Inkster's players see the light

By Randall MellAugust 20, 2017, 1:40 am

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa – The Miley Cyrus hit got the fun going early.

Standing on the first tee at day’s start, U.S. Solheim Cup captain Juli Inkster put her hands on her head and swayed her hips to the sweet rhythms of the Cyrus song wafting from the speakers across Des Moines Golf and Country Club.

Party in the USA . . .

The lyrics seemed to echo through Saturday’s morning foursomes and afternoon fourballs as the United States continued to build on its commanding lead in this biennial international team event.

While Inkster refuses to take anything for granted, or acknowledge victory is some foregone conclusion, her team looks poised to roll to its most lopsided victory in the history of the Solheim Cup.

The United States leads Europe 10 ½ to 5 ½ going into Sunday singles.

The Americans overcame a 10-6 deficit going to Sunday singles to win in Germany two years ago, but Europe will have to top that historic comeback. No Solheim Cup team has ever come from five points behind to win these matches.

“We played amazing,” Inkster said. “But, as you know, closing it out is the toughest thing to do. We need one more great day of golf.”

The Americans need only claim 3 ½ of the 12 available points in singles to retain the cup and four to win it outright.

“I know Annika's team will not quit,” Inkster said. “So we'll be ready for the task.”

Inkster’s dance at the first tee Saturday wasn’t her first this week. She seems to have taken possession of that opening tee box, playfully exhorting the crowd and joking with her players. She appears to be sending an unspoken message to every player she is sending out.

“We keep it loose,” Inkster said. “We keep it light. That's just what I'm trying to project.”


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She’s doing a fabulous job of it.

“I think this year's different,” said Brittany Lang, who teamed with Brittany Lincicome to shoot 12 under in a 2-up fourball victory. “I think we're focusing on a lot of fun.

“Juli has just wanted us to be a little bit more relaxed, and she said something really cool. She said, `I don't need you to play any better than you do all year in tournaments.’ The Solheim Cup is not usually about fun. It’s about keeping the cup and winning. But since we've started to have fun, we've played some really good golf.”

The Americans crammed a lot of fun into this Saturday as they claimed five of the eight points available on the day, three of the four available in fourballs.

Kerr holed out for eagle from a greenside bunker at the 15th and flung her club in the air. Kerr teamed with Lexi Thompson to shoot 13 under over 16 holes in a 4-and-2 fourballs victory against Georgia Hall and Catriona Matthew.

“We faced a difficult team,” Kerr said. “I told Lexi, we might have to shoot 59 to beat these guys, and we almost made that.”

Kerr and Thompson also won their morning foursomes match. The victories moved Kerr past Inkster for most wins (16) and most points (20) by an American in Solheim Cup history.

Lincicome started her fourballs match with six consecutive birdies, and then Lang holed out from 86 yards in some nasty rough for eagle at the seventh. They combined for a best-ball 61 on the par-73 layout in a tough 2-up victory against Mel Reid and Carlota Ciganda.

“Seemed like the hole was the size of Texas,” Lincicome said.

Lincicome said the six straight birdies is probably her personal record.

Lincicome said she and her husband have a running joke "that if I make three birdies in a row, he has to send me a picture with his shirt off. ... I’m not sure what six gets us."

Lincicome laughed.

“Is my face red?” she said.

Austin Ernst chipped in for birdie at the 15th in fourballs, helping to propel her and Paula Creamer to a 2-and-1 victory against Karine Icher and Madelene Sagstrom. They also won their foursomes match in the morning, improving Creamer to 16-9-5 in her Solheim Cup career, and pushing her past Inkster as the winningest foursomes player in American Solheim history. Creamer is now 7-4-3 in foursomes, with the 8½ points, a point better than Inkster.

“All those Twitter people out there who said I shouldn’t have picked Paula, shame on you,” Inkster said.

Inkster may be holding off on any celebrations, but she will be looking to keep the fun going Sunday.

“I think everybody puts a lot of emphasis on wins and losses,” Inkster said. “These girls have worked really hard two years to make the Solheim Cup team. And, yeah, it's great to win, and, yeah, it would be great to win. But it's not about that.”

Inkster said some of her best memories were from losses, too, from the camaraderie and friendships and the team building.

“They want to be a team,” Inkster said. “But sometimes you have to learn how to be a team. I think they’re learning how to be a team.”

That may be Inkster’s greatest gift to her players as they seek to link her with Judy Rankin as the only Americans to be the winning captains in back-to-back Solheim Cups.

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1, 2, 3 out: Thornberry, Suh, Morikawa lose at U.S. Am

By Ryan LavnerAugust 16, 2018, 1:14 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – The top three players in the world had a tough afternoon Wednesday at Pebble Beach.

Braden Thornberry, Justin Suh and Collin Morikawa – Nos. 1-3, respectively, in the World Amateur Golf Ranking – all lost their Round of 64 matches at the U.S. Amateur.

Thornberry lost, 2 and 1, to Jesus Montenegro of Argentina. As the No. 1 amateur in the world, the Ole Miss senior was in line to receive the McCormack Medal, which would exempt him into both summer Opens in 2019, provided he remains amateur. But now he’ll need to wait and see how the rankings shake out.

Suh and Morikawa could have played each other in the Round of 32, but instead they were both heading home early.


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Suh, a junior at USC, never led in his 1-up loss to Harrison Ott, while Cal's Morikawa lost to another Vanderbilt player, John Augenstein, in 19 holes.

Englishman Matthew Jordan is the fourth-ranked player in the world, but he didn’t make the 36-hole stroke-play cut.

The highest-ranked player remaining is Oklahoma State junior Viktor Hovland, who is ranked fifth. With his college coach, Alan Bratton, on the bag, Hovland beat his Cowboys teammate, Hayden Wood, 3 and 2, to reach the Round of 32.

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Fiery Augenstein outduels Morikawa at U.S. Amateur

By Ryan LavnerAugust 16, 2018, 12:55 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Around the Vanderbilt golf team John Augenstein’s nickname is “Flash,” and it’s easy to see why.

The swing loaded with speed.

The on-course charisma.

The big shot in the big moment.

The Commodores junior added another highlight to his growing collection Wednesday, when he defeated world No. 3 Collin Morikawa in 19 holes during a Round of 64 match at the U.S. Amateur.

Out of sorts early at Pebble Beach, Augenstein was 2 down to Morikawa after butchering the short seventh and then misplaying a shot around the green on 8.

Standing on the ninth tee, he turned to Vanderbilt assistant coach/caddie Gator Todd: "I need to play the best 10 holes of my life to beat Collin."

And did he?

“I don’t know,” he said later, smirking, “but I did enough.”

Augenstein won the ninth hole after Morikawa dumped his approach shot into the hazard, drained a 30-footer on 10 to square the match and then took his first lead when he rolled in a 10-footer on 14.

One down with three holes to go, Morikawa stuffed his approach into 16 while Augenstein, trying to play a perfect shot, misjudged the wind and left himself in a difficult position, short and right of the green. Augenstein appeared visibly frustrated once he found his ball, buried in the thick ryegrass short of the green. He told Todd that he didn’t think he’d be able to get inside of Morikawa’s shot about 6 feet away, but he dumped his pitch shot onto the front edge, rode the slope and trickled it into the cup for an unlikely birdie.

“Come on!” he yelled, high-fiving Todd and tossing his wedge at his bag.

“It was beautiful,” Todd said. “I’m not sure how he did that, but pretty cool that it went in.”  


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Morikawa answered by making birdie, then won the 17th with a par before both players halved the home hole with birdies.

On the first extra hole, Augenstein hit his approach to 15 feet while Morikawa left it short. Morikawa raced his first putt by 6 feet and then missed the comebacker to lose the match.

It may not have been the best 10-hole stretch of Augenstein’s career, but after that pep talk on 9 tee, he went 4 under to the house.

“He’s a fiery little dude,” Morikawa said of his 5-foot-8-inch opponent. “You don’t want to get him on the wrong side because you never know what’s going to happen. He’s not going to give shots away.”

The first-round match was a rematch of the Western Amateur quarterfinals two weeks ago, where Augenstein also won, that time by a 4-and-2 margin.

“It’s the most fun format and where I can be my true self – emotional and aggressive and beat people,” Augenstein said.

That’s what he did at the 2017 SECs, where he won the deciding points in both the semifinals and the finals. He starred again a few weeks later at the NCAA Championship, last season went 3-0 in SEC match play, and now has earned a reputation among his teammates as a primetime player.

“I’ve hit a lot of big shots and putts in my career,” said Augenstein, ranked 26th in the world after recently winning the Players Amateur. “I get locked in and focused, and there’s not a shot that I don’t think I can pull off. I’m not scared to fail.”

The comeback victory against Morikawa – a three-time winner last season at Cal and one of the best amateurs in the world – didn’t surprise Todd. He’s seen firsthand how explosive Augenstein can be on the course.

“He’s just fiery,” Todd said. “He does things under pressure that you’re not supposed to do. He’s just a special kid.”

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Fowler (oblique) withdraws from playoff opener

By Will GrayAugust 15, 2018, 8:44 pm

The injury that slowed Rickie Fowler at last week's PGA Championship will keep him out of the first event of the PGA Tour's postseason.

Fowler was reportedly hampered by an oblique injury at Bellerive Country Club, where he started the third round two shots off the lead but faded to a tie for 12th. He confirmed the injury Tuesday in an Instagram post, adding that an MRI revealed a partial tear to his right oblique muscle.

According to Fowler, the injury also affected him at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, where he tied for 17th. After receiving the test results, he opted to withdraw from The Northern Trust next week at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey.

"My team and I feel like it's best not to play next week in the Northern Trust," Fowler wrote. "I will be back healthy and competitive ASAP for the FedEx Cup and more than ready for the Ryder Cup!!!"

Fowler is one of eight players who earned automatic spots on the U.S. Ryder Cup team when the qualifying window closed last week. His next opportunity to tee it up would be at the 100-man Dell Technologies Championship, where Fowler won in 2015.

Fowler has 12 top-25 finishes in 18 starts, highlighted by runner-up finishes at both the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in the fall and at the Masters. He is currently 17th in the season-long points race, meaning that he's assured of starts in each of the first three playoff events regardless of performance and in good position to qualify for the 30-man Tour Championship for the fourth time in the last five years.

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Playoff streaks in jeopardy for Garcia, Haas

By Will GrayAugust 15, 2018, 8:12 pm

Since the advent of the FedExCup in 2007, only 13 players have managed to make the playoffs each and every year. But two of the PGA Tour's stalwarts head into the regular-season finale with work to do in order to remain a part of that select fraternity.

Sergio Garcia has rarely had to sweat the top-125 bubble, but the Spaniard enters this week's Wyndham Championship 131st in the current standings. Left with even more work to do is former FedExCup winner Bill Haas, who starts the week in Greensboro 150th.

Garcia got off to a strong start in the spring, sandwiching a pair of top-10 finishes in WGC events around a fourth-place showing at the Valspar Championship. But quality results largely dried up after Garcia missed the cut at the Masters; he has made only two cuts in 10 Tour starts since April, including early exits in all four majors.


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Garcia has some history at Sedgefield Country Club, having won this event in 2012 to break a lengthy U.S. victory drought. He also finished fourth in 2009 but hasn't played the Donald Ross layout since a T-29 finish as the defending champ in 2013.

It's been a difficult year for Haas both on and off the course, as the veteran was involved as a passenger in a car accident on the eve of the Genesis Open that killed the driver. He returned to action three weeks later in Tampa, and he tied for seventh at the RBC Heritage in April. But that remains his lone top-10 finish of the season. Haas has missed 11 cuts including three in a row.

While the bubble will be a fluid target this week at Sedgefield, Garcia likely needs at least a top-20 finish to move into the top 125 while Haas will likely need to finish inside the top 5.

One of the 13 playoff streaks is assured of ending next week, as Luke Donald has missed most of the year with a back injury. Other players to qualify for every Tour postseason include Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Zach Johnson, Adam Scott, Bubba Watson, Justin Rose, Brandt Snedeker, Charles Howell III, Charley Hoffman and Ryan Moore.