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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Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way

By Randall MellMay 27, 2018, 12:55 am

Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.

Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.

And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.

Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.

Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.


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Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.

Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.

“I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told LPGA.com at the Kingsmill Championship last week.

Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.

A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.

It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.

There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.

Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.

The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.

Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.

“I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told LPGA.com last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”

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Rose hasn't visited restroom at Colonial - here's why

By Nick MentaMay 27, 2018, 12:20 am

In case you're unaware, it's pretty hot in Texas.

Temperatures at Colonial Country Club have approached 100 degrees this week, leaving players to battle both the golf course and potential dehydration.

With the help of his caddie Mark Fulcher, Fort Worth Invitational leader Justin Rose has been plenty hot himself, staking himself to a four-shot lead.


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"Yeah, Fulch has done a great job of just literally handing me water bottle after water bottle. It seems relentless, to be honest with you," Rose said Saturday.

So just how much are players sweating the heat at Colonial? Well, it doesn't sound like all that water is making it all the way through Rose.

"I haven't even seen the inside of a restroom yet, so you can't even drink quick enough out there," he shared.

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Up four, Rose knows a lead can slip away

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 11:21 pm

Up four shots heading into Sunday at the Fort Worth Invitational, Justin Rose has tied the largest 54-hole lead of his PGA Tour career.

On the previous two occasions he took a 54-hole Tour lead into the final round, he closed.

And yet, Rose knows just how quickly a lead can slip away. After all, it was Rose who erased a six-shot deficit earlier this season to overtake Dustin Johnson and win the WGC-HSBC Championship. 

"I think I was in the lead going into the final round in Turkey when I won, and I had a four-shot lead going into the final round in Indonesia in December and managed to put that one away," Rose said Saturday, thinking back to his two other victories late last year.

"I was five, six back maybe of DJ, so I've got experience the other way. ... So you can see how things can go both ways real quick. That's why there is no point in getting too far ahead of myself."


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Up one to start the third round Saturday, Rose extended his lead to as much as five when he birdied four of his first six holes.

He leads the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green (+12.853) and strokes gained: approach-the-green (+7.931).

Rose has won five times worldwide, including at the 2016 Rio Olympics, since his last victory in the United States, at the 2015 Zurich Classic.

With a win Sunday, he'd tie Nick Faldo for the most PGA Tour wins by an Englishman post-World War II, with nine.

But he isn't celebrating just yet.

"It is a big lead, but it's not big enough to be counting the holes away. You've got to go out and play good, you've got to go out positive, you've got to continue to make birdies and keep going forward.

"So my mindset is to not really focus on the lead, it's to focus on my game tomorrow and my performance. You know, just keep executing the way I have been. That's going to be my challenge tomorrow. Going to look forward to that mindset."

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Grillo still hunting follow-up to debut win

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 10:53 pm

Following a round of 1-under 69 Saturday, Emiliano Grillo will enter Sunday's final round at Colonial four shots behind leader Justin Rose.

Grillo is hunting his first win since he took the 2015 Safeway Open in his rookie debut as a PGA Tour member. 

The young Argentinian finished 11th in the FedExCup points race that season, contending in big events and finishing runner-up at the 2016 Barclays.

In the process, Grillo had to learn to pace himself and that it can be fruitless to chase after success week to week.

"That was a hot run in there," Grillo said Saturday, referring to his rookie year. "I played, in 2016, I played the majors very well. I played the big tournaments very well. I was in contention after two, three days in most of the big events.


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"I think, you know, I wanted to do better. I pushed for it. Some of the tournaments I ended up being 50th or 60th just because I wanted to play. I wanted to play well so badly. That played against me, so I learned from that. In that rookie year, I learned that."

Grillo was still plenty successful in his sophomore season, advancing to the BMW Championship last fall.

But now he's beginning to regain some of that form that made him such an immediate success on Tour. Grillo has recorded four top-10 finishes year - a T-9 at Mayakoba, a T-8 at Honda, a T-3 at Houston, and a T-9 at Wells Fargo - and will now look to outduel U.S. Open champs in Rose and Brooks Koepka on Sunday at Colonial.

"Well, he's top 10 in the world, so everything he does he does it pretty well," Grillo said of Rose. "You know, he does his own thing. Like I say, he's top 10 in the world. Nothing wrong with his game. ...

"He's in the lead on a Sunday. Doesn't matter where you're playing, he's got to go out and shoot under par. He's got 50 guys behind him trying to reach him, and I'm one of those. I've just got to go out and do what he did today on those first five or six holes and try to get him in the early holes."