U.S. Solheim victory a credit to Inkster

By Randall MellAugust 21, 2017, 1:17 am

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa – Who needs a task force?

When you have Juli Inkster available as captain, it’s a waste of time.

There was no need to bring the best and brightest minds in women’s golf together to analyze what went wrong with the American Solheim Cup effort after an 18-10 record loss in Colorado four years ago, Europe’s first victory on American soil.

There were complaints back then about the direction the American women’s game was heading after back-to-back losses in Ireland and Colorado. There were complaints about how the Solheim Cup was no longer a celebration of everything that’s right about the American women’s game, but, instead, it was a shining example of what’s wrong with it.

Dottie Pepper, once the face of American Solheim Cup brilliance, criticized key U.S. players for treating the biennial international team event with an attitude of “inconvenience and entitlement.” As an assistant captain in Colorado, she said she saw firsthand how certain players failed to see the special honor and privilege integral to the event and seemed to care more about their makeup artists and hair stylists than they ought.

“The U.S. pattern of becoming a star without the commensurate results breeds entitlement and competitive softness,” Golf Digest added in an indictment of some American stars. “American golfers are getting outplayed by golfers who have placed substance over style, and simply want it more.”

These complaints are being dredged up here merely to show how far American women have come under Inkster the last four years.

Thankfully, it’s old news today.


Solheim Cup: Articles, photos and videos


Inkster is the new U.S. Solheim Cup team construct.

She is the master architect of these last two triumphs, the historic come-from-behind victory in Germany two years ago and the impressive rout in Iowa Sunday.

Inkster did what no task force could do. She remade the American team in her image again.

The United States defeated the Europeans 16½ to 11½ at Des Moines Golf and Country Club with a tried and true Inkster formula, a formula no task force could devise. They worked hard, played hard, loved hard and laughed as much as they could along the way.

“Juli said something that really hit home for me,” Cristie Kerr said. “She said it in Germany and she said it here. You play for the person in front of you, you play for the person behind you. It’s not about your individual records. It's for the team. It's amazing how hard you can pull for each other when you have that mentality.”

It isn’t that other captains haven’t said as much.

It’s how Inkster gets her teams to buy into it.

She gave them hard hats with American flags stamped on them as gifts when they arrived in Iowa. She basically built on the blue-collar work-ethic theme she started in Germany, when she gave them all red-, white-and-blue lunch pails.

They bought into so much, they abandoned their stiletto heels and wore old school Chuck Taylor Converse basketball shoes to the opening ceremony again this last week, because those are the shoes Inkster loves.

These players have watched Inkster live her credo as a fierce competitor who won 31 LPGA titles, seven major championships and basically raised two daughters on tour, daughters who are now about the average age of the players on this team.

Inkster treated this team like daughters.

Before each match, she stood on the first tee, awaiting every player’s introduction. She stood there with her arms stretched wide, and she wrapped them in big hugs when they arrived, and then she whispered special messages into the ears of each and every one of them.

“It's very sincere, what she says,” Gerina Piller said. “When she speaks, you listen. There's not one word that she's ever told me that I do not let sink in.

“For her to be there on the tee, to have the belief in you, to tell you, `You got this, I believe in you, you're a great player,’ I’m sure every girl up here would agree that she is a freaking rock star. Whether it’s as a captain, whether it's as a friend, whether it's as a player . . . That’s huge for all of us. We look up to her so much, and we cherish every moment we have with her, all the words she gives us, whether it's a kick in the butt or just a hug.”

Inkster took some pressure off her players, too. She has been here as a player. She knows that players think they must bring something extra to the Solheim Cup, and how that makes them press.

So, Inkster told her players, just like she did in Germany, that they should prepare the same way they do every week out on the LPGA. And they ought to play the same way, too.

Mostly, Inkster said she tried to make this more fun than Solheim Cup weeks usually are. She put them in four-player pods, with players she believed they would enjoy bonding with.

“I just felt the last couple times I played in the Solheim Cup, I wasn't having any fun,” Inkster said. “It was a chore.

“I just felt like everybody was going in different directions. Even though we were a team, were we a team? I don't know. I just felt like when I was younger, it was so much better, so much easier. Everybody bonded, hung out. I just felt like we were losing that.”

Inkster set the lighter tone on that first tee. She took possession of it all week, owned it between matches, waiting there for her teams to get her hug. She sang the songs wafting from the speakers. She danced to Justin Bieber, Bruno Mars and Miley Cyrus.

“It’s my job to bring fun back to the Solheim Cup,” Inkster said. “Whether we win or lose, you know what? It doesn't matter. It's the memories you create. It's the bonding you create. It's the atmosphere you create.

“And our job as captains was to create an atmosphere where they feel loved and they feel welcomed. And whether they get a point or not a point, they're a huge part of this team. And it's been an amazing ride.”

Piller relished what Inkster made happen.

“Juli is all about team play,” Piller said. “It’s like Cristie said, you play for the girl in front of you and behind you. I think that has really resonated with us the last two times that we've played in the Solheim Cup.

“I really think our American team is getting what it takes to play for another girl. It's really hard to play for someone else, when all your life you've played for yourself, when it's an individual sport. For a captain to come out here and try to get 12 girls on the same page, it's pretty difficult.”

But Inkster made it look easy.

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Watch: Furyk throws out first pitch at Yankees-Mets

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 14, 2018, 12:59 pm

As part of a a New York media tour to promote the Ryder Cup, U.S. captain Jim Furyk threw out the first pitch at Monday evening's game between the Yankees and Mets at Yankee Stadium.


Here's a look at some more photos from Captain Furyk's Ryder Cup Trophy tour.




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Randall's Rant: Woods' message to young rivals: Bring it on!

By Randall MellAugust 13, 2018, 11:24 pm

Bring it on!

OK, I’m not fluent in body language, and maybe that’s not exactly what Tiger Woods was communicating with his exuberant fist pump after closing out a 64 Sunday at the PGA Championship, but there was so much hope in the excitement he let loose with his closing birdie.

Hope beyond what was still going on behind him at Bellerive.

Hope in what lies ahead.

Bring it on!

You know Woods wanted Brooks Koepka to hear his legion roar, to let Koepka know he better not stumble back there behind him. You know he also wanted Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and all today’s stars to hear all those roars, to let them know he’s finally fit for a fight again.

Bring it on!

Yes, Koepka refused to flinch, and Woods ultimately finished second, but that rollicking last fist pump told you what Sunday’s finish meant to Woods.

He’s going to win again.

That’s the confidence won closing the way he did, celebrating at the 72nd hole in a way we’ve only ever seen him do on his way to hoisting a trophy.

Because that’s where he is headed again.

He can and will win again.

Bring it on!

That’s the thrilling promise Sunday brought to all of golf.

Koepka wasn’t about to get out of Woods’ way, in the fashion the players of another era seemed to do when weekend roars preceded a Woods stampede. Koepka did today’s players a favor sending his own message. He was a rock. He didn’t flinch and didn’t fold in the wake of all those deafening Tiger roars.


PGA Championship: Scores | Live blog | Full coverage


If Koepka flinches Sunday, it sends the wrong message to all these other young guys. It gives them all pause. It makes them all wonder if Tiger’s aura really does come with some unfair advantage, with a one- or two-shot advantage in his ability to ride the noisy chaos to heights they can’t. We heard more than one young star complain this spring about the boisterous crowds that followed Woods.

These young guys don’t need that in their heads.

So Koepka didn’t back down, and Johnson, Thomas, McIlroy, Spieth, Day, Fowler and Rahm aren’t likely to, either.

That’s the great fun Woods’ comeback brings. The battles all these young guys say they want with the legend are real possibilities now, with all those Tiger birdies and Tiger roars confirming Sunday that he is ready to begin giving them what they want.

“I’ve always wanted to battle it out in a major with Tiger,” Jordan Spieth said during The Open last month. “Who hasn’t? It’s kind of a dream come true, just to have the opportunity.”

The wonder in Sunday’s finish is that Woods was so good spraying his driver all over the place early in the round. Back in the day, he would have said he shot that 64 with his “B” game. You won’t hear him say things like that now, but the beauty in the round was knowing how he may have turned a 70 into a 64. It was in knowing how much better he still might get on these old legs.

It’s a shame we have to wait eight months for the Masters to see if his run of T-6 at The Open and 2nd at the PGA Championship continues on a majestic trajectory, because the message I heard in his last fist pump is still ringing in my ears.

Bring it on!

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Eight Men, Four Women Advance to "Tennessee Big Shots," Airing Monday, Aug. 13 at 6 p.m. ET Live on Golf Channel

By Golf Channel Public RelationsAugust 13, 2018, 7:25 pm

Airing Live on Golf Channel, Fourth Televised Event of 2018 is Final Tour Stop Prior to Season-Culminating Volvik World Long Drive Championship

Field Boasts Six of Top-10 in World Led by No. 1 Justin James, Three-Time 2018 Winner Will Hogue; & Two-time World Champion Phillis Meti

The World Long Drive Association (WLDA) season continues tonight with the Tennessee Big Shots benefiting Niswonger Children’s Hospital, airing live at 6 p.m. ET on Golf Channel. The live telecast will showcase the eight men and four women having advanced from preliminary rounds where they’ll compete in single-elimination matches until respective champions are crowned. The Open (Men’s) Division field will feature six of the top-nine competitors in the World Long Drive rankings, including No. 1 Justin James (Jacksonville, Fla.) along with Will Hogue (Memphis, Tenn.), who has accumulated three wins to-date in 2018. The Women’s Division will feature two-time world champion Phillis Meti (Auckland, New Zealand) and Alexis Belton (Ruston, La.,) who won the Clash in the Canyon earlier this year. Chloe Garner (Johnson City, Tenn.,) also is returning from injury in her first competition of 2018 in what will be a de-facto “home game,” while LPGA Tour player Emily Tubert (Burbank, Calif.) is the fourth semifinalist, competing in her first-ever WLDA competition.

“We’ve finally reached the home stretch of the season,” said Jonathan Coachman, play-by-play host for World Long Drive Association events on Golf Channel. “With the World Championship only weeks away, the competitors understand the need to be on their game. I’ve always said that champions show up anytime, anywhere, for anything. They better have that mind-set, beginning with tonight’s Tennessee Big Shots.

 

OPEN DIVISION QUARTERFINAL MATCHES (Seeded by world ranking):

(1) Justin James (Jacksonville, Fla.) vs. (25) Wes Patterson (St Louis, Mo.)

(5) Ryan Steenberg (Rochester, N.Y.) vs. (8) Paul Howell (Wilson, N.C.)

(4) Ryan Reisbeck (Layton, Utah) vs. (9) Kyle Berkshire (Orlando, Fla.)

(2) Will Hogue (Memphis, Tenn.) vs. (24) Stephen Kois (Wheaton, Ill.)

 

WOMEN’S DIVISION SEMIFINAL MATCHES:

Alexis Belton (Ruston, La.) vs. Phillis Meti (Auckland, New Zealand)

Chloe Garner (Johnson City, Tenn.) vs. Emily Tubert (Burbank, Calif.)

 

Being staged from Cattails at Meadowview Golf Course in Kingsport, Tenn., the inaugural event – in partnership with Ballad Health’s Niswonger Children’s Hospital – is the fourth WLDA event of 2018 scheduled to air live on Golf Channel. Tennessee Big Shots is being contested in association with the Niswonger Children’s Hospital Classic. The eventalso marks the penultimate WLDA competition of the year, with the season-culminating Volvik World Long Drive Championship taking place Aug. 30-Sept. 5.

COVERAGE: Live coverage of the Tennessee Big Shots will air on Golf Channel from 6-8 p.m. ET on Monday, Aug. 13, with Golf Central previewing the event from 5-6 p.m. ET. Encore showings of the competition are scheduled to air on Golf Channel following the live telecast, from 10 p.m.-Midnight ET and 12:30-2:30 a.m. ET.

The production centering around live coverage of the competition will utilize six dedicated cameras, capturing all angles from the hitting platform and the landing grid, including a SuperMo camera as well as two craned-positioned cameras that will track the ball in flight once it leaves the competitor’s clubface. An overlaid graphic line on the grid, the “DXL Big Drive to Beat,” (similar to the “1st & 10 line” made popular in football) will display the longest drive during a given match to signify the driving distance an opposing competitor will need to surpass to take the lead. The telecast also will feature a custom graphics package suited to the anomalous swing data typically generated by Long Drive competitors, tracking club speed, ball speed and apex in real-time via Trackman. Trackman technology also will provide viewers with a sense of ball flight, tracing the arc of each drive from the moment of impact.

BROADCAST TEAM: Veteran sports broadcaster Jonathan Coachman will conduct play-by-play alongside Art Sellinger, World Long Drive pioneer and two-time world champion (1986, ’91). Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz will offer reports from the teeing platform and conduct interviews with competitors in the field.

DIGITAL & SOCIAL MEDIA COVERAGE: Fans can stay up-to-date on all of the action surrounding the Tennessee Big Shots by following @GolfChannel and @WorldLongDrive on social media. Golf Channel social media host Alexandra O’Laughlin will be on-site contributing to the social conversation as the event unfolds, and, the telecast will integrate social media-generated content during live coverage using the hashtag, #WorldLongDrive.

Golf Channel Digital also will feature content from the Tennessee Big Shots leading up to and immediately following the live telecast.

 

2018 WORLD LONG DRIVE ASSOCIATION SCHEDULE:

DATE

EVENT

LOCATION

WINNER(S) / DEFENDING CHAMP

March 15-17

East Coast Classic

West Columbia, S.C.

Justin Moose

April 21-24

Clash in the Canyon (*Golf Channel*)

Mesquite, Nev.

Alexis Belton, Will Hogue

May 11-15

Ak-Chin Smash in the Sun (*Golf Channel*)

Maricopa, Ariz.

Phillis Meti, Will Hogue

June 4-5

Atlantic City Boardwalk Bash (*Golf Channel*)

Atlantic City, N.J.

Sandra Carlborg, Mark Costello

June 21-23

Bluff City Shootout

Memphis, Tenn.

Will Hogue

July 6-8

Bash For Cash

Port Rowan, Ont., Canada

Ryan Steenberg

August 2-4

WinStar Midwest Slam

Thackerville, Okla.

Kyle Berkshire

August 12-13

Tennessee Big Shots benefitting Niswonger Children’s Hospital (*Golf Channel*)

Kingsport, Tenn.

(New Event)

September 1-5

Volvik World Long Drive Championship (*Golf Channel*)

Thackerville, Okla.

Sandra Carlborg, Justin James

Showcasing the truly global nature of World Long Drive, several events throughout 2018 are staged through officially sanctioned WLDA international partners, including stops in Germany, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom, along with an all-encompassing international qualifier for the Open Division of the Volvik World Long Drive Championship in September.

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Making Ryder Cup picks: Furyk begins his toughest task

By Rex HoggardAugust 13, 2018, 6:41 pm

ST. LOUIS – By the time Brooks Koepka teed off for the final round of the PGA Championship, Jim Furyk was already back at his rental house and settled in to watch what would be an eventful final round.

Furyk's day was just getting started.

Although he’d been up since dawn and had already put in a full day at Bellerive with a 7:56 a.m. tee time, Sunday began a process the U.S. Ryder Cup captain has prepared for and anticipated for two years.

“I didn’t get a lot of sleep this week,” Furyk conceded on Sunday following a closing 71 at Bellerive. “At times I found myself with my mind wandering. The afternoon tee times I’m sitting around in the morning and my mind starts wandering and I start looking at stats and start thinking about the Ryder Cup. There’s a million things going on.”

The American captain is officially on the clock. The final round of the year’s final major was the deadline to qualify for this year’s Ryder Cup team, and Furyk now begins the process of narrowing the list of potential captain’s picks.

Davis Love III, who took two turns in the captain’s chair, will tell you this is the toughest part of the gig. Forget about pairings and course setup and vice captains - getting the picks right is what separates a good captain from a great one.

“I saw him around this week kind of frazzled like I was; they are pulling him everywhere,” Love said. “Now it’s a tough couple of weeks. At dinner the other night we were talking about what we were going to do [regarding picks] and I was like, ‘Well, you have to wait for [Sunday] and you’ll get a better idea.”

On that front, the wait is over. The top eight players on the U.S. point list are now locked in and Furyk and his vice captains – Love, Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods – can begin the artful process of creating a list of possible picks based on a wide variety of criteria.


PGA Championship: Scores | Live blog | Full coverage


The automatic qualifiers are Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Webb Simpson, who held on to the final spot thanks to his tie for 19th at the PGA.

“For some guys we’re going to look at the body of work for a year, for some players we’re going to look at a hot player right now, some guys we’re going to look at pairings and how they fit into the team we have right now,” Furyk said.

Furyk will make three of his captain’s picks on Sept. 3 following the Dell Technologies Championship and his final selection a week later after the BMW Championship.

The short list of possible picks would include Bryson DeChambeau, Phil Mickelson, Woods, Xander Schauffele, Matt Kuchar, Kevin Kisner and Tony Finau, Nos. 9 through 15, respectively, on the final point list.

Schauffele and Finau had something of a playing interview at Bellerive when they were paired with Furyk for Rounds 1 and 2.

“Tony made a pile of birdies, he’s explosive as far as firepower and how far he hits it but I was impressed with his putting, to be honest with you. I knew he could hit it far and kind of knew how he played, but he really played well,” said Furyk, who also played with Finau on Saturday at the PGA.

Mickelson will be a particularly interesting option for Furyk. For the first time in his Ryder Cup career, which began in 1995, Lefty failed to qualify for the U.S. side and the de facto team room front man would be tough to pass over.

“His game has been in a good position all year, he’s putted great, I think Jason Day is the only player with better putting stats this year,” said Furyk, who met with Mickelson after he missed the cut in St. Louis. “He’s working on a couple of things in his game right now that we talked about.”

Woods also creates some interesting scenarios. His runner-up finish at the PGA vaulted him from 20th to 11th on the final point list and essentially assured what many believed to be a foregone conclusion. Woods will be among Furyk’s captain’s picks, the only real question when it comes to the 14-time major champion is whether he can play and drive a vice captain’s cart.

“He’s on that list we’ve talked about and I think we still need to hash that out,” Furyk said. “Is it possible [to do both jobs]? Sure, we just need to decide if that’s best for the team.”

If Woods and Mickelson have already been penciled in as picks, which many believe they have, that essentially leaves a half dozen players vying for the final two spots.

An 11th-hour charge over the next three weeks could certainly sway Furyk, and he’s made it clear that Le Golf National, site of this year’s matches outside of Paris, favors a certain type of game, think a fairways-and-greens type like Kisner or even Brian Harman, who finished 17th on the point list.

“I’ve taken a look at the golf course and what I think will really work,” Furyk said.

There’s also an undercurrent of interest in Furyk going young with his picks to give a player like DeChambeau or Schauffele a chance to experience the unique pressures of a Ryder Cup “road game,” but Furyk didn’t seem as interested in developing future talent as he is in winning.

“Our goals for long term are important and young blood is a good thing, but I would never sacrifice this team or 2018 for 2022,” he said. “The goal is still to go to Europe and try to retain the cup. That said, having a mix of veteran and young players is a good thing.”

If Furyk sounds a little vague when it comes to his potential picks it should be no real surprise. Getting the picks right is the most demanding part of any captain’s job and he’s just getting started.