Where will Solheim Cup victory take European golf?

By Randall MellAugust 19, 2013, 9:15 pm

PARKER, Colo. – A fresh cast of Europeans won more than the Solheim Cup at Colorado Golf Club on Sunday.

They won the fascination of international golf fans now curious to see where the Euros’ historic rout of the Americans might lead.

So what now for European women?

When will get to see 17-year-old Charley Hull on another big stage? What’s in store for Caroline Hedwall, the “Swedish Viking” who became the first player in Solheim Cup history to go 5-0? What happens to the game of Carlota Ciganda, the Spaniard who went 3-0 in her first Solheim Cup? Or Jodi Ewart Shadoff and Caroline Masson?  

Who among the Euros will get the biggest Solheim Cup bounce?

The bounce is a real phenomenon.

Back in 2009, when Michelle Wie was a controversial American Solheim Cup captain’s pick, she revitalized her game taking the international team event by storm. She was 3-0-1 helping the Americans win at Rich Harvest Farms. Wie left there full of such new confidence and momentum that Hall of Famer Juli Inkster predicted Wie would break through and win her first LPGA title before the year was out. Inkster was right. Two months after the Solheim Cup, Wie won the Lorena Ochoa Invitational, the first of her two LPGA titles.

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Wie wasn’t the only American using momentum from a dynamic Solheim Cup performance to reach new heights.

Paula Creamer was a force for the Americans at Rich Harvest Farms, going 3-1. The following summer, she broke through to win her first major championship, the U.S. Women’s Open at Oakmont.

Stacy Lewis can testify to the bounce the Solheim Cup can give, even in defeat. She said her experience losing in Ireland in 2011 was an important impetus in helping her become the first American in nearly two decades to win the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year last year and become the Rolex world No. 1 earlier this year.

Nobody should be surprised if Europe’s Suzann Pettersen, Catriona Matthew or Anna Nordqvist add another major. But what about Beatrice Recari? She has won two LPGA titles this year and looks poised to take her best form to the majors. And what about match-play dynamo Azahara Munoz? Or late-blooming Giulia Sergas?

We won’t have to wait long to see any of them again. All 12 Euros on the winning Solheim Cup team are scheduled to play the CN Canadian Women’s Open this week. So are 11 of the U.S. team members with everybody but Lizette Salas committed to play.

The guardians and supporters of European women’s golf are eager to see if this hungry, new Euro contingent will have a notable impact on the European game.

While much has been made of how the rise of Asian women has pushed the Americans to the shadows on so many big stages, it has been even worse for the Europeans.

When Lewis won the Ricoh Women’s British Open three weeks ago, she ended the longest drought in the history of major championships for American women, a winless spell of 10 consecutive majors. The Europeans have their own drought going. They haven’t won in the last 16 majors, not since Matthew won the Women’s British Open in 2009.

That’s what makes the introduction of The Evian Championship in France as a major championship next month intriguing beyond Inbee Park’s quest to become the first player to win four majors in a year or Lewis’ quest to become the first American woman to win back-to-back majors since Juli Inkster in ’99.

The European women will have some wonderful momentum going to Evian, golf’s newest major, the LPGA’s fifth major. It’s a terrific European setting and wonderful timing for the Euros to celebrate and build on what they achieved in Colorado.

By routing the Americans in historic fashion, winning the Solheim Cup for the first time on American soil in the largest margin of victory in the event’s history, the Europeans whipped up all kinds of hope for the women’s game back on their continent.

“I think this is obviously a big step in the right direction,” European captain Liselotte Neumann said. “Hopefully, this will mean that the European Tour will have a bright future, and, hopefully, with lots more golf over there, more tournaments and better prize money and so on.”

Europe’s Solheim Cup team represented eight countries: Spain, Sweden, England, Scotland, France, Germany, Norway and Italy.

“With the media and TV, and all the countries back in Europe getting the feed from (Colorado Golf Club) and watching it, the game is growing over in Europe,” Neumann said. “I think, obviously, it means a lot for the future of women's golf.  And golf overall in Europe.”

England’s Laura Davies, who missed out playing her first Solheim Cup this year, sees this new European contingent intensifying interest in the Solheim Cup.

“These girls are the pioneers now,” Davies said on Sky Sports. “All the ones who come behind them don't have to have 'We've never won it in America' saddled on their shoulders. It is game on.”

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Stunner: Inbee Park steps aside for Int. Crown

By Randall MellJuly 17, 2018, 4:00 pm

There was a big surprise this week when the LPGA announced the finalized lineups for the UL International Crown.

Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park won’t be teeing it up for the host South Koreans Oct. 4-7 in Incheon.

She has withdrawn, saying she wanted another Korean to be able to experience the thrill of representing her country.

It’s a stunner given the importance the LPGA has placed on taking the UL International Crown to South Korea and its golf-crazy allegiance to the women’s game in the Crown’s first staging outside the United States.

Two-time major champion In Gee Chun will replace Park.

"It was my pleasure and honor to participate in the first UL International Crown in 2014 and at the 2016 Olympics, and I cannot describe in one word how amazing the atmosphere was to compete as a representative of my country,” Park said. “There are so many gifted and talented players in Korea, and I thought it would be great if one of the other players was given the chance to experience the 2018 UL International Crown.”

Chun, another immensely popular player in South Korea, was the third alternate, so to speak, with the world rankings used to field teams. Hye Jin Choi and Jin Young Ko were higher ranked than Chun but passed because of commitments made to competing in a Korean LPGA major that week. The other South Koreans who previously qualified are So Yeon Ryu, Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim.

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Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'

By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 3:35 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.

Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.

“I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.

“It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”

The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.

“All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”

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Koepka still has chip on his chiseled shoulder

By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 3:06 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Brooks Koepka prepared more for this Open than last year's.

He picked up his clubs three times.

That’s three more than last summer, when the only shots he hit between the summer Opens was during a commercial shoot for Michelob Ultra at TPC Sawgrass. He still tied for sixth at The Open a month later.

This time, Koepka kept his commitment to play the Travelers, then hit balls three times between the final round in Hartford and this past Sunday, when he first arrived here at Carnoustie.

Not that he was concerned, of course.

Koepka’s been playing golf for nearly 20 years. He wasn’t about to forget to how to swing a club after a few weeks off.

“It was pretty much the same thing,” he said Tuesday, during his pre-tournament news conference. “I shared it with one of my best friends, my family, and it was pretty much the same routine. It was fun. We enjoyed it. But I’m excited to get back inside the ropes and start playing again. I think you need to enjoy it any time you win and really embrace it and think about what you’ve done.”

At Shinnecock Hills, Koepka became the first player in nearly 30 years to repeat as U.S. Open champion – a major title that helped him shed his undeserved reputation as just another 20-something talent who relies solely on his awesome power. In fact, he takes immense pride in his improved short game and putting inside 8 feet.

“I can take advantage of long golf courses,” he said, “but I enjoy plotting my way around probably - more than the bombers’ golf courses - where you’ve got to think, be cautious sometimes, and fire at the center of the greens. You’ve got to be very disciplined, and that’s the kind of golf I enjoy.”

Which is why Koepka once again fancies his chances here on the type of links that helped launch his career.

Koepka was out of options domestically after he failed to reach the final stage of Q-School in 2012. So he packed his bags and headed overseas, going on a tear on the European Challenge Tour (Europe’s equivalent of the Web.com circuit) and earning four titles, including one here in Scotland. That experience was the most fun and beneficial part of his career, when he learned to win, be self-sufficient and play in different conditions.

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“There’s certain steps, and I embraced it,” Koepka said. “I think that’s where a lot of guys go wrong. You are where you are, and you have to make the best of it instead of just putting your head down and being like, 'Well, I should be on the PGA Tour.' Well, guess what? You’re not. So you’ve got to suck it up wherever you are, make the best of it, and keep plugging away and trying to win everything you can because, eventually, if you’re good enough, you will get out here.”

Koepka has proved that he’s plenty good enough, of course: He’s a combined 20 under in the majors since the beginning of 2017, the best of any player during that span. But he still searches long and hard for a chip to put on his chiseled shoulder.

In his presser after winning at Shinnecock, Koepka said that he sometimes feels disrespected and forgotten, at least compared to his more-ballyhooed peers. It didn’t necessarily bother him – he prefers to stay out of the spotlight anyway, eschewing a media tour after each of his Open titles – but it clearly tweaked him enough for him to admit it publicly.

That feeling didn’t subside after he went back to back at the Open, either. On U.S. Open Sunday, ESPN’s Instagram page didn’t showcase a victorious Koepka, but rather a video of New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. dunking a basketball.

“He’s like 6-foot-2. He’s got hops – we all know that – and he’s got hands. So what’s impressive about that?” Koepka said. “But I always try to find something where I feel like I’m the underdog and put that little chip on my shoulder. Even if you’re No. 1, you’ve got to find a way to keep going and keep that little chip on.

“I think I’ve done a good job of that. I need to continue doing that, because once you’re satisfied, you’re only going to go downhill. You try to find something to get better and better, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Now 28, Koepka has a goal of how many majors he’d like to win before his career is over, but he wasn’t about to share it.

Still, he was adamant about one thing: “Right now I’m focused on winning. That’s the only thing I’ve got in my mind. Second place just isn’t good enough. I finished second a lot, and I’m just tired of it. Once you win, it kind of propels you. You have this mindset where you just want to keep winning. It breeds confidence, but you want to have that feeling of gratification: I finally did this. How cool is this?”

So cool that Koepka can’t wait to win another one.

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Despite results, Thomas loves links golf

By Jay CoffinJuly 17, 2018, 2:48 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Despite poor results in two previous Open Championships, Justin Thomas contends that he has what it takes to be a good links player. In fact, he believes that he is a good links player.

Two years ago at Royal Troon, Thomas shot 77 in the second round to tie for 53rd place. He was on the wrong side of the draw that week that essentially eliminated anyone from contention who played late Friday afternoon.

Last year at Royal Birkdale, Thomas made a quintuple-bogey 9 on the par-4 sixth hole in the second round and missed the cut by two shots.

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I feel like I’ve played more than two Opens, but I haven’t had any success here,” Thomas said Tuesday at Carnoustie. “I feel like I am a good links player, although I don’t really have the results to show.”

Although he didn’t mention it as a reason for success this week, Thomas is a much different player now than he was two years ago, having ascended to the No. 1 position in the world for a few weeks and now resting comfortably in the second spot.

He also believes a high golf IQ, and the ability to shape different shots into and with the wind are something that will help him in The Open over the next 20 years.

“I truly enjoy the creativity,” Thomas said. “It presents a lot of different strategies, how you want to play it, if you want to be aggressive, if you want to be conservative, if you want to attack some holes, wait on certain winds, whatever it might be. It definitely causes you to think.

“With it being as firm as it is, it definitely adds a whole other variable to it.”