A Total Team Victory

By Mercer BaggsSeptember 11, 2005, 4:00 pm
Hopefully you were watching. What with the beginning of the NFL season, college football and Andre Agassis U.S. Open run, the Solheim Cup easily could have been lost in the shuffle.
If you missed it, you missed out on one of the better golf events of the year.
The Solheim Cup was everything last years Ryder Cup was not. It was spirited, tightly contested and entertaining until the end ' and won by the U.S.
Cristie Kerr
The U.S. team celebrates after regaining the Solheim Cup from their European counterparts.
For once, U.S. fans at the site of the competition had something to cheer about. The Stateside supporters in Carmel, Ind., started out a little sluggish, perhaps expecting another European runaway after the away team won the first session 3-1 on Friday.
But as the Americans started to produce some good golf shots, a few fist pumps and some points, the crowd provided plenty of support.
Ultimately, the U.S. again defended their home turf with a singles romp. Historically, in any type of Cup, if the Americans prevail, they do so because of one-on-one domination.
But this was a team victory, not an individual one.
This U.S. squad dispelled the notion that Americans cant spell team without an I.
Thanks to the leadership of Nancy Lopez, this team bonded quite quickly. Lopez watched the contentious 2004 U.S. Ryder Cup team and worked hard to form a cohesive unit.
They played organized practice rounds at Crooked Stick weeks before the competition was set to begin. Even Beth Daniel, an eight-time Solheim participant, couldnt remember this ever happening.
On bus rides together, they sang and danced and gossiped and told dirty jokes. Cristie Kerr referred to the group as a sisterhood.
Through music, they bridged the age gap, which stretched from 19-year-old Paula Creamer to 48-year-old Daniel.
Lopez grooved to hip-hop. Meg Mallon played DJ. Juli Inkster sang karaoke style.
These were hardly the actions expected of women in their 40s, women in the Hall of Fame, and women with children. But in behaving like girls, they created an all-important connection to the young women on their team.
Their spirit carried over from the team room to the course. Christina Kim rollicked down the fairways, pumping her fist and screaming at her ball every step of the way. Paula Creamer sported more body ink than Allen Iverson, covering herself from cheek to ankle in patriotic, temporary tattoos.
Most importantly, nearly every member of the team helped contribute in some way to this victory. Eleven of the 12 players earned at least one point, with Wendy Ward, a captains pick who went 0-3, being the lone exception. And in a 15 -12 victory, every point was crucial.
This years U.S. team had three players in their 20s ' Kim, Cristie Kerr and Natalie Gulbis ' and one, Creamer, in her teens. Those four young ladies were more than just role players this week; they combined for 11 points. In the deciding singles session, three of the four won, with Creamer, who sparked pre-tournament interest by guaranteeing victory, throttling Solheim legend Laura Davies, 7 and 5.
Even more promising for the Stars and Stripes, a slew of talented teens, led by Morgan Pressel and (perhaps) Michelle Wie, are waiting in the wings. Pressel was a member of this years victorious Junior Solheim Cup team and hung around to cheer on her possible future teammates ' just as Creamer had done two years ago in Sweden.
With one match remaining on the course, and the Cup already claimed, U.S. team members walked arm-to-shoulder, all in a row, to witness the conclusion of the ninth Solheim Cup. And when Rosie Jones halved her match with Suzann Pettersen, they rushed the green. There were hugs all around.
They then gathered in a circle, as a team, put their hands in the middle of the pack and chanted: USA, all the way! USA, all the way!
It was appropriate. This was a team triumph.
Hopefully you were watching. And hopefully, so was the U.S. Presidents Cup team.
Email your thoughts to Mercer Baggs
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    Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

    By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 12:25 am

    ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

    The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.

    Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.

    ''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''

    The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.

    Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship

    Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.

    Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.

    ''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''

    Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

    Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.

    First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.

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    Henley will try to put heat on Casey in final round

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:55 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – While it will be a tall task for anyone to catch Paul Casey at the Travelers Championship, the man who will start the round most within reach of the Englishman is Russell Henley.

    Henley was in the penultimate group at TPC River Highlands on Saturday, but he’ll now anchor things during the final round as he looks to overcome a four-shot deficit behind Casey. After a 3-under 67, Henley sits at 12 under through 54 holes and one shot clear of the three players tied for third.

    Henley closed his third round with a run of five straight pars, then became the beneficiary of a pair of late bogeys from Brian Harman that left Henley alone in second place.

    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    “Could have made a couple more putts, but to end with two up-and-downs like that was nice,” Henley said. “I felt a little bit weird over the shots coming in, put me in some bad spots. But it was nice to have the short game to back me up.”

    Henley has won three times on Tour, most recently at the 2017 Houston Open, and he cracked the top 25 at both the Masters and U.S. Open. But with Casey riding a wave of confidence and coming off an 8-under 62 that marked the best round of the week, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in order to nab trophy No. 4.

    “I think I can shoot a low number on this course. You’ve got to make the putts,” Henley said. “I’m definitely hitting it well enough, and if I can get a couple putts to fall, that would be good. But I can’t control what he’s doing. I can just try to keep playing solid.”

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    Back from back injury, Casey eyeing another win

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:36 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Given his four-shot cushion at the Travelers Championship and his recent victory at the Valspar Championship, it’s easy to forget that Paul Casey hit the disabled list in between.

    Casey had to withdraw from The Players Championship because of a bad back, becoming the only player in the top 50 in the world rankings to miss the PGA Tour’s flagship event. He flew back to England to get treatment, and Casey admitted that his T-20 finish at last month’s BMW PGA Championship came while he was still on the mend.

    “I wasn’t 100 percent fit with the back injury, which was L-4, L-5, S-1 (vertebrae) all out of place,” Casey said. “Big inflammation, nerve pain down the leg and up the back. I didn’t know what was going on.”

    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Thanks in large part to a combination of MRIs, back adjustments and anti-inflammatories, Casey finally turned the corner. His T-16 finish at last week’s U.S. Open was the first event for which he felt fully healthy since before the Players, and he’s on the cusp of a second title since March after successfully battling through the injury.

    “We thought we were fixing it, but we weren’t. We were kind of hitting the effects rather than the cause,” Casey said. “Eventually we figured out the cause, which was structural.”

    Casey started the third round at TPC River Highlands two shots off the lead, but he’s now four clear of Russell Henley after firing an 8-under 62 that marked the low round of the week.

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    Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:15 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.

    This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.

    Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.

    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.

    “My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”

    Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.

    “Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”