US Team Dominates Morning Matches
U.S. Captain Patty Sheehan hit pay dirt with three out of four of her new pairings Saturday morning. We are happy, Meg Mallon said. This is our best foursome day ever.
The rookies dont know we stink in this format, so they are carrying us, Juli Inkster quipped. I mean this is the best we have been, and as Patty says, you can pretty much put any two together and come out and at least have a chance to win.
The first time Captain bravely paired Cup rookies Emilee Klein and Wendy Ward and it paid off in spades. Ward and Klein closed the match three up with two holes to go against Mhairi Mckay and Iben Tinning.
While Klein played her first Foursome match like an old pro, her European counterpart Iben Tinning, grappled with the overwhelming pressure of this event. Tinning and Mckay were all square on the 526 yard par-5 10th when things went really wrong for the team.
Tinning, standing over the teams third shot, hit it heavy, advancing the ball a mere 20-yards. One the very next hole, the rookie from Denmark, hit the teams second shot fat, once again making very little advancement.
It was at this moment that the pressure, palpable in the very air the galleries breathed in, caved the strong young European Tour player who now stood in the middle of the fairway, hands in face, reeling from the horror of it all. Tinning, buoyed by her teammate and caddy, pulled herself together like a hero and played the rest of the round as best she could. It was inspirational to see this young player hold it together for her team.
Meg Mallon and Juli Inkster brought home the next point for the Americans, winning their match two up with one to go over long ball hitters Laura Davies and Paula Marti.
I really struggled yesterday afternoon and I stunk, Inkster said referring to her two lost matches Friday. But I came back today and played a lot better, and Meg and I teamed well, and she helped me get out of my little funk I was in, and I finally got a win and got a point for the United States, which was huge.
Laura Diaz and Kelly Robbins brought home the third match point of the morning against Helen Alfredsson and rookie Suzann Petersen. The European pair that had found success on Friday mornings matches was unable to replicate the magic again today. Diaz and Robbins took the match point three up with one to go.
Diaz, one of five rookies on the American team, has won two matches and lost one.
I have dreamed a lot about coming here and playing, and its been way more than I could ever have asked for, Diaz said. Both of the points that I won were a lot of fun. I think the point that Juli and I lost together didnt ' it didnt feel like we lost it because I really felt like we played pretty well.
Annika Sorenstam and fellow countrywoman Carin Koch were the first and only Europeans to put blue on the board Saturday morning. Friday the pair stomped Meg Mallon and Kelli Kuehne ending the match up three with two holes left. This morning is was Cristie Kerr and Michelle Redmans turn to be brought to their knees.
We got off to a pretty bad start, Kerr said. I mean, its hard to recover from, you know, like a four down after 8 holes or something, deficit, but we played our hearts out there, and they are a machine, thats what we call them, as a team, the are a machine, and they are tough to beat, but the are not indelible, so
The teams, which were all square after the first hole, parted ways on the 463 yard par-5 2nd. It was then that the European teammates pulled ahead never to look back. The Swedish duo had their way with the Americans winning the match in grand style ending the match four up with three to go on the 15th.
Sorenstam, defeated by Redman on Friday afternoon, had a little extra motivation. Well, I just wanted to say Michele played so well yesterday that it was really a good match, tough match, but of course I wanted a little revenge, Sorenstam said.
Both European's played exceptionally well for the second day. We are both rolling good putts and both, you know, not making really any mistakes out there, and I think in best ball thats what you have to do, you have to make sure one person in the group is making par so the other one can make birdie, so I think we will be good again, Koch said, implying Reid is pairing the Swedish machine again in the afternoon Fourball matches.
Sorenstam improved her overall Foursomes record to 7-1-1 while playing partner Koch is now the only undefeated Foursomes match player - with a record of 3-0-0 - on the European team.
Full-coverage of the 2002 Solheim Cup
Match Play Final Four set to bring the excitement
AUSTIN, Texas – Sunday’s Final Four at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play will include a pair of Georgia Bulldogs, a two-and-done phenom from Alabama and a Swede from Stockholm via Stillwater, that would be Oklahoma.
Just like that other tournament, right?
Actually, for all the volatility in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, it’s not even in the same league as this year’s Match Play, where just a single player who began the week seeded inside the top 10 is still playing.
But what the event may lack in star power it’s certainly made up for with stellar performances, starting with Justin Thomas who is the PGA Tour’s most avid Alabama fan and the tournament’s second-seeded player.
After not losing a match in three days of pool play, Thomas again cruised through his morning Round-of-16 bout with Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5; but found himself in an unfamiliar position early in his quarterfinal match against Kyle Stanley.
Having not trailed during any point in his matches this week, Thomas bogeyed the second hole to fall behind.
“I was hoping to never trail this whole week. I thought that was unbelievable that [2017 champion Dustin Johnson] did it last year,” Thomas said. “I'm going out there this afternoon, and I was like, ‘Man, I have got a chance of doing this, too.’ Then I missed a 3-footer on 2 and shot that out the window.”
The world’s second-ranked player was nearly perfect the rest of the way, regaining the lead with three birdies in four holes starting at No. 5 and closing Stanley out with a bogey-free finish.
It’s all part of an impressive turnaround for Thomas, who had been slowed in recent weeks by dental surgery followed by a bout with the flu, which nearly prompted him to miss the Match Play.
“I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” said Thomas, who can unseat Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking if he advances to the championship match. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”
His improved health has dovetailed with his increasingly better play at Austin Country Club and he’s now two matches away from winning his first World Golf Championship.
Like the NCAA tournament, however, being one of the last four standing only means more work, and Thomas will have plenty to keep him busy when he sets out early Sunday in a semifinal match against Bubba Watson.
Although Watson hasn’t been as dominant as Thomas, his ability to overpower any course, any time, has been evident this week following victories over Brian Harman, 2 and 1, and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, 5 and 3, on his way to the Final Four.
“When you're hitting an 8-iron and another guy is hitting a 7- or another guy is hitting a 6-iron, obviously that's going to change everything,” said Watson, who played his college golf at Georgia. “It's like LeBron James, when he jumps, he jumps higher than I do, so it's an advantage. When you're hitting the driver good and those guys you're naming, they're known for hitting the driver pretty well, just like Thomas is doing right now, he's been hammering it. Anytime that you're hitting the driver somewhat straight, it's an advantage.”
But if Bubba is a familiar foe for Thomas, he may want to do a quick Google search to fill in the blanks on one of his potential final opponents.
While Alex Noren is still a relatively unknown player to many American fans (and that’s certain to change in September at the Ryder Cup), it’s only because they haven’t been paying attention. The Swede, who attended Oklahoma State, has been dominant this week, sweeping the group stage followed by a 5-and-3 victory over Patrick Reed in the Sweet 16 and a 4-and-2 triumph over Cameron Smith in the quarterfinals.
“I've always liked match play because the outcome is quite direct,” said Noren, who will face Kevin Kisner in the semifinals. “In match play, you've just got to be really focused all the time and anything can happen. And then you have to play good each round. You can't just give up a round and then think you've got three more.”
But if a JT vs. Noren final would be the perfect Ryder Cup primer, the dream match up for Thomas in the championship tilt might be Kisner.
Kisner lost a friendly wager to Thomas earlier this year at the Sony Open when Alabama defeated Georgia in the NCAA National Championship football game and he had to wear an Alabama jersey while he played the 17th hole on Thursday.
Kisner would certainly appreciate the chance at a mulligan. And the way the duo have been rolling in birdie putts this week, it has the potential to be just as entertaining as that other tournament.
Up one, Stricker hunting second Champions title
BILOXI, Miss. - Steve Stricker moved into position for his second straight PGA Tour Champions victory, shooting a 3-under 69 on Saturday to take a one-stroke lead in the Rapiscan Systems Classic.
Stricker won the Cologuard Classic three weeks ago in Tucson, Arizona, for his first victory on the 50-and-over tour. He tied for 12th the following week in the PGA Tour's Valspar Championship.
Stricker had a 7-under 137 total at Fallen Oak, the Tom Fazio-designed layout with big, speedy greens.
The 51-year-old Wisconsin player bogeyed Nos. 2-3, rebounded with birdies on Nos. 6-7, birdied the par-4 12th and eagled the par-5 13th. He has six top-three finishes in eight career senior starts.
First-round leader Joe Durant followed his opening 66 with a 72 to drop into a tie for second with Jeff Sluman (67).
Thomas can take world No. 1 with win over Watson
AUSTIN, Texas – On March 7, Justin Thomas had his wisdom teeth removed, and just when he was recovering from that, he was slowed by a bout with the flu.
In total, he estimates he lost about seven pounds, and he admitted on Saturday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play that he wasn’t sure he’d be able to play the event.
“I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” Thomas said. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off, if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”
Thomas went on to explain he was “50/50” whether he’d play the World Golf Championship, but decided to make the start and it’s turned out well for the world’s second-ranked player.
After going undefeated in pool play, Thomas cruised past Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5, in the round of 16 and secured himself a spot in the semifinals with a 2-and-1 victory over Kyle Stanley in the quarterfinals. If Thomas wins his semifinal match against Bubba Watson on Sunday, he’s assured enough points to overtake Dustin Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking.
“I don't care when it happens; I just hope it happens and it happens for a while,” Thomas said when asked about the possibility of becoming world No. 1. “I don't know what to say because I've never experienced it. I don't know what's going to come with it. But I just hope it happens tomorrow.”
Garnett's six-shot lead dwindles to two in Punta Cana
PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic - Brice Garnett took a six-stroke lead into the wind Saturday in the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship. He came out with a two-stroke advantage.
Garnett bogeyed three of the final six holes in the wind and rain for a 3-under 69 and a 16-under 200 total.
''Once we made the turn coming back, all those holes coming in toward the north, it was all we wanted and then some,'' Garnett said. ''I kind of took advantage of some holes going out, some holes downwind, some par 5s, and then we were just trying to leave it in the right spot those last four or five holes. Pars are pretty good scores on those holes.''
Canadian Corey Conners was second after a 67, and Tyler McCumber also had a 67 to get to 12 under. Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo dropped out Friday, finishing last in the 132-man field in his PGA Tour debut. He shot 77-82 playing as an amateur on a sponsor exemption.
A stroke ahead after each of the first two rounds, Garnett opened with a bogey, birdied Nos. 2, 4 and 6, eagled the par-5 seventh, and made two more birdies on the par-3 ninth and par-5 12th. He bogeyed the par-4 13th, par-5 15th and par-3 17th.
''I looked once and the lead was a little bigger than what it is now,'' Garnett said. ''The eagle was huge, kind of gave me that confidence that I can push it on out and stretch it a little bit more. That wind was tough and I'll take a two-shot lead into tomorrow.''
The 34-year-old Garnett is winless on the PGA Tour. He won twice last year on the Web.com Tour.
''You've got another 18 holes. So much can happen,'' Garnett said. ''Just going to try to keep the golf ball in front of me. I have that self-belief this week and that's what I had last year when I won, so I'll just keep my head down and just keep going.''
Conners had five birdies and a bogey on the front nine and added a birdie on No. 12.
''Really happy with the round,'' Conners said. ''I got off to a nice start, made a bunch of birdies on the front nine and kind of held it together on the back nine. It was playing really difficult. The wind was really blowing out there, made things challenging.''
McCumber, the son of 10-time PGA Tour winner Mark McCumber, has played his last 39 holes with a bogey.
''Second shots have been pretty solid,'' McCumber said. ''Putting pretty well, short game is pretty good. Just really being in the right areas and staying below the hole.''
Tom Lovelady was fourth at 11 under after a 68. Seamus Power (71), Denny McCarthy (71) and Seungsu Han (72) were 10 under.