Category Archives: National Golf

Tiger Woods at The Open Championship

With one more win, Tiger Woods will tie Sam Snead for most career PGA TOUR victories at 82. Each time Tiger tees it up, we’ll take a look at his chances for that particular week. Here’s a CHASING 82 preview entering this week’s Open Championship at Royal Portrush.

RECENT FORM

Difficult to say what his form is, given the fact that his last competitive start was the U.S. Open. From that final round to Thursday’s first round at Royal Portrush, 32 days will have passed. And in the 95 days since winning the Masters in mid-April, he has played just 10 competitive rounds – a missed cut at the PGA Championship, a T-9 at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide, and a T-21 at the U.S. Open.

NBA players could learn a lesson from Woods about load management.

But that’s not to say Woods has avoided preparing for the Open. Earlier this month, Nike posted a video in which Woods discusses waking up at 1 a.m. ET in order to prep for the time change for the Open, which is five hours ahead.

“If you want to succeed, if you want to get better, if you want to win, if you want to accomplish your goals, it all starts with getting up early in the morning,” Woods explained in the video.

Although Woods has never played a competitive event in Northern Ireland, he has played practice rounds there while prepping for previous Opens. But this will be the first time he’s seen Royal Portrush.

“I’ve only played (Royal) County Down, I’ve never been up to Portrush and I’m looking forward to getting up there and taking a look at the golf course and trying to figure it out,” Woods said. “I’ll get there early and do a little bit of homework – see if the golf course is going to be dry, fast or not.

“Hopefully I’ll get practice rounds with different winds to try and get a feel for the golf course.”

TOURNAMENT HISTORY

Woods is making his 21st start in the Open Championship and has won three times:

2000 – At St. Andrews, Woods won with a final score of 19 under, eight strokes ahead of Thomas Bjorn and Ernie Els. The 19 under was the lowest score, in relation to par, of any major winner (eventually surpassed by Jason Day at 21 under at the 2015 PGA Championship). Woods’ win also completed the career Grand Slam. “It may be years before I fully appreciate it, but I’m inclined to believe that winning the Open at the Home of Golf is the ultimate achievement in the sport,” Woods said.

2005 – At St. Andrews, Woods won by five strokes over Colin Montgomerie, leading wire to wire. It was the 10th major win of his career. “When I first started playing the Tour, I didn’t think I’d have this many majors before the age of 30,” said the then-29-year-old Woods. “ There’s no way. No one ever has.”

2006 – At Royal Liverpool, Woods won by two strokes over Chris DiMarco, an emotional victory as it was his first major win after the death of his father Earl two months earlier. “To win your first tournament after my father had passed away, and for it to be a major championship, it makes it that much more special,” Woods said. “And mom was watching, I’m sure she was bawling her eyes out.” It was the first time a player had won consecutive Opens since Tom Watson in 1982-83.

Since his last win, Woods’ best finish was a T-3 at Royal Lytham in 2012. Last year at Carnoustie, he was in contention midway through the final round until a double bogey-bogey stretch on his back nine, eventually finishing T-6.

Frittelli chills out, enjoys John Deere Classic win

SILVIS,Ill . – All week, players were melting in the heat. And all week, South Africa’s Dylan Frittelli wore his long compression sleeves, which he said cooled him off.

What kept him so cool under pressure was another matter.

Maintaining his composure from start to finish in the biggest round of his life, first-year PGA TOUR member Frittelli shot a final-round 64 to win the John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run, dramatically altering his summer plans, and beyond. FedExCup No. 153 at the start of the week, he shot up to 48th in the FedExCup and secured his job on TOUR through the 2020-21 season.

He also gate-crashed The Open Championship, and also earned invitations to next year’s Masters Tournament and THE PLAYERS Championship, among other select events.

“It was mentality clarity,” Frittelli said, when asked to explain the difference at the Deere.

With his attention divided and his career flagging, the 29-year-old with the prescription glasses found himself feeling stressed as this season wore on. His European Tour membership was running out, and he found himself in danger of losing his PGA TOUR card, too. That would mean going back to the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, where nothing is guaranteed except for the fact that it would preclude his playing in some big overseas events.

The clock was ticking, and Frittelli had to find a way to tune it out. Enter sports psychologist Jay Brunza, who helped Frittelli finally accept that he couldn’t affect outcomes, at least not positively, by obsessing over them. When he three-putted the 14th hole after driving the green Sunday, he not only forced himself to slow down and not overreact, he smiled.

“I think I was the only one on the course who smiled after a three-putt,” he said.

He was focused on the positives: He was in the hunt to win, the sun on his back, people cheering. He made a clutch birdie at the par-5 17th, where he played his third shot well past the pin only to watch as it rolled off the backboard and toward the pin, just as he’d anticipated. He made the ensuing 11-footer for birdie and a two-shot lead as he played the tricky 18th hole.

He hit what he called his best drive of the week on the finisher, and made a routine, two-putt par.

“His attitude,” said his caddie, John Curtis, when asked what he first noticed about Frittelli when they joined forces two and a half years ago. “He’s so level-headed. He hardly ever gets punchy.”

Well, yes and no. Frittelli admitted it hasn’t always been easy, blinking back tears when talking about his caddie. “He’s been probably the rock in my career, coming from Europe,” Frittelli said. “He’s a great guy, wonderful man, very tough guy. He puts up with a lot of stuff from me.”

That they make a good team is somewhat surprising, given that Frittelli can’t see without his glasses – he also has a slight astigmatism in one eye – and Curtis is also sight-challenged.

“He’s pretty blind and I’m like half-blind,” Frittelli said with a laugh. “So we’re watching the ball going, ‘Where is it? Where is it? I can’t see it. Can you see it?’ We don’t know where it is.”

In addition to the other perks of winning, Frittelli put himself in the running to make Ernie Els’ International Presidents Cup team that will play the Americans at Royal Melbourne, Dec. 12-15.

“That’s huge,” he said. “And I’ve done well in Australia before. I lost in a playoff at the Aussie PGA.”

How cool was Frittelli? After his third-round 65 at TPC Deere Run, he went to the range to work on his wedges under a broiling sun. He was the only player there, and stayed for two hours.

“But it was all worth it, huh?” said Curtis. He gave the winner his final marching orders Sunday. “On the practice range I said, ‘It’s just a practice round today. Let’s go out and have fun.’”

If Frittelli’s newfound chill helped, so, too, did the fact that he’s no stranger to winning. He has done it at every level, and played alongside Jordan Spieth on the 2012 University of Texas team that won the NCAA Championship. Prior to that, he considered turning pro in cricket and field hockey.

He was good at everything, so much so that it drove Spieth crazy.

“We used to play Ping-Pong in the locker room,” Frittelli said, “and I would beat him four games in a row. … He wouldn’t let me leave until he beat me. He has had a burning desire. I don’t really have that. I’m more methodical and I’m more thoughtful in what I do.”

Professional success came quickly for only one of them, though, and it wasn’t Frittelli. He won on the European Challenge Tour in 2013 and 2016, but suffered through a slump in 2014-15. He bounced back with two European Tour victories in 2017, boosting his world ranking enough to start to get into the majors and World Golf Championship events.

His career stalled, though, on the PGA TOUR. He made six cuts in 11 starts last season and played in the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, finishing 18th on the money list to secure his TOUR status for this season. He had made 13 of 19 cuts in 2018-19, but a best of T18 at the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship wasn’t much to write home about.

Nevertheless, Frittelli kept it light at the Deere, as life-changing as it might be. He said of his 5 o’clock shadow after the third round that he’d seen pictures of Spieth looking similarly scruffy winning his first TOUR title at the 2013 Deere, and figured he would try the same thing.

And then, for the final round, Frittelli shaved. When it was all over, and he’d won and was about to go on TV for his media obligations, he asked Curtis, “Do I look pretty?”

They were about to board a chartered flight to The Open Championship with 13 other players and their caddies, and the FedExCup Playoffs awaited after that.

Very pretty, indeed.

Brendon Todd finishes with Even-par 71 in second round of the John Deere Classic

In his second round at the John Deere Classic, Brendon Todd hit 10 of 14 fairways and 11 of 18 greens in regulation, finishing at 5 under for the tournament. Todd finished his round tied for 22nd at 5 under; Jhonattan Vegas is in 1st at 13 under; Russell Henley and Harold Varner III are tied for 2nd at 10 under; and Roger Sloan, Roberto Díaz, and Vaughn Taylor are tied for 4th at 9 under.

Todd got a bogey on the 432-yard par-4 11th, getting on the green in 3 and two putting, moving Todd to 1 over for the round.

On the par-4 13th, Todd’s 121 yard approach to 7 feet set himself up for the bogey on the hole. This moved Todd to 2 over for the round.

After a drive to the right side of the fairway on the 367-yard par-4 sixth hole, Todd had a 114 yard approach shot, setting himself up for the birdie. This moved Todd to even-par for the round.

Law Says Girls Should Have Fun with Golf

(May 26, 2019)-Before winning the Pure Silk Championship at 17 under par and before
receiving a degree in sociology from the University of California Los
Angeles in 2017, Bronte Law was having fun playing golf, tennis, soccer,
field hockey and running cross country track. Her advice for young girls
who want to follow in her footsteps and win an LPGA tournament, is to
“have fun.”

“I would say that you should never give up, and you don’t know what
situation you’re in or it might not be that you start playing until you’re
13, 14. If you work hard and you put your mind to it, and most
importantly, have fun with it, then you can achieve anything you want to,”
Law advised.

“I really did enjoy my golf as a junior golfer. I wasn’t too hard on
myself. I really did have a lot of fun. I had a lot of fun in college,
too. I think that’s really important.

Now, this is my job. It’s a little different. I have to treat it a little

 

differently. But I love it because I had that time when I was younger
where I made it fun.”

Although playing professional golf contains all of the aspects of running
a business, Law continues to find joy in the game. “I still do really
enjoy it. I love it. But there is a different aspect to it when you become
a professional.

So I would say all the time that you get, enjoy it. Don’t be hard on
yourself. Just like cherish that time as an amateur golfer. Make friends.
It’s something that I’m very grateful for that I had a really great
upbringing on the golf courses. I was always very welcome and I really
hope that those girls stand up for themselves like I did. You know, dream
big.”

In 2018, 24-year old Law played in 25 LPGA events, earning $539,306 and
making 22 cuts. She changed her putter to a Scotty Cameron Blade and
honed her skills to win the 2019 Pure Silk Championship. After previously
posting 65, 68, and 67, Law managed to score a four-under-par 67 on Sunday
to beat Brooke Henderson, Madelene Sagstromand and Nasa Hatoka by two
strokes.

“I believe in hard work and determination. I really stayed so focused out
there today. Obviously my caddie, Jeff, did a great job keeping me calm. I
guess after San Fran it really gave me perspective that I can compete at
the top. I came in this week with the sole intention of getting that one
better. It feels really good,” Law said on Sunday. Although the England
native has had a lot of fun with golf throughout her life, Law was all
about business for her first LPGA win. 

LPGA BRINGS NEW EVENT TO FLORIDA IN 2020

Belleair, Fla. – The Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) announced today that a new tournament, the Pelican Women’s Championship Presented by DEX Imaging, will be added to the 2020 season. The event will be held May 11-17, 2020 at Pelican Golf Club located in the waterfront town of Belleair, 45 minutes outside downtown Tampa. The tournament will feature a full field of 144 players, competing for a $1.75 million purse.

Since founding DEX Imaging in 2002, the Doyle family has created a legacy of giving back to the community through their philanthropic efforts and generosity to local nonprofits. They also have incorporated close ties to local professional sports teams into their business strategy including partnerships with the Tampa Bay Rays (MLB), the Buccaneers (NFL) and the Lightning (NHL).

“We are so excited to bring a new LPGA Tour event to the Tampa area with the help of a presenting sponsor that shares the LPGA’s values of giving back to the community and providing equal opportunities for women through the sport,” said LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan. “Golf fans can look forward to seeing the best female players on the planet being tested by a world-class venue in Pelican Golf Club, which also happens to have a Director of Women’s Golf! We could not be happier with this partnership that brings together the LPGA, the Doyle family, DEX Imaging and Pelican Golf Club.”

Pelican Golf Club, formerly known as Belleview Biltmore Golf Club, underwent major renovations to upgrade its facilities after the purchase by Dan Doyle Sr. and Dan Doyle Jr. was completed in 2017. Originally designed by Donald Ross and opened in 1925, The Beau Welling Design group oversaw the renovation project, re-establishing the stylistic elements of a golden age golf course while also improving its playability.

“When we embarked on the complete renovation of Pelican Golf Club, we did so with the goal of bringing the best of professional golf to the Tampa area,” said Dan Doyle Jr., President and CEO of DEX Imaging, and co-owner of Pelican Golf Club. “We are excited and honored to welcome the finest golfers in the world to our championship course for next year’s inaugural event. Hosting the LPGA at Pelican is a perfect opportunity to support the LPGA and women’s professional golf and shine a spotlight on our community and all it has to offer.”

The Pelican Women’s Golf Championship is operated by Eiger Marketing Group, a global marketing and event management agency. Eiger owns and operates LPGA tournaments including the HUGEL-AIR PREMIA LA Open in Los Angeles and the ShopRite LPGA Classic Presented by Acer in Atlantic City, as well as a number of other sporting and lifestyle events throughout the year.

“There is tremendous momentum in women’s golf and we are excited to work with the LPGA, the Doyle Family, Pelican Golf Club and DEX Imaging on this brand new event,” said Tim Erensen, managing partner at Eiger Marketing Group. “It is a mission of Pelican Golf Club to be inclusive, so when Director of Golf Justin Sheehan suggested an LPGA event, the Doyle family quickly jumped on board. This tournament will be an amazing platform for Pelican and the stars of the LPGA to showcase their talents and we look forward to delivering a memorable, first-class experience for all involved.”

SIRAK: LEWIS EMBRACES CHANGE AS A NEW MOM ON TOUR

Looking back on it now, the Marathon Classic presented by Dana is where Stacy Lewis said goodbye to her old life. It was at Highland Meadows Golf Club in Sylvania, Ohio, a year ago that Lewis played her last LPGA round before becoming a mom. She returns this week with a new set of priorities setting on top of that same old competitive desire.

With Lewis’ typical flare for the dramatic, she shot a sizzling 66 on Sunday in the final round of the 2018 Marathon to finish T-38, well behind winner Jasmine Suwannapura but with a great memory to carry with her into maternity leave. In October, Lewis and Gerrod Chadwell became parents to daughter Chesnee.

Now the precious cargo of a baby complicates the already hectic life on the road of a tour player. There have been nights of little sleep and the occasional trip to Urgent Care for typical infant distresses.

Lewis returned to the tour in January with a T-6 finish at the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions and has played well enough to be on Juli Inkster’s radar screen as a captain’s pick for the USA Solheim Cup team, that is if Stacy doesn’t play her way onto the squad.

That quest intensifies this week at Marathon as the tour enters a crucial stretch that includes back-to-back majors at the Evian Championship and the AIG Women’s British Open leading to the finalization of the American side after the CP Women’s Open on Aug. 25.

“It’s been a lot harder than I thought,” Lewis says about the adjustments to tour life as a mom. “Getting used to traveling and getting my body back in shape has taken a lot longer than I thought, but I feel like the game is moving in the right direction and we’re figuring things out on the road, how to travel, how to get through everyday, how to get through every night.”

Lewis, 34, has always been a feisty competitor, beginning with the way she overcame scoliosis as a child, which required wearing a back brace for years before eventually needing surgery. She fought her way onto the tour by winning Q school in 2008 and now has 12 wins, including majors at the 2011 ANA Inspiration and the 2013 Women’s British Open.

Now she faces an entirely different kind of challenge.

“My golf is not the No. 1 priority anymore,” Lewis says. “That is a hundred percent okay. Chesnee is my No. 1 and it’s about her eating and sleeping and doing everything in the right time and golf and me and my husband, we’re second now and that’s okay.”

Lewis has always risen to whatever challenge life throws at her, often in a dramatic way – like winning that 2008 Q school after failing to earn her card off the money list. She also won the Women’s British Open on The Old Course at St. Andrews when she hit a gorgeous links-style 5-iron on the difficult Road Hole to 5-feet that led to a birdie on No. 17 that secured the win.

And then there was the 2017 Cambia Portland Classic. Lewis, who hadn’t won a tournament in more than three years, said she would donate her winnings for the week to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey in her adopted hometown of Houston. Then she won the tournament in one of the best feel-good moments of the year in all of sports.

As she returns to Marathon, where her maternity leave started, can Lewis go full circle and make a dramatic move to get a spot on the U.S. Solheim Cup team? She’s well within striking distance of the top eight on points for an automatic spot and could still move up in the Rolex Rankings to get one of those two positions – especially with those two points-heavy majors looming.

“I just want to be playing good golf,” Lewis says about how she can prove to Inkster that she deserves one of her two picks. “I want to give Juli a reason to pick me. I’d like to make it on my own and that would be playing well these next couple majors we have.”

As is always the case with Lewis, she is all about doing the right thing. Her activism helped create the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, helped change the maternity leave policy of both the LPGA and the USGA and opened the eyes of endorsement partners of female athletes about honoring contracts during maternity leave.

“I don’t want her to pick me if I’m not playing well because I want what’s best for the team,” says Lewis, who has played in four consecutive Solheim Cups. “I want the girls to go over there and win whether I’m on the team or not. I want what’s best for the team. If I’m playing well, I want to be there.”

Lewis has showed flashes of her old form this year, finishing in the top 12 four times. She’s played well enough to be on Inkster’s mind. But Stacy has always liked to handle things herself. This just might be a week in which Mom has some more magic to thrill the sports world and completes a circle of life.

Wolff steps up on big stage, earns first PGA TOUR victory at 3M Open

BLAINE, Minn. – Matthew Wolff was a very interested spectator, waiting back in the 18th fairway on Sunday afternoon, as Bryson DeChambeau stood over an eagle putt that would give him the lead in the 3M Open.

He saw the 7-footer drop and watched DeChambeau, already a winner of five PGA TOUR events, clench his fists and pose like the Incredible Hulk in celebration. Then Wolff, who was playing in the day’s final group, had to compose himself and hit a shot across that gaping lake to the same green. He needed a birdie to tie and an eagle to win.

Heady stuff, to be sure. Particularly for a 20-year-old with that unique, herky-jerky swing who was making just his third PGA TOUR as a professional, and fourth overall.

“It was kind of a delay actually from the crowd roar to when I saw him throw the fist pump,” Wolff recalled later. “So, it was great playing by Bryson. He’s obviously one of the best players in the world and he’s proven himself.  To be able to have a chance against him is awesome.

“But my mindset was kind of the same with that shot. I knew I was going to go for it… And when he did that, I kind of told myself and talked to Steve, it would be pretty special to roll in an eagle and finish this deal off on 18.  Kind of that little adrenaline boost, I guess kind of motivated me.”

Steve was Steve Lohmeyer, the veteran caddie who just started working for Wolff at the 3M Open. And in the ultimate pressure situation, the looper knew just what to say to his new boss.

“You’re the best long iron player here this week,” Lohmeyer told Wolff. “Let’s show these people what you can do. We could see everything. It was actually really cool – we could see (DeChambeau) make it, and then I said, let’s just hit this golf shot.”

Now, the 5-iron wasn’t perfect. It didn’t cut quite like Wolff had hoped. But it settled up against the collar off the green, and there was just 26 feet of real estate standing between him and what would be a life-changing victory.

Wolff later admitted he was shaking a little as he surveyed the putt. Lohmeyer liked the read, though, and stepped away as Wolff took several deep breaths. Finally, he hit the ball and watched intently until it got about a foot from the hole.

He knew it was in. Wolff stepped forward, pumped his fist and yelled “come on,” just like he had when the made the putt to clinch the 2018 NCAA team title. It was his time.

“I’ve been told so many times before that I was born for moments like these, I live for moments like these,” Wolff said. “It doesn’t get better than this.

“I had a blast out there, and to make that putt was everything. You know, for me it was just kind of staying calm, doing what I do. And not a lot of putts were dropping today. I kind of told myself, you know, this wouldn’t be a bad time for one to go my way. …

“It was the most excited I’ve ever been. I’m usually not an emotional guy at all, but tears definitely came to my eyes when I stepped off and picked that ball up out of the hole.”

Tears flowed again after Collin Morikawa, Wolff’s long-time friend and Sunday’s playing partner, missed a 25-footer for an eagle of his own that could have forced a playoff. Wolff hugged Lohmeyer, burying his face in his caddie’s shoulder, and both men cried.

“He was just telling me how proud of me he was,” Wolff said. “And it’s something that we talked about since the beginning of the week just being myself and I didn’t really say much because I was crying.

“But just all the work that he’s done has been really helpful and I really appreciate everything … and I’m looking to a great future with him.”

And that future has changed dramatically for Wolff, who now has his PGA TOUR card until the end of the 2020-21 season and a ticket to the FedExCup Playoffs.

As recently as last week when he missed the cut at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, the Californian remembers sitting in his hotel room wondering if he’d made the right decision leaving Oklahoma State after his sophomore season to turn pro. He didn’t feel comfortable with his game. Seemed like everyone was shooting 20, 25 under and he wondered if he was good enough.

Wolff even saw a tweet earlier this week where someone had taken a picture of his TOUR finishes, implying he was overrated. Tied for 50th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open when he was still an amateur. Tied for 80th at the Travelers Championship in his pro debut and last week’s missed cut.

Instead of getting mad, though, Wolff used the slight to his advantage.

“There’s always people who are going to go out there and put you down a notch,” he said. “There’s always people who will go out there and tell you you’re the best player in the world.

“I think that kind of motivated me a little bit, but at the end of the day it’s all talk and what you believe is the most important thing and who you have around you is the most important.”

One of those people is OSU assistant coach Donnie Darr, who texted Wolff on Saturday night after he seized a share of the lead with Morikawa and DeChambeau. Darr reminded Wolff that he won six tournaments over the previous six months – more than anyone in the field at the 3M Open — and to draw on that experience in the final round.

“He was pretty much telling me, he goes, ‘You can do it.  Your winning is no different at any level, it’s about being in that moment, it’s about handling it, staying calm, staying present,’” Wolff remembered.

“That kind of hit with me.  You know, I know how to win, I know how to seal the deal and I live for moments like that putt or those clutch moments where you have to step up to the stage.  And that’s what I did.

“It was awesome.”

2019 Qualifiers for majors, THE PLAYERS, WGCs

As the swells slows in how the field for The Open Championship nears capacity, there’s no less intensity in who’s gaining entry. And who isn’t.

The Dubai Duty Free Irish Open was the only tournament last week that’s part of The Open Qualifying Series. The top three, not otherwise exempt, inside the top 10 earned exemptions at Royal Portrush.

Bernd Wiesberger (T2), Robert Rock (T4) and Paul Waring (T7) swiped the berths. The trio is a combined 8-for-15 in The Open with one top-15 finish (Rock, T7, 2010). None qualified last year.

Two-time major champion Martin Kaymer finished T9 at Lahinch Golf Club on Sunday. He was the first on the outside looking in as he’s not yet exempt into The Open.

The 34-year-old German has qualified for every major since the 2008 Masters, so his last chance to extend the streak rests on his performance at this week’s Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open. (Incidentally, Kaymer played in all but one of the majors for which he qualified. He skipped the 2017 PGA Championship due to a sore left shoulder.)

With the focus of The Open limited to the goings-on in Ireland, the inaugural 3M Open was not included in the OQS, so first-time champion Matthew Wolff will have to win or finish better than everyone else inside the top five who isn’t already exempt at this week’s John Deere Classic to reserve a seat on the charter flight to Royal Portrush.

Wolff, Kevin Tway (Safeway Open), Adam Long (Desert Classic) and Max Homa (Wells Fargo Championship) are the only winners of PGA TOUR events this season who aren’t exempt into The Open but who are eligible for the World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational.

The special update to this page on July 4 added the 12 local qualifiers determined on four sites early last week, but it didn’t include a pair of European Tour members who joined the 156-man field prior to that. Those unannounced exemptions went to Mikko Korhonen and Andrea Pavan, both of whom will be making their Open debuts this year.

Korhonen, 38, was 86th in the Official World Golf Ranking when it was used to exempt the top 50 as of May 26. That edition was invoked again on June 26 to exempt another 14 in order outside the top 50. At the time, Corey Conners (82nd) was the worst-ranked listed in the press release. Then and now, Korhonen easily is Finland’s highest-rated talent, so he gives the country a lone representative in the major.

Pavan, a 30-year-old from France, was 124th in the OWGR on May 26. It wasn’t until after he won the BMW International Open and rose to 83rd on June 23 that the R&A extended an invitation.

Sleeper Picks: John Deere Classic

Harold Varner III … All you ever needed to know about his spirit was realized in the wake of a closing 81 at the PGA Championship where he settled for a share of 36th place but admitted enjoying just being on the scene for the experience. In the context of the opportunity lost, it didn’t hurt that his 2019-20 card was locked up months ago. Currently 85th in points, his most recent of eight top 25s this season was a T21 at the Travelers Championship where he ranked seventh strokes gained: putting and fifth in scrambling. Amid a heater en route to a solo sixth at last year’s JDC, he missed on only three of 71 attempts inside 10 feet.

Vaughn Taylor … Continues to flourish at 43 years of age. He’s 6-for-6 with three top 20s since the Wells Fargo Championship. Finished fourth three weeks ago at TPC River Highlands where he paced the field in proximity to the hole and ranked second in putting: birdies-or-better. Sits T9 on TOUR in proximity, fifth in strokes gained: putting, fifth in red numbers (49) and T4 in sub-70s (T37). And since his debut at TPC Deere Run in 2004, he’s 8-for-12 with four top 20s. His scoring average in his last eight loops around the track is 68.125.

J.T. Poston … Still having trouble finding the handle in final rounds, but the third-year talent out of Western Carolina University puts himself in position often enough that he’s bound to connect at some point. His most recent bit of unfinished business stung him in his last start at the Rocket Mortgage Classic two weeks ago. After sitting alone in second place through 54 holes, he stumbled home in 73 to finish T11. In his two previous appearances at TPC Deere Run, he’s beaten par in each of the first three rounds but closed with 73 both times. One of these days, something he throws against the wall is going to stick and it might as well be a spot where he keeps coming back for more.

Dominic Bozzelli … Because he’s navigating just his third season on the PGA TOUR, the 28-year-old can’t be labeled as a horse for a course just yet, but TPC Deere Run is first in line if he reaches the stable. Both of his appearances resulted in top 25s and his scoring average in those eight rounds is 68.00. The only other event at which he’s recorded multiple top 25s (of seven others in all) is the Desert Classic where he has a pair of fifth-place finishes. And why not? The correlation between the two events is a shootout and he can roll it with the best of ’em. Currently ninth on TOUR in strokes gained: putting and 12th in putting: birdies-or better.

Dylan Frittelli … The 29-year-old has been feeling the heat all season. While 153rd in the FedExCup and under pressure to secure conditional status as a safety net for next season, there have been rumblings of late that he’s ready to pop. After a T46 in Detroit, he sat T9 entering the final round in Minnesota, only to plummet to another T46 with a Sunday 73 due to a tee-to-green game that abandoned him. Yet, he ranked 13th in strokes gained: tee-to-green for the week and he’s 41st on TOUR in the stat this season. So, he might be close and he has the bonus of being able to tap into the experience of a pair of European Tour victories just two years ago.

INKSTER’S CAPTAIN’S BLOG: CRUNCH TIME FOR TEAM USA

The great thing about being Solheim Cup captain is looking up at a leaderboard at a big tournament and seeing a bunch of your players doing really well. The difficult thing is when some names have popped up that you weren’t thinking about at the beginning of the year.

That’s a blessing because I have an embarrassment of riches to choose from and it’s a curse because with only two captain’s picks it makes my job harder. What I saw at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship thrilled me because of the talent at my disposal and it chilled me because I know some very deserving players will be left off of Team USA.

Take a look at the final leaderboard at Hazeltine National. Nelly Korda was T-3 with Lizette Salas and Danielle Kang at T-5. Megan Khang was T-10 with Brittany Altomare, Lexi Thompson, Brittany Lang, Angel Yin, Jessica Korda, Lauren Stephenson and Sarah Schmelzel all in the top-26.

That’s a very strong showing by the red, white and blue. If you look at the top five of my eight automatic qualifiers off the points list they are all playing very well: Lexi, Nelly, Danielle, Jessica and Lizette. Nelly, Lizette and Danielle grinded it out to the very end at the KPMG. And those top five are players I can pair with anyone in any format – alternate shot or four-ball.

My next three – Megan Khang, Marina Alex and Brittany Altomare – all made the cut as did Cristie Kerr and Angel Yin, who are the two closest players outside the top eight. As of now, Yin and Austin Ernst would be the two qualifiers off the Rolex Rankings to join the eight points qualifiers.

When it comes to captain’s picks, Stacy Lewis and Gerina Piller are a bit behind on both points and the Rolex Rankings because they missed time to start their families. But they have certainly played well enough in their returns to get my attention.

And two players who weren’t on my radar at the beginning of the year but are now are Ally McDonald and Kristen Gillman. Gillman is a good driver of the golf ball and a good putter and would be awesome in alternate shot.

I like everything about Ally and I think both of them would be great additions to the team room. When I am making my picks I have to factor in things like experience versus youthful energy and I have to consider who would play well in the various formats – alternate shot, four-ball and singles.

I also have to think about who will be able to handle the pressure of playing a road game. It’s going to be really hard playing overseas. The fans are going to be loud and loyal behind Europe and I need to find players who can handle that situation. It takes a special player who can take the cheers for her opponent and turn them to something that motivates her and not distract her.

The next couple of months will teach me a lot. Over the seven tournaments before qualifying ends I will see who performs well under pressure, especially since we have a couple of more majors coming up at The Evian Championship and the AIG Women’s British Open.

What you want to see as captain is not only who is playing well but also who is playing like they want to be on the team. I loved the way Nelly, Lizette, Danielle and Megan were grinding on Sunday at the KPMG.

I have played in the Solheim Cup nine times and this is my third time as captain. Let me tell you this: It never gets old. I loved playing in the Solheim Cup; I’ve loved being captain and I love being around this event. There is something about team golf that really amps things up.

And I love the way my team is shaping up. The problem is, I will have more players who deserve to be on the team than I will have spots available. Always, that is the most difficult part of being captain – calling those players who played well enough to be going to Scotland but won’t make the trip.

As much as the next two months are crunch time for my gals trying to earn a spot on Team USA, it will also be crunch time for me. What I know is this: I’m going to have 12 players who want to win the Solheim Cup and they will be going up against a dozen from Europe who feel the same way. And that’s what makes this so much fun.