The 7 best things about this week’s Solheim Cup, ranked
Every week (pretty much) GOLF senior writer Michael Bamberger identifies — and ranks — the absolute, undeniably, very best* things in golf right now. In the space below, and coming at you for a second time this week, he’s honing in on the Solheim Cup. (*or at least mildly interesting)
The best think about this year’s Solheim Cup — the three-day women’s team event modeled on the Ryder Cup and starting on Friday at Gleneagles in Scotland — is that it gives us a chance to see Juli Inkster in action. Yes, the Hall of Famer is 59 and she’s not playing. She’s the U.S. captain for the third straight time and looking to go 3-0. But she is also one of the most underappreciated major figures in the game. Her TV work for FOX is excellent. (Candid and insightful.) Her swing is a study in repeatable funk. (She was second in last year’s U.S. Senior Women’s Open at Chicago Golf to Laura Davies, finishing 10 shots behind her and almost laughing about it.) And she just brings an incredible pure-jock, California spirit to everything she does. You could hand her a Ryder Cup team to run and she’d do great.
6. Memory Lane
One of the great things about these match-play team competitions is that the players get revealed in ways that they are not during stroke-play events. As Tom Lehman once said, “If we played match play every week, we’d be as bad as the tennis players.” In other words, in match play everything becomes more personal, and in team play you’re playing for something bigger and more important than yourself. The greatest example of this ever comes out of the 2000 Solheim Cup, at Loch Lomond, in Scotland.
On the last day, in a close competition, Kelly Robbins and Pat Hurst of the U.S. were playing Annika Sorenstam and Janice Moodie, who were one down going to 13. That’s when Annika, at the height of her powers, chipped in from 25-feet, to likely square the match. Except that Robbins, backed by her captain, Pat Bradley (Keegan’s aunt), required Sorenstam to play the shot again, because she had played out of turn. (Per the rules, they could have let it go.) Annika cried. Annika cried! Her mascara ran so much she looked like Gene Simmons in his Kiss prime after a hot show in Dallas, circa 1983. The Americans went on to win that particular match, suggesting that there may not be a god. But the Europeans won the Solheim Cup that year, proving that there is. It would have to be about the best example of poor sportsmanship in golf in history. Annika said then: “The whole team is disgusted. We all ask ourselves: Is this how badly they want to win the Cup?” Beautifully said, and the answer was obvious.
5. What’s in a name?
The major team competitions all have good names. The Walker Cup and the Curtis Cup. The Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup. But the Solheim Cup is the best of them. Solheim is the name of the family that owns Ping, but the Solheim Cup is really named for the founder, Karsten, the most inventive club-designer in golf history and a consistent supporter of women’s golf, professional and amateur.
4. Shine the light!
There are some pretty obscure players on both teams. Stacy Lewis had been one of Juli Inkster’s picks for the team, but she had to pull out three days before the start of the event with a cranky back and is being replaced by … 26-year-old Ally McDonald, a Cup rookie ranked 57th in the world. Annie Park, ranked 42nd in the world, and Megan Khang, ranked 45th, are also on the U.S. team. The best-known player on the European team is Suzann Pettersen — ranked 644th in the world! There are three rookie players for the Europeans and if you know their names — Bronte Law, Celine Boutier and Anne van Dam — you’re following the women’s game closely. But here’s the good news: everybody plays on Sunday, in singles, and most everybody is likely to play in alternate shot and better-ball on Friday and Saturday. That point you’re playing for, either with a partner or by yourself on Sunday? It’s going to count. Which means you have a chance to star. Team golf has a unique ability to raise the profile of any player. The Irishman Phil Walton, 1995 Ryder Cup, singles on Sunday against Jay Haas with the club on the line. He’s been a legend for about 24 years now, because of what he did that day, even though he made all of two cuts in two majors after it.
3. Sister act
Jessica Korda, 26, and her sister, Nelly, 21, are on the U.S. team together for the first time. They will certainly play together at least once. They might play together four times. Nelly Korda’s swing, for you kids out there, is about as good as a swing could be, a study in up-and-down simplicity, along the lines of what Louis Oosthuizen does, who is far shorter than she, demonstrating that good mechanics are good mechanics, regardless of body type. And she does it with a neutral grip. Mesmerizing.
Gleneagles is one of the most spectacular hotels in the world. Personally, I would not go to Scotland and play golf away from the coast, and there is nothing like seaside golf at Gleneagles. Still, it is distinctly old-world Scotland. One of the activities there is called Gundogs. Enjoy!
1. A picture is worth…
Take a look at these two team pictures. Based on that evidence, alone, isn’t it obvious what team will win?
Michael Bamberger may be reached at [email protected]