Quick Round With Dottie Pepper
Fans love that about her.
When she led the Americans to victory at the 1998 Solheim Cup at Muirfield Village Golf Club, European players famously placed her image on a punching bag. She was the American teams heart and soul, as apparent in her 5-1 singles record over the years as it was in Europes aggravation with her.
When audio technicians failed to cut off her microphone before going to a commercial break at the last Solheim Cup in Sweden, Pepper uttered a line that made the American team want to place her face on a punching bag. After Sherri Steinhauer missed a short putt at the 18th hole, allowing Europe to halve a match with her and Laura Diaz, Pepper let loose with her famous Choking freaking dogs comment. Though Pepper never meant the line to be aired, it created a furor within the American teams ranks.
Whether Pepper was attacking pins as an elite player, or problems as a TV analyst or magazine columnist, her gift has always been a fearless focus on what she believes matters most. She attacks life, and we like that about her. Smarts and passion work as well for her today in her duties with the Golf Channel and NBC as they did when she was a player.
Pepper, 43, is a 17-time LPGA winner with two major championships on her resume, the 1992 and 99 Kraft Nabisco Championships. Back, neck and wrist injuries led to her retirement after the 2004 season.
With the Solheim Cup just around the corner, senior writer Randall Mell caught up with Pepper for a quick round:
Do you want to be a Solheim Cup captain?
I couldnt fit it in my schedule right now, but maybe down the line that would work.
Youre back in the booth at the Solheim Cup in two weeks. Your Freaking Choking Dogs comment at the last Solheim Cup created a furor. You know it will be revisited. Were you surprised how big a deal that became?
Given the fact that the players werent given the accurate information, Im not surprised. I think once people realized the entire context of the whole thing, it wasnt as horrible as it sounded.
Do you think it hurt your chances to be a Solheim Cup captain?
It possibly could, but theres nothing I could do to change it.
Do you sense the team is over that and do you care? The team is completely different than it was then by quite a few bodies. It hasnt been brought up, frankly, other than busting my chops behind the scenes by people in television. Im saying its a non-factor, but Im sure it will be brought up in the next few weeks. If people really knew what happened, yes, I said it, six-and-a-half seconds after the audio guy was supposed to have turned all of us off. When people realize that, and they understand television, how things are said in breaks, funny and passionate, you may not agree with it, but you would understand it.
Did Sherri Steinhauer or Laura Diaz ever slap you with a white glove as an invitation to a duel?
No, Ill just leave it at that.
Is the Solheim Cup OK the way it is, the United States vs. Europe, or does it need a change to get more of the big international names in the mix?
I think the Solheim Cup has its place as Europe vs. the United States. Do I think someday, maybe not too far down the road, there needs to be something like Americas vs. the world (South, Central and North America), a Presidents Cup sort of event? I do. But the Solheim Cup, as it stands, has its place and a really good one.
What did you think of Beth Daniels Solheim Cup captains picks?
I thought Michelle (Wie) totally earned her place based on this years performance, especially when there were even fewer events than when Paula Creamer made it as a rookie in 2005. Of all the players up for the pick, she was, by far, playing the best. Juli (Inkster), quite frankly, wasnt picked for her golf skills right now. I think she fits the team room for her age experience. I think shes a mom figure thats maybe a little bit necessary because of the youthful nature of this team. Shes not playing very well right now, but the Solheim Cup sometimes turns a player around.
Only one American has won a major championship in the last nine played. No American has been the LPGAs Player of the Year in 15 years, since Beth Daniel, does it matter?
Americans have won (nine of the last 33 LPGA events). Its disappointing, yes. Do I think it matters? Yes. I think the surprising thing is that experience doesnt seem to matter in major championships anymore. You look over the last two-and-a-half years, and theres only been one player who has won more than one, Lorena Ochoa. That is even more of a surprise to me.
Why do you think that is?
I think everyones coming to this tour to prove themselves, but, honestly, I dont know.
Asians are dominating the LPGA. Obviously, with the controversy we saw over the LPGAs failed attempt to implement an English speaking policy, there are folks who think theres a problem. What do you think?
I think Se Ri Pak opened a lot of opportunities for a lot of young girls. The work ethic of these kids is phenomenal. Frankly, I think the American kids, right now, are a little soft. They havent had to work their way out of things and have been given a lot. You come up in a sport like golf and get to the highest levels, theres no other way around it but just to work hard. And, sometimes, if youve been given a lot as a kid, thats a hard deal. Sometimes you have the want for something that you dont really go out and get.
You adapted quickly to the analysts role, even the journalists role with your Sports Illustrated column. For former players, that can be a difficult adjustment, because they dont want to judge, or hurt the feelings, of other players. What was your attitude making the transition?
I was harder on myself as a player than any commentator could have been, or anybody else could have been, and I try to apply that same thing to myself, whether Im in the analysts position, or out on the course, or penning an article. I try to make myself as educated and prepared as I can be on every bit of it. Thats the way I was as a player, and its the way I take my job going forward. As a player, I wanted to know where I was weak, where I wasnt very good, and Ive tried to do the same thing in my role today.
Who should the next LPGA commissioner be?
The absolute best person, regardless of age, sex or job position currently.
Do you still play?
I still play.
How would you do in an LPGA event?
Physically, I dont know that I could put four rounds, or six rounds, together, but Id do OK. My golf isnt horrible.
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Aiken, Waring tied at Nordea; Olesen three back
MOLNDAL, Sweden – Paul Waring of England and Thomas Aiken of South Africa share the lead, three shots clear of their rivals, after the third round of the Nordea Masters on the European Tour on Saturday.
Waring was tied for first place with Scott Jamieson after the second round and shot a 1-under 69.
While Jamieson (75) slipped down the leaderboard, Aiken caught up Waring after shooting 67 - despite three straight bogeys from No. 15. He bounced back by making birdie at the last.
Thorbjorn Olesen (67) and Marc Warren (66) are tied for third.
Koepka: 'Surreal' Woods waited to say congrats at PGA
Brooks Koepka was moved by the respect shown when Tiger Woods waited for a half hour at scoring last Sunday to congratulate Koepka for his PGA Championship victory at Bellerive.
While Koepka stands as an example of the new athletes Woods has attracted to the game, he laughs hearing people compare his body to an NFL player’s.
Those were among the observations Koepka shared Friday on "The Dan Patrick Show."
“That was surreal,” Koepka said of Woods waiting to congratulate him. “To hang around on 18, I wasn’t expecting it. It was probably the coolest gesture he could have done.”
Koepka credits Woods for drawing him to the game.
“He’s the reason I am playing,” Koepka said.
Koepka said playing with Woods in contention was a noisy experience that went beyond the roars Woods created making birdies in front of him.
“Even when he makes contact, you know what shot he’s hitting,” Koepka said. “That’s how loud people are.
“When they are putting [his score] up on the leaderboard, you hear it three holes away.”
About those NFL player comparisons, Koepka said his parents wouldn’t let him play football when he was growing up.
“I wasn’t big enough,” he said.
Koepka said he marveled meeting former Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher.
“To be compared to them, it makes me laugh,” Koepka said. “I’m about the size of a cornerback, maybe a free safety.”
Koepka said he’s just over 6 feet tall and weighs 208 pounds.
“I saw Brian Urlacher give an interview,” Koepka said. “It was kind of funny. He said he was impressed at how big I wasn’t ... If I stand next to Justin Thomas, I’m going to look big. Golf doesn’t really have many big guys.”
Koepka told Patrick he is impressed at the athletes just now coming into golf.
“I see the young guys coming out of college,” Koepka said. “They are bombing it past me. They hit it so far, they are leaving me in the dust. It’s hard to think of, because I’ve been one of the longest hitters on tour.”
McIlroy skipping first FedExCup playoff event
Rory McIlroy committed to playing the FedExCup Playoffs opener at The Northern Trust, the PGA Tour announced after The Open Championship last month.
But McIlroy left the PGA Championship last week saying he might need to skip the opener to regroup, and that’s just what he is doing.
McIlroy wasn’t on The Northern Trust field list published Friday on the PGA Tour’s website.
“I need to assess where I'm at,” McIlroy said leaving Bellerive last week. “I think the best thing for me to do right now is just sort of take a couple days off, reflect on what I need to do going forward.
“The best thing might be to take that first FedExCup week off and work on my game and come back, hopefully, in a better place for Boston.”
McIlroy also skipped the FedExCup opener in 2015, choosing to make his start in the playoffs at Boston that year. It appears he will do the same this year.
“Historically, the first FedEx playoff event hasn't been my best event of the four,” McIlroy said. “I've played well in Boston. I've played pretty well in the other two.”
McIlroy left Bellerive saying he would do some work on his game and see if he felt ready for the playoffs opener as part of a run of big events leading into the Ryder Cup.
“There's a lot of room for improvement,” McIlroy said. “My swing really hasn't been where I want it to be. It was pretty good at the start of the year. I had a couple of months to work on it, but it's just sort of regressed as the season went on and you start to play tournaments, you start to fall back into some of the habits that you don't want to fall back into."
McIlroy has won once over the last two seasons – at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last March – but he has given himself other chances this year with some frustrating finishes. Overall, he has five finishes of third or better in 2018. He got himself in the final pairing with Patrick Reed at the Masters but stumbled to a T-5 finish. He tied for second at The Open last month.
“Inconsistency with the swing has been the big area,” McIlroy said. “If you look at my statistics, especially with approach play on my irons, and even my driving, even though it's been OK, there's been a two-way miss, with sort of everything throughout the bag, and that obviously isn't a good thing. So that's something I need to work on.”
Watch: Wagner saves season with walk-off eagle dunk
Johnson Wagner kept his FedExCup Playoff hopes alive on Friday at the Wyndham Championship ... and he did it in dramatic fashion.
Needing a birdie on his final hole of the day to make the cut on the number, Johnson used a 9-iron from 153 yards out to dunk his approach for eagle to get inside the cut line.
Johnson's eagle at the last gave him a 66 for the day and earned him two more rounds to try and get inside the FedExCup top 125 for next week's start of the postseason, The Northern Trust.