Creamer selection could define Inkster's captaincy

By Randall MellAugust 25, 2015, 12:23 pm

Juli Inkster believes in Paula Creamer.

Inkster showed that in an act of faith Monday, naming Creamer one of her two U.S. Solheim Cup captain’s picks. With Creamer slumping of late, Inkster’s choice comes with heightened scrutiny, even with all the success Creamer has had over the years, running up a 12-6-5 record in five Solheim Cups.

Inkster’s faith in Creamer is the kind of heavily weighted tactical choice that might well define her captaincy.

That’s often the way it is when a player with a profile as high as Creamer’s is a captain’s pick. Creamer might have slid to No. 40 in the world rankings this week, but she remains one of the game’s biggest stars, still one of the biggest names in golf.

We’ve been here before, seeing the most scrutinized captain’s picks shape outcomes and career paths almost before competitions begin. These bold choices can go a number of ways.



Back at the Presidents Cup in 2009, Greg Norman chose a struggling Adam Scott as one of his captain’s picks. Norman’s act of faith didn’t produce a victory for his Internationals, but it sparked a resurgence in Scott, paving the way to his ascendance as a major champion and as the world’s No. 1-ranked player.

In the 2009 Solheim Cup, Beth Daniel made rookie Michelle Wie a controversial captain’s pick, taking heat from critics who didn’t think Wie deserved the selection. Wie rose to the occasion. She went 3-0-1 and helped the Americans win at Rich Harvest Farms.

Back at the Ryder Cup in 1995, the outcome wasn’t so favorable for Lanny Wadkins, who made a captain’s pick of Curtis Strange, believing his friend’s leadership and experience would help the Americans despite Strange being six years removed from his last victory. It backfired. Strange went 0-3 and lost a decisive singles match to Nick Faldo with Europe winning the cup by a single point.

There’s no telling how Inkster’s faith in Creamer will play out, whether it’s a decisive choice or not, but Inkster knows there’s going to be extra pressure on Creamer being a pick.

That’s among reasons Inkster and Creamer huddled in a bar/restaurant near Vancouver Golf Club on Saturday night, after Creamer missed the cut at the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open.

“Being a captain’s pick, there’s going to be more pressure on her,” Inkster said. “I told her that. I said, ‘You think there was pressure on you trying to make the team? It’s going to be 10 times that over there because you’re a captain’s pick.’ I’ve played as a captain’s pick, and it’s the hardest thing to do. I had to know she would be ready for that. She told me she was ready.”

Creamer told Inkster more than that.

“She has a lot of confidence in herself, and that’s what I wanted to hear,” Inkster said. “When I left, I had an awesome feeling she was ready to go.”

There are 12 Americans Inkster is assigning the task of winning the Solheim Cup. Of course, it isn’t all on Creamer, but her great history in this event, her passion for it, naturally singles her out as a storyline.

That Inkster’s captaincy should be integrally linked to Creamer makes sense.

There has been a bond between these two since Creamer’s first Solheim Cup, when the teenage rookie first teamed with the veteran Inkster as partners helping the Americans win at Crooked Stick 10 years ago.

Fittingly, they won their first match together in 2005 in foursomes, defeating Laura Davies and Maria Hjorth, 3 and 2. It’s fitting because alternate-shot is the ultimate team format, the toughest and truest partnership in team golf.

In foursomes, partners are at the mercy of each other more than any other format. You live with the shot your partner leaves you. But the thing is, the best partners know that sometimes they’re going to leave each other in bad spots, but they trust they’ll take turns bailing each other out.

That’s where Inkster and Creamer are again.



They’re headed to Germany in three weeks trusting that there will be challenges trying to keep Europe from winning the Solheim Cup for a third consecutive event, but they’re going to bail each other out.

“From the moment I heard Juli was going to be the captain, it put a big smile on my face,” Creamer said. “Now to play under her is pretty special.”

Over the last two seasons, Creamer has struggled to reconcile swing changes with equipment changes, specifically the way she used to bend her irons to help her hit higher shots. Her swing changes complicated the nature of the bounce in her new irons. Her confidence waned with the challenges.

“It sounds crazy, but I’m so close to finding it,” Creamer said. “I feel like I’m in a really good place right now.”

Inkster said the rest of the American team strongly wanted Creamer. She said they believe in her, too. Inkster also thinks the match-play format will draw out Creamer’s best instincts.

“I think Paula deserves a chance to play on the Solheim Cup,” Inkster said. “She has earned that spot. It wasn't like she finished 30th on the points. She finished 12th. So it wasn't really going outside the box to grab her.

“I have a ton of confidence in her ... I love where her head's at. I love her. I think she's going to be great over there.” 

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Ciganda, S.Y. Kim share lead in Shanghai

By Associated PressOctober 20, 2018, 9:28 am

SHANGHAI - Carlota Ciganda of Spain shot a 5-under 67 Saturday to share the lead with Sei Young Kim after the third round of the LPGA Shanghai.

Ciganda carded her fifth birdie of the day on the par-4 18th to finish tied with overnight leader Kim at 11-under 205. Kim shot a 71 with four bogeys and five birdies.

Ciganda is attempting to win her third LPGA title and first since the 2016 season, when she won two tournaments in a one-month span. Kim is chasing her eighth career LPGA win and second title of the 2018 season.

''I want to win because I didn't win last year,'' Ciganda said. ''I love playing in Asia. It's good for long hitters, playing quite long, so I'm quite comfortable.''


Full-field scores from the Buick LPGA Shanghai


Angel Yin also birdied the final hole for a 68 and was a further stroke back with Brittany Altomare (69), Danielle Kang (71) and Ariya Jutanugarn (71).

Yin and Altomare have yet to break through for their first LPGA win. A win in Shanghai would make either player the ninth first-time winner of the 2018 season, which would tie 2016 for the third highest number of first-time winners in a season in LPGA history.

''I love competing,'' Yin said. ''That's why I'm playing, right? I'm excited to be in contention again going into Sunday.''

Local favorite Yu Liu was seventh after offsetting a lone bogey with four birdies for a 69.

Paula Creamer also shot a 69 and shared eighth at 8 under with Minjee Lee (70) and Bronte Law (71).

The tournament is the second of five being played in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan in the LPGA's annual Asian swing.

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Koepka's pursuers have no illusions about catching him

By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 8:50 am

Ahead by four, wielding his driver like Thor's hammer, Brooks Koepka is 18 holes from his third victory in five months and his first ascent to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking.

The tournament isn't over. No one is handing him the trophy and updating the OWGR website just yet. But it will likely take some combination of a meltdown and low round from someone in the chase pack to prevent a Koepka coronation Sunday in South Korea.

Thirteen under for the week, the three-time major champion will start the final round four shots ahead of his playing partners, Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy, and five ahead of six more players at minus-8.

As is his nature, Poulter figures to be undaunted. The 42-year-old is fresh off a Sunday singles victory over Dustin Johnson at the Ryder Cup and in the midst of a career renaissance, having broken a five-year winless drought earlier this year. In one sense, it's Europe vs. the United States again, but this isn't match play, and Koepka, a guy who doesn't need a head start, has spotted himself a four-shot advantage.


Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos


"Tomorrow I'm going to need to make a few birdies. Obviously Brooks is in cruise control right now and obviously going to need a shoot a low one," Poulter conceded. "Do what I'm doing, just enjoy [it]. Obviously try and make as many birdies as I can and see how close we get."

Perez, in the group at 8 under par, isn't giving up, but like Poulter, he's aware of the reality of his situation.

"We're chasing Brooks, who of course obviously is playing phenomenally," he said. "A lot of the long hitters now when they get in contention, they hit that driver and they're really hard to catch. I'm not worried about it too much. It's going to be harder for me tomorrow than him, so I'm going to try and go out and just do my thing, hit some shots, hopefully hit some close and make some putts and we'll see. I don't expect him to come backwards, but hopefully I can try to go catch him."

Gary Woodland, also 8 under par, summed up the predicament best when he alluded to Koepka's perhaps advantageously aloof demeanor.

"You obviously want to get off to a good start and put pressure on him as soon as you can," he said. "You know, Brooks doesn't seem like he cares too much, and he's playing so good, so you're going to have to go out and post a number."

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Koepka has his chance 'to earn' his way to No. 1

By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 8:09 am

There won't need to be any wonky math involved. He won't have to settle for finally reaching the the top via some kind of mathematical reset while he's sitting at home on the couch (or more likely working out in the gym).

No, Brooks Koepka on Sunday in South Korea will have a chance to ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking the way every player would most want to - with a victory.

On the strength of a bogey-free round of 5-under 67 Saturday, Koepka will enter the final round of the CJ Cup four clear of Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy, with six more players five behind.

The tournament is Koepka's to lose, and so too is the No. 1 ranking. So long as Justin Thomas doesn't somehow defend his title from 12 shots back, Koepka can supplant Dustin Johnson atop the rankings with a win or a solo second-place finish.


Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos


"It was something I wanted to do. I always wanted to become World No. 1 in a week that I was playing," Koepka said Saturday. "I thought like I could really earn it and not have a week off where it just so happens that you bump up. No, it would be very special, and to do it here would be nice and hopefully get to world No. 1 and cap it off with a win, I don't think there would be much better."

It would be a fitting end to this breakthrough year for Koepka, who successfully defended his U.S. Open title and then added his third major victory at the PGA Championship en route to claiming the PGA Tour's Player of the Year Award. Oddly enough, considering his status a three-time major winner and an impending No. 1, this would be Koepka's fifth Tour victory but only his second in a non-major; his only regular Tour win to date was his first, at the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open.

"My confidence has always been pretty high," Koepka said. "Anytime you can win three majors you're going to be feeling pretty good about yourself. To do what I've done over the last two years has been special, but I'm looking to build on that."

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Koepka ahead by four, with No. 1 ranking in his grasp

By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 5:48 am

Following a closing birdie and a third-round 67 at Nine Bridges, Brooks Koepka will take a four-shot lead over Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy into final round of the CJ Cup. Here's how Koepka separated himself from the field in South Korea.

Leaderboard: Koepka (-13), Piercy (-9), Poulter (-9), Rafa Cabrera Bello (-8), Cameron Smith (-8), Jaime Lovemark (-8), Pat Perez (-8), Gary Woodland (-8), Chez Reavie (-8)

What it means: Koepka is in search of his fifth PGA Tour victory and – believe it or not – only his second non-major. The three-time major champion’s only other win came all the way back in February 2015, at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. One off the lead to start the day, Koepka opened with eight straight pars and birdied Nos. 9 and 10 to take the outright lead at 10 under par. He added three more circles at 14, 17 and 18 to close out a bogey-free round of 5 under and go ahead by ahead by four. He'll be chased on Sunday by Piercy, a four-time PGA Tour winner who won the Zurich Classic earlier this year alongside Billy Horschel, and by Poulter, who ended a five-year worldwide winless drought back in April and is coming off a 2-2 performance at the Ryder Cup, with a Sunday singles victory over current world No. 1 Dustin Johnson. Speaking of which, unless Justin Thomas finds a way to win this tournament from 12 back, Koepka will for the first time ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking with a win or a solo second-place finish.

Round of the day: After contending last week at the CIMB, Shubankhar Sharma rebounded from opening rounds of 74 and 75 with a nine-birdie, 8-under 64 to move up 45 spots into a tie for 26th through 54 holes.

Best of the rest: Four players – Rafa Cabrera Bello, Ted Potter Jr., Jason Day and Brendan Steele – shot 7-under 65 Saturday. Day played his first four holes in 2 over and his final 14 in 9 under.

Biggest disappointment: The only previous winner of this event, world No. 4 Justin Thomas entered the week with a chance to take back the No. 1 ranking with a successful title defense. But rounds of 73-70-72 have him 1 under for the week. Thomas played his back nine in 1 over Saturday with six pars, a birdie, a quadruple bogey and a closing eagle.

Shot of the day: Koepka flying his tee shot 330 yards to the front edge of the green at the par-4 14th and going on to two-putt for birdie.