determine Solheim Cup winner

By Jay CoffinAugust 22, 2009, 4:00 pm
2009 Solheim CupSUGAR GROVE, Ill. ' Its been a good fight so far.
This 11th Solheim Cup began with talks of an American walkover, was met with excitement on the first tee Friday morning, hit a bit of a lull Saturday morning, but now has exploded into an outright slugfest.
Europe grabbed the point back that it lost on Day 1 and the matches are now tied at 8 on the eve of Sunday singles.
The Americans wont admit that theyre the overwhelming favorites but they are. They know it; Europe knows it.
Paula Creamer
U.S. captain Beth Daniel chose to sit Paula Creamer during the Saturday morning fourballs. (Getty Images)
Sure, Europe has two major champions on its roster (Catriona Matthew and Anna Nordqvist) but that doesnt equate to experience and depth. The cumulative world ranking of the Europeans is 946 compared with 330 for the Americans. The averages are 78.83 for Europe and 27.5 for the U.S. Natalie Gulbis is the lowest ranked American at No. 51; Europe has six players ranked lower than Gulbis, including Diana Luna at No. 191.
Lucky for the Europeans, this just so happens to be the year of the underdog, Exhibit A being Y.E. Yang last week at the PGA Championship.
The nitty-gritty numbers still suggest that U.S. will win singles and keep its record intact of winning every Solheim Cup on home soil. Europe has only ever won three singles sessions outright in 10 attempts and is a paltry 41-64-5 overall in 10 previous Cups.
We havent been that good over the years [in singles], European captain Alison Nicholas said. But we have nothing to lose. We have to go out and play our hearts out.
Thats what theyve done so far. If youd have told Nicholas that by Saturday evening her team would be tied and that unheralded Frenchwoman Gwladys Nocera (3-0) would have as many points as Matthew, Suzann Pettersen and Helen Alfredsson combined (2-6-2) shed have also believed that she was next in line to succeed the Queen of England.
But the facts are the facts and Europe has a chance to win this Cup because of Nocera, Nordqvist (2-1) and Maria Hjorth (2-1-1). If theyre going to take the next step, the aforementioned triumvirate of Pettersen, Alfredsson and Matthew ' Europe s three best and most experienced players ' must find a way to step it up.
Were all playing well, said Nocera, who shot 91-74 at the Womens British Open just three weeks ago. Were willing to win the Cup.
Meanwhile, U.S. captain Beth Daniels decision to hold out each team member at least one session has been debated to death. She feels that the golf course is difficult and long and that having each person more rested, they will all have fresher legs for singles.
The decision was more in question after the morning fourball session when Europe came out storming to a 2 - 1 victory with American stalwart Paula Creamer on the bench, which marked the first time shes ever sat out a session in two previous Solheim Cups.
Its very hard because I want to play as much as I can, said 23-year-old Creamer. But Im here for my team.
The philosophy has received jeers from critics who are quick to point out that Tiger Woods never has sat out a session in either a Ryder Cup or a Presidents Cup.
Daniel has, however, mostly received praise from her team. Cristie Kerr, the LPGAs leading money winner, sat out Friday afternoon foursomes after she made five birdies in morning fourballs but supported the tactic.
I think its a great decision, said Angela Stanford, a prime candidate to play all five matches. This golf course will wear you out. I know I was beat last night after two [rounds]. Its kind of nice to have a breather.
Daniel wont hit a shot Sunday but a lot of people, particularly Americans, may remember her as the one who helped win or lose this Solheim Cup. Itll all depend on whether her philosophy works, one that she says was complete Saturday evening when she turned in her singles lineup.
My job is done, Daniel said. Its up to them, theres not a lot more I can do.
If the first two days are any indication, whatever happens, itll be a good fight.
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    Berger more than ready to rebound at Travelers

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:54 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Daniel Berger hopes that this year he gets to be on the other end of a viral moment at the Travelers Championship.

    Berger was a hard-luck runner-up last year at TPC River Highlands, a spectator as Jordan Spieth holed a bunker shot to defeat him in a playoff. It was the second straight year that the 25-year-old came up just short outside Hartford, as he carried a three-shot lead into the 2016 event before fading to a tie for fifth.

    While he wasn’t lacking any motivation after last year’s close call, Berger got another dose last week at the U.S. Open when he joined Tony Finau as a surprise participant in the final group Sunday, only to shoot a 73 and drift to a T-6 finish.

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    “It was one of the best experiences of my professional golf career so far. I feel like I’m going to be in such a better place next time I’m in that position, having felt those emotions and kind of gone through it,” Berger said. “There was a lot of reflection after that because I felt like I played good enough to get it done Sunday. I didn’t make as many putts as I wanted to, but I hit a lot of really good putts. And that’s really all you can do.”

    Berger missed the cut earlier this month to end his quest for three straight titles in Memphis, but his otherwise consistent season has now included six top-20 finishes since January. After working his way into contention last week and still with a score to settle at TPC River Highlands, he’s eager to get back to work against another star-studded field.

    “I think all these experiences you just learn from,” Berger said. “I think last week, having learned from that, I think that’s even going to make me a little better this week. So I’m excited to get going.”

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    Rory tired of the near-misses, determined to close

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:46 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Rory McIlroy has returned to the Travelers Championship with an eye on bumping up his winning percentage.

    McIlroy stormed from the back of the pack to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, but that remains his lone worldwide win since the 2016 Tour Championship. It speaks to McIlroy’s considerable ability and lofty expectations that, even with a number of other high finishes this season, he is left unsatisfied.

    “I feel like I’ve had five realistic chances to win this year, and I’ve been able to close out one of them. That’s a bit disappointing, I guess,” McIlroy said. “But at least I’ve given myself five chances to win golf tournaments, which is much more than I did last year.”

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    The most memorable of McIlroy’s near-misses is likely the Masters, when he played alongside Patrick Reed in Sunday’s final group but struggled en route to a T-5 finish. But more frustrating in the Ulsterman’s eyes were his runner-up at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, when he led by two shots with eight holes to go, and a second-place showing behind Francesco Molinari at the BMW PGA Championship in May.

    “There’s been some good golf in there,” he said. “I feel like I let Dubai and Wentworth get away a little bit.”

    He’ll have a chance to rectify that trend this week at TPC River Highlands, where he finished T-17 last year in his tournament debut and liked the course and the tournament enough to keep it on his schedule. It comes on the heels of a missed cut at the U.S. Open, when he was 10 over through 11 holes and never got on track. McIlroy views that result as more of an aberration during a season in which he has had plenty of chances to contend on the weekend.

    “I didn’t necessarily play that badly last week. I feel like if I play similarly this week, I might have a good chance to win,” McIlroy said. “I think when you play in conditions like that, it magnifies parts of your game that maybe don’t stack up quite as good as the rest of your game, and it magnified a couple of things for me that I worked on over the weekend.”

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    Sunday run at Shinnecock gave Reed even more confidence

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:08 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – While many big names are just coming around to the notion that the Travelers Championship is worth adding to the schedule, Patrick Reed has been making TPC River Highlands one of his favorite haunts for years.

    Reed will make his seventh straight appearance outside Hartford, where he tied for fifth last year and was T-11 the year before that. He is eager to get back to the grind after a stressful week at the U.S. Open, both because of his past success here and because it will offer him a chance to build on a near-miss at Shinnecock Hills.

    Reed started the final round three shots off the lead, but he quickly stormed toward the top of the leaderboard and became one of Brooks Koepka’s chief threats after birdies on five of his first seven holes. Reed couldn’t maintain the momentum in the middle of the round, carding three subsequent bogeys, and ultimately tied for fourth.

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    It was a bittersweet result, but Reed is focusing on the positives after taking a couple days to reflect.

    “If you would have told me that I had a chance to win coming down Sunday, I would have been pleased,” Reed said. “I felt like I just made too many careless mistakes towards the end, and because of that, you’re not going to win at any major making careless mistakes, especially on Sunday.”

    Reed broke through for his first major title at the Masters, and he has now finished fourth or better in three straight majors dating back to a runner-up at the PGA last summer. With another chance to add to that record next month in Scotland, he hopes to carry the energy from last week’s close call into this week’s event on a course where he feels right at home.

    “It just gives me confidence, more than anything,” Reed said. “Of course I would have loved to have closed it out and win, but it was a great week all in all, and there’s a lot of stuff I can take from it moving forward. That’s how I’m looking at it.”

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    Koepka back to work, looking to add to trophy collection

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 8:53 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Days after ensuring the U.S. Open trophy remained in his possession for another year, Brooks Koepka went back to work.

    Koepka flew home to Florida after successfully defending his title at Shinnecock Hills, celebrating the victory Monday night with Dustin Johnson, Paulina Gretzky, swing coach Claude Harmon III and a handful of close friends. But he didn’t fully unwind because of a decision to honor his commitment to the Travelers Championship, becoming the first player to tee it up the week after a U.S. Open win since Justin Rose in 2013.

    Koepka withdrew from the Travelers pro-am, but he flew north to Connecticut on Wednesday and arrived to TPC River Highlands around 3 p.m., quickly heading to the driving range to get in a light practice session.

    “It still hasn’t sunk in, to be honest with you,” Koepka said. “I’m still focused on this week. It was just like, ‘All right, if I can get through this week, then I’m going to be hanging with my buddies next week.’ I know then maybe it’ll sink in, and I’ll get to reflect on it a little bit more.”

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    Koepka’s plans next week with friends in Boston meant this week’s event outside Hartford made logistical sense. But he was also motivated to play this week because, plainly, he hasn’t had that many playing opportunities this year after missing nearly four months with a wrist injury.

    “I’ve had so many months at home being on the couch. I don’t need to spend any more time on the couch,” Koepka said. “As far as skipping, it never crossed my mind.”

    Koepka’s legacy was undoubtedly bolstered by his win at Shinnecock, as he became the first player in nearly 30 years to successfully defend a U.S. Open title. But he has only one other PGA Tour win to his credit, that being the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open, and his goal for the rest of the season is to make 2018 his first year with multiple trophies on the mantle.

    “If you’re out here for more than probably 15 events, it gives you a little better chance to win a couple times. Being on the sidelines isn’t fun,” Koepka said. “Keep doing what we’re doing and just try to win multiple times every year. I feel like I have the talent. I just never did it for whatever reason. Always felt like we ran into a buzzsaw. So just keep plugging away.”