Inkster remakes U.S. team in her image - and wins

By Randall MellSeptember 20, 2015, 7:29 pm

ST. LEON-ROT, Germany – You knew the Americans were a different team when they marched on stage for the Solheim Cup’s opening ceremony wearing Chuck Taylor Converse basketball shoes.

No six-inch stilletos this time, no overly fanciful bling, either.

They literally came to work with lunch buckets.

After preaching for nearly two years that she wanted a team with a blue-collar work ethic, U.S. captain Juli Inkster gave each of her players metal lunch buckets as gifts at week’s start that were painted red, white and blue.

Criticized for being more about style than substance, this American bunch delivered the latter in excess in Sunday’s unforgettable 14½ to 13½ comeback victory.

They did so transforming themselves in the image of their captain, and what a makeover it proved to be.

These American women took an exhilarating journey together going from record-breaking losers to record-setting winners.

This was virtually the same group that lost to the Europeans in a Solheim Cup record rout two years ago. Alison Lee was the only addition to this team who wasn’t there for the 18-10 loss at Colorado Golf Club. With Sunday’s victory in Germany, the Americans avoided losing this event for a third consecutive time with the largest comeback in Solheim Cup history. Down 10-6 going into singles, they claimed the cup winning eight of Sunday’s 12 singles matches and halving another. They’re the first team in cup history to come back from being four or more points down going into the final session.

“It's an incredible feeling to have this journey with these 12 ladies,” Inkster said. “They never gave up. They played with class and integrity, and they played with heart and fire in their belly.”

In Inkster-like, old school fashion, the U.S. team overcame more than a staggering deficit and the dispiriting controversy surrounding a phantom concession at the end of fourballs. They overcame the stinging sentiment that American women’s golf is losing its heart with the country’s best players too caught up in the fame and the celebrity of professional golf.

“If this doesn’t show that we American girls have heart, I don’t know what else we can do,” Paula Creamer said.

Somebody should have hooked up heart monitors to the 12 Americans carrying home the cup. It’s a pretty good bet they were all beating in sync with Inkster’s.

“I think each one of us had a little bit of Juli in us this week,” Stacy Lewis said.

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Inkster steered this team away from excessive “rah-rah stuff,” as she called it, and from face paint and those elaborate red, white and blue manicures. She got them focused more on pure golf amid the chaos of Solheim Cup week and did her best to get players to stick to routines that helped them week to week in their regular LPGA jobs. She even had them shaking hands after winning holes instead of prancing or high fiving.

And she somehow managed to do it all without forcing her way on them. In fact, she encouraged them to be themselves within the team construct.

In the end, Inkster walked away loving her team and what they gave her.

“I don't think there's anything wrong having style and substance,” Inkster said. “You want to have your own thing. You want to do your own. You want to go out and beat someone's brains out, and then put on some high heels and go out to dinner. That's what they do, and I'm all for that.

“I just wanted us to try to really just focus on the golf this week and on what we were trying to do. I think they did a great job of that.”

Inkster got 12 individuals to bond in a way they never had before in the Solheim Cup, borrowing from former U.S. Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger’s pod system. She did so after bringing in an expert to put them all through personality tests. Inkster even took that test herself.

“There were like 50 yes-and-no questions,” Brittany Lincicome said. “Things like whether we considered ourselves outgoing, or a leader.”

The team was divided into three pods of four players.

“Everybody bought into it,” Lewis said. “We became closer because of it.”

They even had a “Princess Pod,” they joked in a festive aftermath. Paula Creamer, Cristie Kerr, Morgan Pressel and Lexi Thompson good naturedly claimed ownership of the princess moniker.

“I don't think I've ever wanted to win more in my life than for this team and for Juli Inkster,” Kerr said. “It's been a great journey, amazing how she brought us together.”

This American team overcame one setback after another.

At week’s start, Alison Lee fell ill with food poisoning or a stomach virus that knocked her out of the opening foursomes session. Inkster was eager to team her with Michelle Wie, but she had to scramble last minute. The team could have taken that as a sign that the week was doomed to unravel one way or another again.

There was an emotional setback early Sunday morning, with the conclusion of Saturday’s suspended fourballs. That’s when controversy broke out over a phantom concession. That’s when Lee scooped up her ball at the 17th, thinking Suzann Pettersen and Charley Hull conceded her 18-inch par putt to halve the hole and keep the match square. They didn’t and the Americans lost the hole and the match.

Lee was devastated, in tears. The loss meant the difference between entering singles down 10-6 instead of 9-7. It was a large setback to deal with shortly before singles began.

“I think they were ready to go, but I also think that maybe just lit the fire a little bit more,” Inkster said. “I think in their bellies they wanted to just maybe do a little bit more. And that little bit more got us the Solheim.”

Inkster makes fun of her lack of organizational skills. She wore the wrong colors to a team practice. She forgot her credit card when she took the team out for dinner one night. Somehow, though, even that seemed to loosen the team up, giving them permission to be their imperfect selves but believe in their strengths.

Mostly, what Inkster did in Germany is bring out the best in every player.

We saw it in Creamer. Inkster made her a controversial captain’s pick with Creamer struggling this summer and then sent Creamer out in the lead-off match with Morgan Pressel to start the Solheim Cup. They brought home a point. She sent Creamer out in the all-important anchor match Sunday in singles and Creamer delivered again, clinching the victory in a 4-and-3 rout of Sandra Gal.

“I wanted to just go play some good golf, not only for our country and for our team, but for myself, as well,” Creamer said. “I just wanted to go out and prove a lot of things, and I think I did a good job of that.”

We saw something special from Gerina Piller when she buried that clutch 8-foot putt at the 18th hole to beat Caroline Masson 1 up. Piller knew if she missed that putt, the cup was Europe’s. She had to make it to keep the Americans alive. The pressure was immense on a talented player still seeking her first LPGA title.

We saw something special in Angela Stanford, mired in an awful Solheim Cup slump, beating Pettersen, the player the Americans most wanted to beat. Stanford was brilliant in the 2-and-1 victory, erasing all those sour Solheim Cup memories and taking down the player at the heart of the morning controversy.

We saw that in Pressel beating Catriona Matthew, who hadn’t lost her last six Solheim Cup singles matches, since way back in 1998.

We saw it in Kerr magnificently making eight birdies in a nine-hole stretch winning her match.

“For the last six years, we've been waiting to hold that trophy up again,” Pressel said. “Being on those teams, it hurts. Sitting out in the closing ceremonies, watching Team Europe, we've been there. We know how it feels. We certainly didn't want to go into Iowa (in 2017) hearing about it all over again.”

Instead, the Americans will go to Iowa to defend the cup. And who knows, maybe Inkster will be leading them as captain again.

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Storms halt Barbasol before Lincicome tees off

By Associated PressJuly 20, 2018, 11:29 pm

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - Brittany Lincicome will have to wait until the weekend to resume her bid to make the cut in a PGA Tour event.

Overnight storms delayed the start of the second round Friday in the Barbasol Championship, and an afternoon thunderstorm suspended competition for good. The round will resume Saturday morning with much of the field still to play.

The second stoppage at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came 20 minutes before Lincicome's scheduled tee time.

Lincicome was near the bottom of the field after opening with a 6-over 78 on Thursday. The first LPGA player since Michelle Wie in 2008 to start a PGA Tour event, she needs a huge rebound to join Babe Zaharias (1945) as the only female players to make the cut.

Troy Merritt had the clubhouse lead at 15 under, following an opening 62 with a 67.

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Third-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 9:05 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.

Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.

Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.

4:15AM ET: Gavin Green

4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed

4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose

4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley

5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner

5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson

5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)

5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood

5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello

6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford

6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma

6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele

6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood

6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na

6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin

7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim

7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira

7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters

7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li

7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker

7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink

8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook

8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris

8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim

8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari

8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson

8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell

9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka

9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott

9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren

9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone

9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett

10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler

10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell

10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau

10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen

10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele

10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood

11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson

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Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”