Plenty at stake playing for the flag and for a job
Whether it's playing for the flag in Iowa or playing for a job in North Carolina, the stakes are high this week in golf.
Nothing brings out the passion and pressure quite like a team competition between the United States and Europe, especially when the last edition of the Solheim Cup ended with such hard feelings.
The Americans staged a remarkable rally to win on European soil (Germany). The inspiration came from a debate whether Suzann Pettersen of Sweden should have been clearer with words and actions on conceding a short putt, and whether Alison Lee should learn not to pick up a golf ball unless she hears the opponent tell her.
Odds of repeat decreased because Lee didn't make the team and Pettersen withdrew this week with an injury.
But it's the Solheim Cup. It's rarely played without some acrimony.
The greatest pressure at the Wyndham Championship on the PGA Tour might not be near the top of the leaderboard. This is the final event before the FedEx Cup playoffs begin, and the math is pretty simple. The top 125 in the standings after this week advance to the playoffs and have full PGA Tour status for next season.
That's a big deal for Geoff Ogilvy at No. 125, especially because he used a one-time exemption from top 50 in career earnings to have full status this year.
Everyone from No. 120 through No. 128 is in the same predicament.
Also at stake this week: A spot in three majors for the U.S. Amateur champion if he chooses to stay an amateur.
The majors are over. The pressure is not.
The Solheim Cup dates to 1990 and there has never been a player who had to withdraw because of injury. Now there are two of them.
Jessica Korda pulled out right after she qualified for the team and was replaced by Paula Creamer, who had been left off for the first time since she was a teenage rookie in 2005. Then, Pettersen pulled out and was replaced by Catriona Matthew of Scotland, an assistant to European captain Annika Sorenstam.
But these matches, which start Friday at Des Moines Golf and Country Club, are about teams of 12 more than any one player.
If anything, the biggest stars are the captains. Juli Inkster already is 1 up over Annika Sorenstam in head-to-head competition. Inkster rallied to beat Sorenstam in 2002 to capture the U.S. Women's Open at Prairie Dunes .
Inkster won't hit a shot this week, though she can join Judy Rankin (1996, 1998) as the only captain of two straight Solheim Cup teams.
Only three of the top 15 in the world are in Iowa -- Lexi Thompson (2), Anna Nordqvist of Sweden (13) and Cristie Kerr (14). Creamer, checks in at No. 112. This is nothing new. It dates to the days of Se Ri Pak of South Korea and Karrie Webb of Australia. It also doesn't matter.
There's something about the pride of playing for a flag. Even if Gerina Piller had an LPGA Tour victory, barring a major it wouldn't be enough to replace that memory of her holing the most crucial putt in Germany at the last Solheim Cup.
Television: Friday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., 4-7 p.m. (Golf Channel); Saturday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Golf Channel), 4-6 p.m. (NBC). Sunday, Noon-4 p.m. (Golf Channel), 4-6 p.m. (NBC).
Sedgefield Country Club is the last chance for a lot of players for a variety of different goals.
Kevin Kisner, the 54-hole leader at the PGA Championship , says it's a course that gives him a great chance to win. Henrik Stenson wants to improve his standing in the FedEx Cup, but mostly the Swede wants to be sure he finishes the season with at least the minimum 15 tournaments required for membership.
The winners get to start the new year in Kapalua and go to the Masters in April. That's no different from most other PGA Tour events.
At the Wyndham Championship, the focus is as much on the FedEx Cup standings as the leaderboard. The best example of what can go wrong was three years ago, when Heath Slocum had a chance to win and instead three-putted for bogey, costing him a spot in the playoff and his PGA Tour card.
There are various levels of pressure -- the top 125 in the final FedEx Cup standings advance to the playoffs, the top 150 have conditional status next season and the top 200 can go to the Web.com Tour Finals to try to earn their card back.
Television: Thursday, 2-6 p.m. (Golf Channel); Friday, 2-4 p.m. (Golf Channel); Saturday-Sunday, 3-6 p.m. (CBS).
The U.S. Amateur is the second-oldest championship in the country, and it has not shortage of ability. All anyone talks about is the growing number of great young players on the PGA Tour, and they all started as amateurs.
The course will look familiar -- Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles, where Dustin Johnson won in February to reach No. 1 in the world. He played the U.S. Amateur twice and never got beyond the second round.
The winner and runner-up get into the Masters and U.S. Open next year (as long as they stay amateur), and the winner also gets into the British Open.
Television: Wednesday, 5-8 p.m. (FS1); Thursday-Friday, 6-9 p.m. (FS1); Saturday, noon-3 p.m. (Fox); Sunday, 4:30-7:30 p.m. (Fox).
Copyright 2017 by The Associated Press
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