Michelle Wie will attempt to help the U.S. win a fourth straight Solheim Cup this weekend in Ireland.
Peter Morrison/AP
Monday, December 05, 2011

At his press conference Tuesday, Luke Donald was asked what he would do with $11.4 million if he were to win this week's Tour Championship — that's $1.4 million to the champion, plus the FedEx Cup's $10 million first-place bonus.

"My coach, I'm sure, will get a percentage of something," he said. "But I'm not really thinking about the money. I'm really more concentrating on winning the tournament, picking up another trophy, winning the FedEx Cup, hopefully winning 'Player of the Year' that comes with it — all the spoils that come with it."

At one of Team USA's press conferences Tuesday, Christina Kim was asked to describe her most memorable moment playing the Solheim Cup, the biennial match between the U.S. and Europe that starts Friday at Ireland's Killeen Castle .

"Every moment of every Solheim is spellbinding, and it rips your heart out," said Kim, who will be playing in her third Cup, and first overseas. "I remember my first Solheim, my first match, everyone was like, 'If you want to puke, go puke.'"

Welcome to the week in golf, a week in which the LPGA's offering, with no prize money, is 11.4 million times more compelling than the PGA Tour's grand finale. The Solheim Cup is so deeply felt, and the Tour Championship is so much about the money, the effect is to highlight the deficit of meaning in the men's game. PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said Tuesday the Tour has achieved absolute parity, a comment that, when posted on the Tour's website, elicited comments like "Parity is boring," "Parity is mediocrity," and "Where is our next Tiger already?" At the very least, parity muddles the race for PGA Tour Player of the Year, which could still go several different ways depending on what happens in Atlanta.

Donald is fourth in FedEx points, but would seem to have the best chance at taking home the $10 million bonus, since he finished runner-up to Jim Furyk (who didn't make the cutoff for East Lake) at last year's Tour Championship. A win by any of the top five in FedEx points — Webb Simpson, Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose, Donald, Matt Kuchar — guarantees that player the FedEx Cup trophy. Other players, like No. 14 Phil Mickelson, would need a victory at East Lake and some help from the guys atop the FedEx table to bank the $10 million bonus.

It's safe to say the audacious sum in the balance at Atlanta's East Lake Golf Club has not had the effect the Tour intended when it devised the FedEx Cup five years ago. The average fan can't relate to that much money, unless that fan has won the Powerball. But if that fan ever played a team sport or felt an ounce of patriotism, he or she can instantly relate to the Solheim, even if it's all the way over in Ireland, northwest of Dublin, where Kim, Michelle Wie and Angela Stanford were asked about their bus breaking down en route to the team's hotel.

"We were on the road," Kim said. "We had just put some music on. I think it was 'Born in the USA' was playing, and it was playing pretty loud. And we heard a slight beep, beep, beep for a while, and then we assumed that the driver was not driving well. We turned the volume down and the beeping got louder. We were very fortunate that we had a secondary bus that was taking our luggage that was there for us, and we just hopped right off, hopped right on and off we went."

Wie: "Got in between the suitcases."

Kim: "Got into the room, checked in, went to the course and putted. [Wie] worked out. Angela organized. Easy day. It's fixed now."

Among the items in the U.S. team room: a rubber duck with an American flag on it, a poster of Morgan Pressel made to look like Mel Gibson in Braveheart, and several motivational chestnuts. ("You miss 100% of the shots you don't take.")

Europe has not won the Solheim since 2003, but this could be the year for captain Alison Nicholas and her team to snap the U.S. win streak. Europe's Suzann Pettersen won the Sybase Match Play earlier this year, defeating Cristie Kerr in the final. Europe's Melissa Reid is coming off a victory at the Ladies European Tour's Open de Espa?a. Captain's pick Caroline Hedwall, 22, has three LET victories in 2011. Said Stanford, who is playing in her fourth Solheim, "This is the most consistent team I've faced top to bottom. They're solid, and they're at home."

Short game: Jay Don Blake's victory at the Champions Tour's Songdo IBD Championship in Korea, where he beat John Cook with a birdie on the fifth extra hole, was Blake's first W since the 1991 Shearson Lehman Brothers Open in San Diego — a span of 424 starts . ... En-Joie Golf Club, host of the Dick's Sporting Goods Open and the discontinued B.C. Open on the PGA Tour, remains flooded and closed indefinitely after the Susquehanna River overflowed in the wake of Tropical Storm Lee. ... Harris English and Russell Henley, the University of Georgia golfers who each won as amateurs on the Nationwide Tour earlier this season, will make their professional debuts at the Nationwide's Soboba Golf Classic in San Jacinto, Calif. ... Padraig Harrington says he will implement new swing changes he's been making with coach Pete Cowen at this week's Austrian Golf Open on the European Tour. Others in the field include John Daly, 45, who missed the cut at last week's Albertson's Boise Open on the Nationwide.

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