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

    Twitter spat turns into fundraising opportunity

    By Rex HoggardMay 25, 2018, 6:30 pm

    Country music star Jake Owen, along with Brandt Snedeker, has turned a spat on Twitter into a fundraising campaign that will support Snedeker’s foundation.

    On Thursday, Owen was criticized during the opening round of the Tour’s Nashville Golf Open, which benefits the Snedeker Foundation, for his poor play after opening with an 86.

    In response, Snedeker and country singer Chris Young pledged $5,000 for every birdie that Owen makes on Friday in a campaign called NGO Birdies for Kids

    Although Owen, who is playing the event on a sponsor exemption, doesn’t tee off for Round 2 in Nashville until 2 p.m. (CT), the campaign has already generated interest, with NBC Sports/Golf Channel analyst Peter Jacobsen along with Tour player Zac Blair both pledging $100 for every birdie Owen makes.

    Getty Images

    Noren so impressed by Rory: 'I'm about to quit golf'

    By Golf Channel DigitalMay 25, 2018, 5:33 pm

    Alex Noren won the BMW PGA Championship last year, one of his nine career European Tour victories.

    He opened his title defense at Wentworth Club in 68-69 and is tied for fourth through two rounds. Unfortunately, he's five back of leader Rory McIlroy. And after playing the first two days alongside McIlroy, Noren, currently ranked 19th in the world, doesn't seem to like his chances of back-to-back wins.

    McIlroy opened in 67 and then shot a bogey-free 65 in second round, which included pars on the pair of par-5 finishing holes. Noren walked away left in awe.

    "That's the best round I've ever seen," Noren said. "I'm about to quit golf, I think."

    Check out the full interview below:

    Getty Images

    Bubba gets to drive dream car: K.I.T.T. from 'Knight Rider'

    By Grill Room TeamMay 25, 2018, 4:42 pm

    Bubba Watson is a known car aficionado.

    He purchased the original General Lee from the 1980’s TV show “Dukes of Hazzard” – later saying he was going to paint over the Confederate flag on the vehicle’s roof.

    He also auctioned off his 1939 Cadillac LaSalle C-Hawk custom roadster and raised $410,000 for Birdies for the Brave.

    He showed off images of his off-road Jeep two years ago.

    And he even bought a car dealership near his hometown of Milton, Fla.

    While recently appearing on the TV show “Jay Leno’s Garage,” the former “Tonight Show” host surprised Watson with another one of his dream cars: K.I.T.T.

    The 1982 Pontiac Trans Am was made famous in the ‘80s action show “Knight Rider.”

    Though, Bubba didn’t get to keep this one, he did get to drive it.

    Bubba Watson gets behind the wheel of his dream car—the KITT from Knight Rider from CNBC.

    Getty Images

    Cut Line: USGA readies for Shinnecock 'mulligan'

    By Rex HoggardMay 25, 2018, 3:26 pm

    In this week’s Memorial weekend edition, the European team adheres to the Ryder Cup secret formula, the USGA readies for the ultimate mulligan at next month’s U.S. Open and a bizarre finish at the Florida Mid-Am mystifies the Rules of Golf.

    Made Cut

    Cart golf. When the U.S. side announced the creation of a Ryder Cup task force following the American loss at Gleneagles in 2014, some Europeans privately – and publicly – snickered.

    The idea that the secret sauce could be found in a meeting room did stretch the bounds of reason, yet two years later the U.S. team emerged as winners at Hazeltine National and suddenly the idea of a task force, which is now called a committee, didn’t seem so silly.

    To Europe’s credit, they’ve always accomplished this cohesion organically, pulling together their collective knowledge with surprising ease, like this week when European captain Thomas Bjorn rounded out his vice captain crew.

    Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell, Padraig Harrington and Luke Donald (a group that has a combined 47-40-13 record in the matches) were all given golf cart keys and will join Robert Karlsson as vice captains this year in Paris.

    Perhaps it took the Americans a little longer to figure out, but Bjorn knows it’s continuity that wins Ryder Cups.

    Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

    The USGA’s mulligan. The U.S. Open is less than a month away and with it one of the most anticipated returns in recent major championship history.

    The last time the national championship was played at Shinnecock Hills was in 2004 and things didn’t go well, particularly on Sunday when play had to be stopped to water some greens that officials deemed had become unplayable. This week USGA executive director Mike Davis was asked about the association’s last trip to the Hamptons and, to his credit, he didn’t attempt to reinvent history.

    “Looking back at 2004, and at parts of that magnificent day with Retief (Goosen) and Phil Mickelson coming down to the end, there are parts that we learned from,” Davis said. “I’m happy we got a mulligan this time. We probably made a bogey last time, maybe a double bogey.”

    Put another way, players headed to next month’s championship should look forward to what promises to be a Bounce Back Open.

    Tweet of the week:

    Homa joined a chorus of comments following Aaron Wise’s victory on Sunday at the AT&T Byron Nelson, which included an awkward moment when his girlfriend, Reagan Trussell, backed away as Wise was going in for a kiss.

    “No hard feelings at all,” Wise clarified this week. “We love each other a ton and we're great. It was a funny moment that I think we'll always be able to look back at, but that's all it really was.”

    Missed Cut

    Strength of field. The European Tour gathers this week in England for the circuit’s flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship, and like the PGA Tour’s marquee stop, The Players, the event appears headed for a new spot on the calendar next year.

    As the PGA Tour inches closer to announcing the 2018-19 schedule, which will feature countless new twists and turns including the PGA Championship’s move to May and The Players shift back to March, it also seems likely the makeover will impact the European Tour schedule.

    Although the BMW PGA currently draws a solid field, with this week’s event sporting a higher strength of field than the Fort Worth Invitational on the PGA Tour, it’s likely officials won’t want to play the event a week after the PGA Championship (which is scheduled for May 16-19 next year).

    In fact, it’s been rumored that the European Tour could move all eight of its Rolex Series events, which are billed as “unmissable sporting occasions,” out of the FedExCup season window, which will end on Aug. 25 next year.

    Although the focus has been on how the new PGA Tour schedule will impact the U.S. sports calendar, the impact of the dramatic makeover stretches will beyond the Lower 48.

    Rules of engagement. For a game that at times seems to struggle with too much small print and antiquated rules, it’s hard to understand how things played out earlier this month at the Florida Mid-Amateur Championship.

    In a story first reported by, Jeff Golden claimed he was assaulted on May 13 by Brandon Hibbs – the caddie for his opponent, Marc Dull, in the championship’s final match. Golden told police that Hibbs struck him because of a rules dispute earlier in the round. Hibbs denied any involvement, and police found no evidence of an attack.

    The incident occurred during a weather delay and Golden conceded the match to Dull after the altercation, although he wrote in a post on Twitter this week that he was disappointed with the Florida State Golf Association’s decision to accept his concession.

    “The FSGA has one job, and that’s to follow the Rules of Golf,” Golden wrote. “Unfortunately, there’s no rule for an inebriated ‘ex-caddie’ punching a player in a match-play rain delay with no witnesses.”

    Because of the conflicting statements, it’s still not clear what exactly happened that day at Coral Creek Club, but the No. 1 rule in golf – protecting the competition and the competitors – seems to have fallen well short.