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The other side of Annika at the Solheim Cup

By Randall MellAugust 22, 2017, 4:30 pm

The losing captains in these international team events get torn to shreds.

They get blamed for everything from pairings to picks to international financial markets taking dives.

That’s practically the rule in Ryder Cups and Solheim Cups, but Annika Sorenstam distinguished herself last week as an exception to the rule.

Yes, Europe got routed, 16½ to 11½, but this was an odd Solheim Cup, where the final score didn’t really reflect the entertainment value these teams offered.

Somehow, some way, there was great theater in so many matches within this lopsided matchup, from Danielle Kang’s flamboyant debut making putts from all over the place, to Cristie Kerr’s record-setting performances, to Anna Nordqvist mustering triumphant efforts playing through mononucleosis.

And we even got another memorable comeback Sunday, but it was Lexi Thompson delivering it after losing the first four holes to Nordqvist before regrouping to halve the match. It was a terrific duel that made Sunday’s finish worth watching by itself.



When I remember Sorenstam’s captaincy, I won’t remember the final score as much as I’ll remember seeing Annika open herself up to us like we’ve never seen before.

This is one of the all-time greats, a Hall of Famer who won more LPGA titles (72) than anyone except Kathy Whitworth (88) and Mickey Wright (82), but Sorenstam distinguished herself in this losing effort. She showed her team how to lose with grace and dignity and how to put up a fight even when you are overmatched.

I’ll remember Sorenstam for her inspiring appearance Saturday in the media center, where this captain, who was so measured her entire playing career, let her guard down and invited us into her head and heart. She was as good as you could possibly ask a captain to be answering questions with her team getting trounced worse going into singles than any European team in the history of the Solheim Cup. Chin up, jaw resolutely set, she let us hear how a champion thinks when her back’s to a wall. She struck such a genuine tone. There was a bonus, too, there was her unexpected good humor that night, which sent a couple jolts of laughter through the interview room.

I wrote early in the week that Sorenstam won with cold precision as a player, that she was a bit of a loner in her prime who seemed to use the distance she created with other players to cultivate the aura of intimidation that added to her advantage.

That’s the way it was, but it was unfair in failing to reveal how she has evolved away from the game and how she would be as a captain.

I’ll remember Sorenstam in Des Moines, Iowa, locked arm in arm with her European players, walking up the fairway in solidarity at the end of their defeat, a team that didn’t point fingers or grumble but gave us some good theater in stirring scenes within the rout. Sorenstam built that unified front, something that is harder to do in defeat than victory.



Yes, there was tension between Sorenstam and U.S. captain Juli Inkster coming into these matches, something that happens when two giants of the game have butted heads with valued championships and trophies at stake, but it doesn’t mean there wasn’t mutual respect. There was.

Somewhere in the cosmos, Louise Solheim had to be smiling down when Sorenstam donned a Viking helmet with horns and blonde braids and danced with Inkster on the first tee during Sunday singles.

Inkster and Sorenstam were models of competitive decorum.

I’ll remember so many things beyond the final score in Sorenstam’s captaincy. Yes, you can second guess her captain’s picks, taking rookies over proven veterans like Azahara Munoz and Sandra Gal, but Sorenstam was dealt a tough hand with Suzann Pettersen withdrawing because of a bad back, with Charley Hull missing all of Saturday with a wrist injury, with Nordqvist understandably having to rest at least one session with mono and with Carlota Ciganda losing form at the worst possible time, but Sorenstam never grumbled about it. She showed her team how you meet adversity.

“It was pretty inspiring,” Hull said. “And it was quite cool. You kind of get into the mind of the greatest female golfer that's lived. And that's pretty special.”

Hull couldn’t have said it much better. It’s a shame Sorenstam was so resolute in saying she wouldn’t be pursuing a return as captain next time around, because that might be Europe’s worst loss from this. Europe ought to be clamoring as hard for Sorenstam’s return as captain as the United States is for Inkster’s return. We would all win with that.

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Lauren Thompson and a giant 'gator eating a turtle

By Grill Room TeamApril 19, 2018, 4:53 pm

Really, the headline says it all.

"Morning Drive" co-host Lauren Thompson was playing the Ritz Carlton Grande Lakes on Thursday in Orlando, Fla., when her threesome turned into a foursome, with the appearance of a giant alligator. Techincally, it was a fivesome, as the 'gator had a turtle in its mouth.



Hey, it's a slow news week for Grill Room.

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Sources confirm Charles Schwab to sponsor Colonial event

By Rex HoggardApril 19, 2018, 2:42 pm

Multiple sources have confirmed to GolfChannel.com that officials at Colonial are poised to announce a new sponsorship agreement with Charles Schwab Corporation.

Tournament officials scrambled this year after Dean & DeLuca ended its sponsorship of the event just two years into a six-year agreement, pulling together an assortment of local sponsors and renaming the event the Fort Worth Invitational.

Colonial’s status on the PGA Tour schedule became even more uncertain when the PGA Championship announced it would move from August to May, beginning in 2019 as part of a major overhaul of the circuit’s schedule.

According to the Dallas News, and confirmed by multiple sources at the club, officials plan to announce the new long-term agreement with Charles Schwab on Monday that will begin in 2019.

News of a long-term sponsorship deal would also suggest the event will remain in May in 2019 and beyond. The Tour has indicated it plans to announce the ’19 schedule at next month’s Players Championship.

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PNC Extends Title Sponsorship of PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Golf Channel Public RelationsApril 19, 2018, 1:00 pm

ORLANDO, Fla., April 19, 2018 – IMG and NBC Sports today announced that The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. has extended its contract as title sponsor of the PNC Father/Son Challenge, the tournament that pairs the games’ legends alongside their sons, daughters and grandchildren.

PNC’s multi-year extension as title sponsor keeps the PGA Tour Challenge Event in Orlando reflecting the bank’s commitment to Central Florida. PNC has served as title sponsor of the tournament since 2012. The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club Orlando, Grande Lakes will continue to play host to the PNC Father/Son Challenge. The 2018 PNC Father/Son Challenge will take place Friday-Sunday, Dec. 14-16, with television coverage on Golf Channel and NBC.

“The PNC Father/Son Challenge long ago became one of my family’s favorite golf tournaments,” said 18-time major champion Jack Nicklaus. “I have had the pleasure of playing with my sons, and last year, partnering with my 15-year-old grandson GT was a thrill. I am delighted the event—a uniquely special one to us fathers and grandfathers, and perhaps to the many fans out there watching from home or outside the ropes—will continue for many years to come.”

“After our victory in 2016, I said that this win was as good as anything I have done in my career,” said former World No. 1 and major champion David Duval, who alongside his stepson Nick Karavites captured the 2016 title. “I felt blessed to have Nick inside the ropes with me and to have our family surrounding us all week. That’s what makes the PNC Father/Son Challenge so special, and I’m pleased to hear that PNC has extended its support of the event. This golf tournament means so much to all of us who are lucky enough to have the opportunity to play in this event.”

The tournament also holds three events in qualifier markets per year. This year they will be in Dallas, Chicago, and Philadelphia.

“The PNC Father/Son Challenge allows fans to see golf’s legends playing the game they love alongside those they love most,” said Alastair Johnston, vice chairman, IMG. “We are grateful for PNC’s ongoing support of this unique tournament and we look forward to returning to Orlando to celebrate golf and family for many years to come.”

Community support is a key aspect of the tournament and PNC’s sponsorship. PNC is committed to donating $150,000 annually to local non-profits over the life of its sponsorship. Across six previous years of title sponsorship, PNC has already donated $900,000 to Arnie’s Army Charitable Foundation and the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children to support the “Healthy Families Orange” program. Over the years, PNC has also had the opportunity through this tournament to co-host events for local women in business, to put on clinics and provide free access to the tournament for active military, and even provide a service dog for a local veteran.

"PNC's long-standing sponsorship of the Father/Son Challenge reflects the philanthropic values we share with the PGA Tour and the golf community, as well as our focus on strong relationships,” said Bill Demchak, chairman, president and chief executive officer of The PNC Financial Services Group. “As PNC Bank continues to expand its footprint, the PNC Father/Son tournament helps us gain visibility with new audiences and to strengthen the relationships we enjoy today with more than 8 million retail, wealth, and corporate and institutional banking customers across the country.”

“NBC Sports is extremely proud of our heritage as co-founder for the Father/Son Challenge, one of golf’s most special events that closes out the calendar year on the golf schedule,” said Jon Miller, President, Programming, NBC Sports. “Our relationship with PNC Bank elevates this event each year as a must-attend and must-see event for players and fans alike, and we look forward to our continued relationship with PNC Bank for years to come.”

Past winners of the PNC Father/Son Challenge include some of the biggest names in golf including Raymond Floyd (1995, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2001), Jack Nicklaus (1999), Bernhard Langer (2005-06, 2014), Davis Love III (2012) and David Duval (2016).  Masters champion Angel Cabrera and his son, Angel Cabrera Jr. captured the 2017 title.

To qualify for the PNC Father/Son Challenge, participants must have won either a major championship or THE PLAYERS Championship in their career. The professional’s partner must not currently hold a Tour card, and while the majority of partners in the history of the event have been the sons of the golf legends, the family-themed tournament has seen daughters, grandsons and one father – Justin Leonard’s dad, Larry – participate over the years.

The PNC Father/Son Challenge is operated in partnership by IMG and NBC Sports.

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Fire damages National Golf Links of America clubhouse

By Will GrayApril 19, 2018, 12:55 pm

A fire broke out Wednesday at National Golf Links of America in Southampton, N.Y., causing "extensive damage" to a portion of the historic course's clubhouse.

According to a 27East.com report, an initial call was made to the Southampton police department about a fire on the roof of the clubhouse at 11:34 a.m. With the club's gates too narrow to fit a fire truck through, more than 100 firefighters from various departments helped douse the flames by transporting water up a hill to the east side of the clubhouse.

The fire was reportedly extinguished by 2:30 p.m., with no injuries requiring medical attention. According to a Golf Digest report, the club was undergoing construction on its outdoor eating area known as "the Birdcage" and that most of the club's historical documents reside on the opposite end of the clubhouse from where the fire broke out and was contained.

Opened in 1911, National Golf Links of America was designed by C.B. MacDonald and hosted the inaugural Walker Cup in 1922. The biennial matches returned in 2013 to NGLA, which is often rated among the top courses in the U.S. and sits adjacent to Shinnecock Hills, site of this summer's U.S. Open.