Quick Round with Rosie Jones

By Randall MellFebruary 25, 2010, 11:37 pm

Rosie Jones was there the first time the Solheim Cup matches were staged in 1990.

She was part of a “Who’s Who” roster in American women’s golf, playing alongside Hall of Famers Nancy Lopez, Pat Bradley, Beth Daniel, Betsy King and Patty Sheehan with Kathy Whitworth as their captain.

Jones helped the Americans rout Europe 11½ to 4½ at Lake Nona Golf Club in Orlando, Fla., setting the tone for American dominance in the biennial event.

While Jones, 50, said this week that she was surprised to hear she was named the next U.S. captain and will lead the Americans next year in Ireland, she believes she’s a worthy choice. Confidence has never been a problem for the former Ohio State standout. She’s always believed in herself. The 13-time LPGA winner made her name as a gritty battler, the kind of player perfectly suited to match play. A lot of that is due to the fact that she was a never a long hitter. She could wear opponents out getting the ball in the hole first with her deft short game and clutch putting.

“She’s the kind of player who could will the ball in the hole,” Daniel said.

Though Jones sank the putt that clinched the Solheim Cup matches in 2002, she’s most remembered for her work in her last appearance. She’s remembered in 2005 for a knocking down a 30-foot birdie putt at the 18th hole at Crooked Stick to help her and Meg Mallon halve their four-ball match with Sophie Gustafson and Suzann Pettersen. It was an important putt because it prevented the Europeans from taking a lead into Sunday’s singles.

Jones has made seven Solheim Cup appearances, accumulating 12 points with an 11-9-2 record. Daniel, Juli Inkster and Meg Mallon are the only Americans who have made more Solheim Cup teams (8) as players. The only Americans to score more points than Jones in the matches are Inkster (18), Mallon (16½) and Dottie Pepper (14).

Upon her selection as captain, I had a chance to catch up with Jones for a quick round:

So what was it like when LPGA commissioner Michael Whan called to inform you of your selection as the U.S. Solheim Cup captain for the matches at Killeen Castle in Ireland next year?

I was very surprised. I had been waiting for the announcement the last two or three months and actually stopped thinking about it for awhile. When I got the call from the commissioner, I didn’t really know why he was calling me. I was pretty shocked and excited when he told me I was going to be the next captain. I had to ask him to repeat himself because I wasn’t sure I understood him correctly.

The speculation among media was that Meg Mallon and Juli Inkster were the frontrunners. What did you think?

There was a lot of speculation, especially for Meg, because she was the assistant captain last year, but I think both Juli and I were great candidates and frontrunners along with Meg. With my having been retired for three years already, being off the tour a little bit, being older, and with Meg still being competitive out on the tour and getting ready to go back and play, I think it made sense. I felt in my heart of hearts it was my turn to captain. But you go through the committee, and you never know what will happen.

How do you rank this honor among your accomplishments?

Right up there with anything I’ve done. I haven’t won a major, so this is a major accomplishment for me. Being on seven Solheim Cup teams and being a member of all those teams were huge. This was a huge honor for me. This is something you don’t get because you played well one time. You get it because of lifelong achievement. It’s an honor that exemplifies the spirit of the game and the spirit of the Solheim Cup competition and that’s proven over time.

What’s your favorite Solheim Cup memory?

The one that sticks out is the big putt at the 2005 Solheim Cup, at the 18th green (on Saturday) that ended up tying the match because Sophie Gustafson made the putt on top of me. I was playing with Meg Mallon against Sophie and Suzann Pettersen. It was a huge feeling to make the putt in front of that crowd, on TV and in front of the captains of both teams sitting on 18th green. It was a huge moment for me.

You were a fiery player. What kind of captain will you be?

My plan is to be myself, depending on the same core fundamentals I used as a player: hard work, dedication, confidence, balance and honesty as I go forward as a leader. Those are the things I expect out of my players going into the competition.

The United States has dominated the event 8-3, but the Americans are just 2-3 on European soil. What’s the great challenge as captain going on the road?

There is a slight disadvantage going overseas. I felt that as a player. The captains tried to prepare us for that and we will do that for our players when we go over there. We’ll get less opportunity to play that course to get a feel for it. You have the time change, different food, but for the most part our team’s done very well over there.

Do you have any Irish blood in you?

No, but I’m fully American and that’s what it takes.

Have you seen Killeen Castle to know what it will take to win there?

No, I haven’t been there, but I’ve been looking it up online. I plan to visit later this summer. I’m sure the LPGA will be wanting me to go over and check it out, but it just so happens I’m taking a group of women over to Ireland as part of my Rosie Jones Getaways business. It’s one of our destinations this summer. I’ll make a side trip to Killeen Castle to check out the course.

What is it about your career that you are most proud of?

Having played in seven Solheim Cups. They were great honors to be on those teams. You have to play hard for two years to make that team. My 13 wins, all of those are huge highlights. I think the consistency to my game. When I look at my career as a whole, how many cuts I made, how many top 10s, how much money, I was a well-rounded player. I wasn’t the kind of player who was up and down a lot. I was usually right in there, in the hunt. I’m really proud of that.

Thirteen victories is impressive, but you mentioned that you never won a major. You had four second-place finishes in them. Did it bug you retiring without a major?

That’s one thing that bugs me more now than when I was playing. I felt like I had a great career, and I’m very proud of it. I had a lot of chances to win majors but it just didn’t happen. I didn’t have that great back nine, or somebody else did. I’ve had to live with that. It’s been a disappointment in my career, but I wouldn’t say it defined my career.

What are U.S. Solheim Cup players going to learn about their new captain? What do you most like about yourself and what do you most dislike about yourself?

The thing I like most about myself is I pretty much wear my feelings on my sleeve. You pretty much know me after the first meeting. That’s probably the thing I also don’t like about myself.

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Recovering Thomas thinks Match Play could help cause

By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 10:07 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – It’s been a tough couple of days for Justin Thomas, and he hasn’t played an event in three weeks.

The world’s second-ranked player had his wisdom teeth removed on March 7 following the WGC-Mexico Championship and has been recovering ever since.

“I'm feeling OK. As funny as it is, as soon as I got over my wisdom teeth, I got a little strep throat,” Thomas said on Tuesday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. “I was pretty worried yesterday, to be honest, how I was going to be doing, but I feel a lot better today and just keep taking medicine and hopefully it will be good.”

Thomas, who is listed in the Tour media guide as 5-foot-10, 145 pounds, said he lost about 6 pounds when he had his wisdom teeth removed and has struggled to put that weight back on because of his bout with strep throat.

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As a result, his energy levels are low, which is a particular concern considering the marathon nature of the Match Play, which could include as many as seven rounds if he were to advance to Sunday’s championship match. Thomas, however, said the format could actually make things easier this week.

“I told my dad, I only have to beat one person each day. I don't have to beat the whole field,” said Thomas, who has won just one match in two starts at the Match Play. “If it was stroke play then I may have a little harder time. But hopefully each day I'll get better and better. Who knows, maybe that will help me win a match in this golf tournament, because I've had a pretty hard time in the past.”

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Spieth thought Mickelson blew him off as a kid

By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 7:50 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Phil Mickelson is widely recognized as one of the PGA Tour’s most accommodating players when it comes to the fans and signing autographs.

Lefty will famously spend hours after rounds signing autographs, but sometimes perception can deviate from reality, as evidenced by Jordan Spieth’s encounter with Mickelson years ago when he was a junior golfer.

“I think I was at the [AT&T] Byron Nelson with my dad and Phil Mickelson and Davis Love were on the putting green. I was yelling at them, as I now get annoyed while I'm practicing when I'm getting yelled at, and they were talking,” Spieth recalled. “When they finished, Phil was pulled off in a different direction and Davis came and signed for me. And I thought for the longest time that Phil just blew me off. And Davis was like the nicest guy. And Phil, I didn't care for as much for a little while because of that.”

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Entering his sixth full season on Tour, Spieth now has a drastically different perspective on that day.

“[Mickelson] could have been late for media. He could have been having a sponsor obligation. He could have been going over to sign for a kid’s area where there was a hundred of them,” Spieth said. “There's certainly been kids that probably think I've blown them off, too, which was never my intention. It would have never been Phil's intention either.”

Spieth said he has spoken with Mickelson about the incident since joining the Tour.

“He probably responded with a Phil-like, ‘Yeah, I knew who you were, and I didn't want to go over there and sign it,’ something like that,” Spieth laughed. “I’ve gotten to see him in person and really see how genuine he is with everybody he comes in contact with. Doesn't matter who it is. And he's a tremendous role model and I just wasn't aware back then.”

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This week, let the games(manship) begin

By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 7:47 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – The gentleman’s game is almost entirely devoid of anything even approaching trash talk or gamesmanship.

What’s considered the norm in other sports is strictly taboo in golf - at least that’s the standard for 51 weeks out of the year. That anomaly, however, can be wildly entertaining.

During Monday’s blind draw to determine this week’s 16 pods, Pat Perez was the first to suggest that this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play is the exception to the stoic rule on the PGA Tour.

“Me and Branden [Grace] played a nine-hole match today and were chirping at each other the entire time,” Perez laughed. “Stuff like, ‘go in the trees.’ We were laughing about it, I didn’t get mad, I hit it in the trees.”

Although Perez and Grace may have been on the extreme end of the trash-talk spectrum, it’s widely understood that unlike the steady diet of stroke-play stops in professional golf, the Match Play and the Ryder Cup are both chances to test some of the game’s boundaries.

“There’s been a couple of different instances, both in the Ryder Cup. I can't share them with you, I'm sorry,” laughed Jordan Spieth, before adding. “I think they [the comments] were indifferent to me and helped [U.S. partner Patrick Reed].

Often the gamesmanship is subtle, so much so an opponent probably doesn’t even realize what’s happening.

Jason Day, for example, is a two-time winner of this event and although he was reluctant to go into details about all of his “tricks,” he did explain his mindset if he finds himself trailing in a match.

“Always walk forward in front of the person that you're playing against, just so you're letting them know that you're pushing forward and you're also letting them know that you're still hanging around,” Day explained. “People feed off body language. If I'm looking across and the guy's got his shoulders slumped and his head is down, you can tell he's getting frustrated, that's when you push a little bit harder.”

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Some moments are not so innocent, as evidenced by a story from Paul Casey from a match during his junior days growing up in England.

“I remember a player’s ball was very close to my line, as his coin was very close to my line and we were still both about 10 feet away and he kind of looked at me,” Casey recalled. “I assumed he looked at me to confirm whether his marker was in my line and it needed to be moved. I said, ‘That's OK there.’ So he picked [his coin] up. And then of course he lost his ability to understand English all of a sudden.”

While the exploits this week won’t be nearly as egregious, there have been a handful of heated encounters at the Match Play. In 2015 when this event was played at Harding Park in San Francisco, Keegan Bradley and Miguel Angel Jimenez went nose to nose when the Spaniard attempted to intervene in a ruling that Bradley was taking and the incident even spilled over into the locker room after the match.

But if those types of encounters are rare, there’s no shortage of mind games that will take place over the next few days at Austin Country Club.

“It's part of it. It should be fun,” Spieth said. “There should be some gamesmanship. That's the way it is in every other sport, we just never play one-on-one or team versus team like other sports do. That's why at times it might seem way out of the ordinary. If every tournament were match play, I don't think that would be unusual.”

It also helps heat things up if opponents have some history together. On Tuesday, Rory McIlroy was asked if he’s run across any gamesmanship at the Match Play. While the Northern Irishman didn’t think there would be much trash talking going on this week, he did add with a wry smile, “Patrick Reed isn’t in my bracket.”

McIlroy and Reed went head-to-head in an epic singles duel at the 2016 Ryder Cup, which the American won 1 up. The duo traded plenty of clutch shots during the match, with Reed wagging his finger at McIlroy following a particularly lengthy birdie putt and McIlroy spurring the crowd with roars of, “I can’t hear you.”

It was an example of how chippy things can get at the Match Play that when McIlroy was asked if he had any advice for Spieth, who drew Reed in his pod this week, his answer had a bit of a sharp edge.

“Don't ask for any drops,” laughed McIlroy, a not-so-subtle reference to Reed’s comment last week at Bay Hill after being denied free relief by a rules official, “I guess my name needs to be Jordan Spieth, guys,” Reed said on Sunday.

Put another way, this is not your grandfather’s game. This is the Match Play where trash talking and gamesmanship are not only acceptable, but can also be extremely entertaining.

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Romo set to make PGA Tour debut at Punta Cana

By Will GrayMarch 20, 2018, 6:43 pm

While much of the attention in golf this week will be focused on the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Tony Romo may send a few eyeballs toward the Caribbean.

The former quarterback and current CBS NFL analyst will make his PGA Tour debut this week, playing on a sponsor invite at the Corales Punta Cana Resort & Club Championship in the Dominican Republic. The exemption was announced last month when Romo played as an amateur at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and he's apparently been hard at work ever since.

"I'll be treating it very serious," Romo told reporters Tuesday. "My wife will tell you she hasn't seen me much over the last month. But if you know me at all, I think you know if I care about something I'm going to commit to it 100 percent. So like I said. you'll get the best I've got this week."

Romo retired from the NFL last year and plays to a plus-0.3 handicap. In addition to his participation in the Pebble Beach event, he has tried to qualify for the U.S. Open multiple times and last month played a North Texas PGA mini-tour event as an amateur.

According to Romo, one of the key differences between pro football and golf is the fact that his former position is entirely about reactive decisions, while in golf "you're trying to commit wholeheartedly before you ever pull the club out of your bag."

"I'm not worried about getting hit before I hit the ball," Romo said. "It's at my own tempo, my own speed, in this sport. Sometimes that's difficult, and sometimes that's easier depending on the situation."

Romo admitted that he would have preferred to have a couple extra weeks to prepare, but recently has made great strides in his wedge game which "was not up to any Tour standard." The first-tee jitters can't be avoided, but Romo hopes to settle in after battling nerves for the first three or four holes Thursday.

Romo hopes to derive an added comfort factor from his golf in the Dallas area, where he frequently plays with a group of Tour pros. While Steph Curry traded texts with a few pros before his tournament debut last summer on the Web.com Tour, Romo expects his phone to remain silent until he puts a score on the board.

"I think they're waiting to either tell me 'Congrats' or 'I knew it, terrible,'" Romo said. "Something along those lines. They're probably going to wait to see which way the wind's blowing before they send them."

Romo will tee off at 8:10 a.m. ET Thursday alongside Dru Love and Denny McCarthy.