Euros Two Up with Two Days to Play

By Sports NetworkSeptember 9, 2005, 4:00 pm
2005 Solheim CupCARMEL, Ind. -- Europe and America split the afternoon fourballs on Friday, but the European side is two points ahead at 5-3 after day one of the Solheim Cup.
The most exciting match of the fourballs featured world No. 1 Annika Sorenstam. She and Catriona Matthew defeated Pat Hurst and Wendy Ward, 2 and 1.
Maria Hjorth
Maria Hjorth helped the Europeans make a stunning comeback in the morning session.
Rosie Jones and Meg Mallon, a pair of veterans who sat out on Friday morning, bested Maria Hjorth and Iben Tinning, 3 and 2. Cristie Kerr and Natalie Gulbis returned Friday afternoon and dispatched Europe's Sophie Gustafson and Karen Stupples, 2 and 1.
Laura Davies, the only player to compete in all nine Solheim Cups, was outstanding Friday afternoon. She teamed with Suzann Pettersen to handle a highly anticipated American tandem of Paula Creamer and Juli Inkster, 4 and 3.
In Friday morning's foursomes, the U.S. was comfortably ahead in three of the matches until the Europeans caught fire on the back nine. The session ended with two halves and two losses for the U.S., but this is nothing new for the American side.
The U.S. has not held sole possession of the lead after the first day of a Solheim Cup since the 1998 edition at Muirfield Village in Ohio.
The Sorenstam-Matthew/Hurst-Ward match started out with four halves until Ward won the fifth with a birdie. Hurst two-putted from 8 feet for a par and a win at the eighth to move the Americans 2-up.
The Europeans wasted little time in cutting the gap as they made birdie at the ninth. Sorenstam then took over. At the 10th, she sank a 15-foot birdie putt and both Americans missed from inside Sorenstam's putt and the match was even.
Sorenstam birdied 12, but Ward had a chance to halve the hole. Her 7-footer hit the cup and lipped out and now the European side was 1-up.
Hurst and Sorenstam halved the 14th with birdies, but Sorenstam took advantage of the next par-5, No. 15. She missed the green with her second, but chipped to 3 feet and tapped in the short birdie putt to move 2-up.
The teams halved 16 and Sorenstam hit her tee ball to 25 feet at the 17th. Ward played her shot 10 feet right of the hole, but a long delay might have knocked her out of her rhythm.
Sorenstam had a gigantic spike mark in her line and asked for a ruling. She was denied, but it took several minutes to sort out the situation. Sorenstam missed her birdie try, then Ward once again lipped out. Matthew rolled in a 3-footer for par and the win.
'It was a big spike mark and I was wondering if there was something we could do about it,' said Sorenstam. 'Obviously I know the rules, but I was thinking we could tweak it this time.
'We played great today. She let me play some golf on the back. We're happy with the match.'
Jones was outstanding from the beginning. She birdied five of the first seven holes to give the American side a 3-up lead, a margin the Europeans could never overcome.
Jones and Mallon won the eighth hole with bogey, then the teams halved the next five holes. Mallon got into the groove at the 14th with a long birdie putt that put the U.S. 4-up with four to play.
Mallon had a 15-footer at No. 15 that could have won the match, but her putt did not fall. The Europeans parred the 16th and Jones two-putted for her par to give the Americans their first full point.
'I was reading it well on the greens today and had a really good feel,' said Jones. 'I started to get a little sloppy on the back side, but Meg was right there. We're just glad to take the point.'
Kerr and Gulbis rebounded from Friday morning's foursomes loss to Davies and Hjorth. Kerr gave the Americans an early lead with a 5-foot birdie putt on the second and extended the advantage with a 4-footer at the fourth.
Both Kerr and Gulbis were in close at the seventh and Gulbis sank the birdie putt to put her side 3-up. Stupples cut into the lead with a birdie at the 10th, but Gulbis answered at 12 with a 15-footer. Gustafson had a chance to halve the hole from 9 feet, but missed, giving the Americans a 3-up lead with six to play.
Gulbis missed a 6-footer for birdie at the 14th, but Gustafson drained one from a foot closer to get within 2-down. Gustafson once again stepped up and drained a 7-footer at the 16th to cut the margin to 1-down.
At the par-3 17th, Kerr hit her tee ball to 8 feet, but that was after Gustafson knocked her shot to 10 feet. Gustafson missed her birdie putt, then Kerr converted her's to give the Americans the first two matches.
'We played pretty well in the morning, just couldn't get any putts to go in,' said Kerr. 'We hung in there today and made some big putts when we had to. Obviously I made a putt on the last to win and that felt very good.'
Inkster, who sat out the morning session with a finger problem, put the American team in the win column with an 18-foot birdie putt at the first.
That would be the last win for some time for the Americans. Davies won the third, fourth and seventh holes to go 2-up. The Europeans took the eighth, 11th and 12th holes to build a large lead, but Inkster won 13 when her tee ball stopped inches from the cup.
The Americans were 4-down with five to play, but the teams halved the next two holes to end the match on the 15th green.
'I played pretty well,' said Davies. 'When you've got a partner like that backing you up, you aren't going to get any bad shots. If she needs me to back her up, I'm there and if I need her to back me up, she's there.'
Saturday will feature four foursomes matches in the morning, then four fourball matches in the afternoon. On Sunday, all 12 players on each side compete in singles matches.
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    Molinari hopes to inspire others as Rocca inspired him

    By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 8:43 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Francesco Molinari was 12 years old when Costantino Rocca came within a playoff of becoming Italy’s first major champion at the 1995 Open at St. Andrews.

    He remembers being inspired by Rocca’s play and motivated by the notion that he could one day be the player who would bring home his country’s first Grand Slam title. As he reflected on that moment late Sunday at Carnoustie it sunk in what his victory at The Open might mean.

    “To achieve something like this is on another level,” said Molinari, who closed with a final-round 69 for a two-stroke victory. “Hopefully, there were a lot of young kids watching on TV today, like I was watching Constantino in '95 coming so close. Hopefully, they will get as inspired as I was at the time, watching him vie for the claret jug.”

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    Molinari had already made plenty of headlines this year back home in Italy with victories at the European Tour’s flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship, and the Quicken Loans National earlier this month on the PGA Tour.

    A major is sure to intensify that attention. How much attention, however, may be contingent on Sunday’s finish at the German Grand Prix.

    “It depends on if Ferrari won today. If they won, they'll probably get the headlines,” Molinari laughed. “But, no, obviously, it would be massive news. It was big news. The last round already was big news in Italy.”

    Molinari won’t have any competition for the front page on Monday; Ferrari didn’t win the German Grand Prix.

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    Schauffele on close call: Nothing but a positive

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 22, 2018, 8:41 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Playing in a final group at a major for the first time, Xander Schauffele awkwardly splashed out of three pot bunkers, went out in 40 and still somehow had a chance to win at Carnoustie.

    Playing the 17th hole, tied with Francesco Molinari, Schauffele flared his approach shot into the right rough and couldn’t get up and down for par. He dropped one shot behind Molinari, and then two, after the Italian birdied the final hole.

    Just like that, Schauffele was doomed to a runner-up finish at The Open.

    “A little bit of disappointment,” he said. “Obviously when you don’t win, you’re disappointed. Hats off to Francesco. I looked up on 17 and saw he got to 8 under, which is just incredible golf and an incredible finish.”

    Schauffele did well to give himself a chance. The 24-year-old was in the final group with Spieth, but both youngsters fell off the pace after rocky starts. The Tour’s reigning Rookie of the Year birdied the 14th but couldn’t convert a 15-footer on the treacherous 16th that would have given him a one-shot cushion.

    “It’s going to go in the memory bank as a positive,” he said. “I had a chance to win a major championship. I was in the final group. I had to face a little bit of adversity early in the round, and I still gave myself a chance. Anyone can look at it however they want to, but I’m going to look at is as a positive moving forward and try to learn how to handle the situations a little better next time.”  

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    They came, they saw and Molinari conquered The Open

    By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 8:28 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – From a perch above the 17th tee, next to a three-story grandstand that may well be the tallest structure on the Angus coast, the 147th Open Championship unfolded with more twists and turns than a Russian novel.

    It was all there like a competitive kaleidoscope to behold. In quick order, Rory McIlroy’s title chances slipped away with a whimper, a par at the last some 100 yards to the left of the 17th tee. Tiger Woods, seemingly refreshed and reborn by the Scottish wind, missed his own birdie chance at the 16th hole, a half-court attempt near the buzzer for a player who is 0-for-the last decade in majors.

    Moments later, Kevin Kisner scrambled for an all-world par of his own at No. 16 and gazed up at the iconic leaderboard as he walked to the 17th tee box, his title chances still hanging in the balance a shot off the lead.

    Francesco Molinari was next, a textbook par save at No. 16 to go along with a collection of by-the-book holes that saw the Italian play his weekend rounds bogey-free. He also hit what may have been the most important drive of his life into what a Scot would call a proper wind at the 17th hole.

    Xander Schauffele, who was tied with Molinari at the time at 7 under par, anchored the action, missing a 15-footer for birdie at the 16th hole. Moments later the Italian calmly rolled in a 5-footer for birdie at the last to finish his week at 8 under par.

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    All this unfolded over a frenzied final hour of play at Carnoustie, offering just a taste of what the other four-plus hours of play resembled.

    “I couldn't watch Xander play the last two holes, to be honest,” said Molinari, who became the first Italian to win a major. “That's why I went to the putting green, because I probably would have felt sick watching on TV,”

    Carnoustie may not be the fairest of the Open rotation courses, but it certainly delivers the dramatic goods regularly enough.

    Woods’ prediction earlier in the week that this Open Championship would come down to no fewer than 10 would-be champions seemed hyperbolic. It turns out he was being conservative with his estimate.

    All total, 11 players either held a share of the lead or moved to within a stroke of the top spot on a hectic Sunday. For three days Carnoustie gave, the old brute left exposed by little wind and even less rough. Earlier in the week, players talked of not being able to stop the ball on the dusty and dry links turf. But as the gusts built and the tension climbed on Sunday, stopping the bleeding became a bigger concern.

    If most majors are defined by two-way traffic, a potpourri of competitive fortunes to supercharge the narrative, this Open was driven in one direction and a cast of would-be champions with a single goal: hang on.

    A day that began with three players – including defending champion Jordan Spieth, Kisner and Schauffele – tied for the lead at 9 under, quickly devolved into a free-for-all.

    Kisner blinked first, playing his first three holes in 3 over par; followed by Spieth whose poor 3-wood bounded into a gorse bush at the sixth hole and led to an unplayable lie. It was a familiar scene that reminded observers of his unlikely bogey at Royal Birkdale’s 13th hole last year. But this time there was no practice tee to find refuge and his double-bogey 7 sent him tumbling down the leaderboard.

    “I was trying to take the burn out of the equation by hitting 3-wood to carry it. It was unlucky. It went into the only bush that's over on the right side. If it misses it, I hit the green and have a birdie putt,” Spieth said.

    Schauffele’s struggles coincided with Spieth’s, with whom he played on Sunday, with a bogey at the sixth sandwiched between a bogey (No. 5) and a double bogey (No. 7).

    This opened the door to what the entire golf world has awaited, with Woods vaulting into the lead at 7 under par, the first time since the ’11 Masters he’d led at a major, and sending a low rumble across the course.

    Since Woods last won a major, that ’08 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines on one leg, Spieth and Schauffele, who Tiger spotted four strokes on Sunday, graduated from high school; McIlroy went from phenom to four-time major winner and Donald Trump was transformed from being a TV celebrity to the President of the United States.

    But the fairytale only lasted a few minutes with Woods playing Nos. 11 and 12 in 3 over par. They were the kind of mistakes the 14-time major champion didn’t make in his prime

    “A little ticked off at myself, for sure. I had a chance starting that back nine to do something, and I didn't do it,” said Woods, who finished tied for sixth but will have the consolation prize of moving into the top 50 in the world ranking to qualify for the last WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone in two weeks.

    But as Woods faded, McIlroy made a familiar move, charging in an eagle putt at the par-5 14th hole to tie Molinari and Schauffele at 6 under par. The Northern Irishman would run out of holes, playing the final four in even par to finish tied for second, but the moment wasn’t lost on him.

    “It was great, just to be a part of it and hear the roars. Tiger being back in the mix. You know, everything,” McIlroy said. “There's a lot of big names up there. It was nice to be a part of it. For a while, I thought Tiger was going to win. My mindset was go and spoil the party here.”

    By the time the final groups reached Carnoustie’s finishing stretch it was a two-man party, with Molinari proving for the second time this month that boring golf can be effective.

    Although he’d won the European Tour’s flagship event in May, Molinari decided to add the Quicken Loans National to his schedule because of his precarious position on the FedExCup points list (122nd) – he won that, too. The week before the Open, he fulfilled his commitment to play the John Deere Classic, a requirement under the PGA Tour’s new strength of field rule, and finished second.

    Although his track record at The Open was nothing special – he’d posted just a single top-10 finish in his first 10 starts at the game’s oldest championship – his machine-like game was always going to be a perfect fit for a brown and bouncy links like Carnoustie and a topsy-turvy final round.

    “I told his caddie earlier this week, because I didn’t want to say it to [Molinari], I have a good feeling this week,” said Molinari’s swing coach Denis Pugh. “It was the perfect combination of clarity and confidence.”

    With the sun splashing against the baked-out fairways, Molinari emerged from the clubhouse, wide-eyed and a little dazed after what could only be described as a major melee, his no-nonsense, fairways-and-greens game the perfect tonic for an Open that defied clarity until the very end.

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    Spieth and Schauffele were put on the clock Sunday

    By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 8:13 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Contending in a major championship on what is largely considered the toughest major championship course can be hard enough, but as Jordan Spieth reached the 10th tee box, he was given another layer of anxiety.

    Spieth, who was playing with Xander Schauffele on Sunday at Carnoustie, was informed that his group had fallen behind and been put on the clock. On the next tee, he was given a “bad time” for taking too long to hit his drive.

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    “I handled it OK, but looking back, you know, that was a turning point in the round,” said Spieth, who played Nos. 10 and 11 in even par and finished tied for ninth after a closing 76. “If you get 1 under on those two holes with a downwind par 5 left [No. 14], it's a different story.”

    Spieth, who began the day tied for the lead with Schauffele and Kevin Kisner at 9 under, had dropped out the top spot with a double bogey-7 at the sixth hole. He was tied for the lead when officials put his group on the clock.

    “I took over the allotted time on the tee on 11 to decide on 3-iron or 3-wood, but throughout the day, I think I played the fastest golf I've probably ever played while contending in a tournament,” he said.