Captains Loose If Not Entirely Healthy

By Rich LernerSeptember 10, 2003, 4:00 pm
Editor's note: Rich Lerner is anchoring The Golf Channel's coverage of the 2003 Solheim Cup.
Patty Sheehan stood on the range under an umbrella with assistant captain Jane Geddes, the rain as steady as it had been when it first started around mid-morning. In the distance, a soupy gray shrouded the Oresund. Across that body of water on Tuesday you could see Copenhagen. Today it was invisible.

'We've been wandering in the rain,' laughed Sheehan when asked about her day.

'Everybody getting comfortable?' I wondered.

'I know I'm comfortable because I don't have to play,' she cracked, refusing to turn this week's proceedings into any kind of major melodrama.

On the other hand, comfort's a luxury that her counterpart, Catrin Nilsmark, has experienced precious little of in recent weeks. What was supposed to be a glorious period leading the Europeans on her native Swedish soil has instead become an agonizing stretch because of a ruptured disc in her back. She spent eight days in the hospital, often times in excruciating pain.

Her mobility's limited. She walks gingerly with the aid of crutches. Vice-captain Allison Nicholas handles many of the on-course duties in her stead, Nilsmark reduced to conveying her thoughts to her players around the putting green, the first tee, and of course, in the team room.

It's there that her quick wit and sharp tongue could prove most invaluable in easing the inevitable pressure on her team. A reporter asked if she's on some medication to help her get around. It was then that the woman who nearly incited an international sporting incident by deriding American players last year unleashed her first zinger of the week.

'A bit of a mixture of LSD and morphine and cocaine,' Nilsmark retorted.

In truth, she did need morphine while laid up, so debilitating was the pain, which only began to subside earlier this week.

'I did have a dramatic improvement yesterday,' she explained. 'I'm feeling a lot better. To say that I'm happy is an understatement.'

Annika Sorenstam said of her captain, 'She just wants us to play good golf and not worry. We're more worried than she is.'

Despite her limitations, Nilsmark was able to give her team what many feel is an edge even before the first ball is in the air. She did it with the setup of the Barsebck golf course.

'The thing I noticed the most is they cut all the rough out,' said Meg Mallon.

How does that help the Europeans? Well, the Euros have the longest hitters - Laura Davies, Sorenstam, Sophie Gustafson and Suzanne Petterson - and they can swing away with impunity, knowing that a wayward tee ball won't land them in terribly penal rough.

'No doubt,' emphasized Juli Inkster when asked if the layout favored the Europeans. 'But that's home turf. You play to your strengths.'

'That's a fair statement,' agreed Nilsmark, acknowledging that she used the home captain's prerogative to set up the course any way she likes. 'Our players just aren't used to the kind of rough you see in the States.'

In any event, the U.S. seems unfazed, comfortable in the role of underdog.

'This is the most relaxed I've seen our team,' said Inkster. 'We had a great dinner last night and we told lots of stories. It's funny to see the faces of Angela and Heather, the rookies, as they listen to the vets. Their eyes are just wide open, like, 'This is so cool'!'

Today, despite the rains, most of the players did get in the full 18 holes of practice.

'We're getting antsy,' said Sheehan. 'We're ready to get on with the matches.'

As for the pairings, neither captain's tipping their hand. The announcements come Thursday at 8 AM Eastern Time.

'I'm pretty solid on what I'm thinking,' offered Sheehan. She did add, though, that 'Some things came up today that changed my mind, so we're still in flux.'

The Europeans spent their practice time focusing on singles play, their Achilles' Heel through the years.

'To win here, we have to play well in singles,' explained Sorenstam. 'We've practiced singles this week.'

As Sorenstam spoke to the press inside the media center, the rain continued. A soggy day nearing an end, most of the players had repaired to their quarters for some rest. Nightfall would find them at the gala dinner.

By Thursday, the rains are expected to subside, giving way to a pleasant weekend. But the prevailing sense on this Wednesday is that if the pain stalking the European captain could just make like the rain and go away, then all will be well in Sweden.
Related Links:
  • Golf Channel Tournament Airtimes
  • Full Coverage - Solheim Cup
  • Getty Images

    Watch: Reed races in 40-footer to put away Spieth

    By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 23, 2018, 10:19 pm

    Three up with three holes to play at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Patrick Reed missed an opportunity to close out his match with Jordan Spieth when Spieth won the 16th hole with a birdie.

    But Reed wouldn't let the match move to 18. Putting for birdie from the apron, 40 feet from the hole, at the par-3 17th, Reed raced in this putt to end the match.

    With the win, Reed moved to 3-0-0 for the week and advanced to the weekend at Austin Country Club.

    Getty Images

    Garcia's win-win situation: Move on or baby time

    By Rex HoggardMarch 23, 2018, 9:45 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – Given his status as one of Europe’s preeminent Ryder Cup players, Sergio Garcia’s record at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play is nothing short of inexplicable.

    In 15 starts at the event, the Spaniard has played the weekend just once – in 2010 when he lost in the semifinals to Ian Poulter – and since the event pivoted to round-robin play he’s never made it out of the group stages.

    His fortunes have changed dramatically this year, with Garcia going undefeated in pool play and cruising to the Sweet 16 following a 3-and-1 victory over Xander Schauffele on Friday.

    “I would love to have done a little better than I have,” said Garcia, who will play Kyle Stanley in the Round of 16 early Saturday. “I have had some good weeks here. But not probably as good as I should have. So hopefully this week it will be better.”

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

    Garcia made no secret of the source of his turnaround following the birth of his first child last Wednesday, a girl named Azalea. Even on Friday when he found himself 2 down through 11 holes and in danger of not advancing he kept an upbeat attitude.

    “The way I looked at it, when I was 2 down, we're going to try to turn it around, but if we don't, it means that I get to spend more time with [his wife] Angela and Azalea for the weekend,” Garcia said. “I tried to look at it in a good way.”

    Getty Images

    DeLaet: WGC's robin-robin format 'sucks'

    By Grill Room TeamMarch 23, 2018, 9:20 pm

    Graham DeLaet isn't teeing it up at Austin Country Club this week because he didn't qualify for the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, but that doesn't mean he lacks an opinion on the event's format.

    DeLaet hopped on social media Friday during Day 3 of the WGC-Match Play to torch the round-robin format that's been in place for three years, saying he much preferred the single elimination that was in place when he played in 2014.

    "Played Match Play in Tucson in 2014. Early group on Wednesday, lost. Threw clubs in my car and was on my couch in Scottsdale by 2:00 pm. Collect 30K and spend the weekend at home, he tweeted. "That’s a good format. This one sucks."

    DeLeat's comments may be the strongest to date, but he's not alone in his opposition to pool play. Several players lamented Friday's "meaningless" matches earlier this week, and Henrik Stenson cited the lack of a do-or-die atmosphere as his reason for skipping the event.

    Getty Images

    Watch: Kuchar makes ace at WGC-Dell Match Play

    By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 23, 2018, 9:09 pm

    In his bid to advance to the weekend at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Matt Kuchar aced the par-3 seventh hole Friday at Austin Country Club.

    With an 8-iron from 181 yards, Kuchar landed his ball short of the flag and watched it roll and roll ... and drop.

    The hole-in-one moved Kuchar 3 Up in match against Ross Fisher. 

    The last hole-in-one at the Match Play came in Sunday's consolation match last year, when Hideto Tanihara aced the same hole before later losing to Bill Haas.