U.S. looking to regain Solheim supremacy

By Randall MellSeptember 14, 2015, 1:00 pm

ST. LEON-ROT, Germany – They lost their mojo in Europe.

The last time the American Solheim Cup team flew across the Atlantic Ocean to play, everything changed.

Heading to Ireland in 2011, the United States was a juggernaut in the event, winners of three consecutive Solheim Cups and heavy favorites to make it four in a row. The Americans seemed to be on a mission to make the competition irrelevant, because that’s what routing the Euros again threatened to do.

And that’s what most everyone expected.

Oddsmakers listed the Americans as the heavy favorite at a 4/9 betting price.

A wolf would get better odds against a lamb, but not much better.

There were seven Americans among the top 20 in the world rankings that week and just one European.

The Americans couldn’t lose ... but they did.

“Ireland kind of made the Solheim Cup what it is now,” said Stacy Lewis, the top-ranked American woman today.

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The Europeans didn’t just win the Solheim Cup at Killeen Castle. They transformed it.

With the most thrilling comeback in the cup’s history, the Euros reinvigorated the competition. In a head-spinning final 30 minutes of play, they made the Solheim Cup matter more than it ever has.

Trailing very late in the final three matches in Sunday singles that year, the Europeans improbably turned around all three of them to win the cup.

Suzann Pettersen, Azahara Munoz and Caroline Hedwall led the bold charge, coming from behind in bing-bang-boom fashion to give the Euros a 15-13 victory.

“That was huge,” said Carin Koch, the European Solheim Cup captain today. “That was one of the most amazing Sundays in any match-play event, counting the Ryder Cup, just the turnaround there. I think the Americans really felt they had it, and just at the end everything went Europe’s way.

“It was really important because there was talk about the Americans being too dominant. To come back, and win the last two now, it’s big.”

Even Rosie Jones, disappointed as she was as the American captain at the time, appreciated the exhilarating nature of the finish and the bigger picture playing out.

“It was probably the best Solheim Cup ever,” Jones said. “It was unbelievable.”

The compelling theater elevated everything about the cup.

“This is probably our biggest stage, besides, maybe, the U.S. Open,” said Juli Inkster, captain of this year’s American team. “It’s gotten some momentum now as far as history. It’s got some fight into it, which is fun.”

The United States might have lost the cup in Ireland, but two years later they would lose something more in Colorado. The Americans weren’t just beaten on their own soil for the first time. The Euros beat them in a record rout (18-10).

The Americans lost some pride in the thorough thrashing at Colorado Golf Club.

“I think a lot of girls who were a part of that kind of have a chip,” said Brittany Lang, one of Inkster’s two captain’s picks this year.

As in a chip on their shoulder.

The United States arrives at St. Leon-Rot Golf Club in Germany this week looking to win back lost pride. Eleven Americans on the team that lost in Colorado are here. Alison Lee is the only new face, replacing Jessica Korda, who didn’t qualify. 

“I don’t think it’s revenge,” Inkster said. “We’re motivated. The Europeans have earned the right to carry the last two Solheims, and we have to earn the right to win it back.”

No American team had lost two Solheim Cups in a row before Colorado, and Inkster doesn’t want to be the first to lose three in a row. As a player, Inkster won more points (18½) in Solheim Cup play than any other American. She was 15-12-7 in nine Solheim Cups appearances. She’s looking to lead a team more focused on playing golf than on all the over-the-top patriotic hoopla that has preoccupied past teams.

“They've got to want it,” Inkster said of her American squad. “They've got to maybe dig a little deeper and maybe get rid some of the outside agencies. I'm trying to get them just to play golf like they play [in LPGA events] as they tee it up every week, and not worry about all the other little outside things that sometimes, with the Solheim team themes, they get involved with. Just kind of get it back to basics and see how that works.”

Inkster is showing just how much she wants the cup back. The 55-year-old won a Legends Tour event in Indiana two weeks ago, and then she whipped more than half the European team at the Evian Championship last weekend. Only three of the 12 Euros on this year’s squad posted better scores than Inkster, who tied for 38th.

“I feel as though Juli Inkster is the right captain at the right time,” said Hall of Famer Judy Rankin, who captained Inkster on the 1998 Solheim Cup team. “I think they are going to get down to business. I think she's very aware of things like rest, things like just really doing everything so that you can do the job at hand. She is such a respected person that this team will in every sort of way respond to, I'm sure.”

The Americans are favored by bookmakers again despite the fact that Europe has won the last two Solheim Cups and enjoys the advantage of being the home team this year.

Here’s why:

  • The Americans’ average world ranking is 25.6, the Euros’ 52.9.
  • The Americans have combined to win 10 major championships, the Euros four.
  • The Americans have won 16 LPGA titles over the last two years, the Europeans four. If you think that comparison is bogus because the LPGA is an American-based tour, know that all but two players on the European roster are playing the LPGA full time.

The match-play mojo belongs to the Europeans, but the Americans are in Germany equipped to take it back.

“I think we're all aware that they don't want to lose three in a row, and they're going to come out really strong,” Koch said. “I think they have a great captain in Juli. I like Juli, and they all look up to her. I think she's a great person, and she'll do a lot of good for the team. There’s no doubt it’s going to be a tough match.”

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Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish

By Associated PressJuly 23, 2018, 12:25 am

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.

Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.

The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.

Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.

The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.

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Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:07 am

It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.

Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.

The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:

The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.

For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.

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Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.

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Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose

By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 9:17 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.

Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.

The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.

“There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.

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In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.

“To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”

Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.

“To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.