Solheim Cup Part 2 – The Preview

Just as we promised, we’re back here at The Hackers Paradise for part two of our Solheim Cup coverage, last week in part one we talked about the history of the event and also filled you in a little bit on the unparalleled passion that the ladies of the Solheim Cup posses. Now in part two we’ve actually got some teams to talk about, we’ll take a closer look at the players who have earned their spots and breakdown each side’s chances of winning the 2009 Solheim Cup. In 2007 it took a furious charge in the day three singles matches to make it back to back wins for the USA; finally victorious on foreign soil for the first time since 1996 and only the second time in Solheim Cup history. We’re back on American turf again where the ladies of the USA have yet to lose, so will it be a three-peat? One thing is for sure, Captain Alison Nicholas will have her girls ready to give the American squad everything they can handle, we’ll see if it’s going to be enough for the European team to break the skid and take the cup back over the pond with them.
Because they are the visitors, let’s start with a look at the European squad. Captain Alison Nicholas is a former US Open champion who has competed in six Solheim Cups as a player and serving as Assistant Captain in each of the last four times. Captain Nicholas feels that nothing matters more than communication with her players, a good solid philosophy shared by successful Ryder Cup captains Bernhard Langer and Ian Woosnam, both of which Alison Nicholas was reportedly planning on visiting with prior to the Solheim Cup. Nicholas will be joined by Assistant Captains Joanne Morley and Liselotte Neumann.

Playing for Captain Nicholas and Team Europe in the 2009 Solheim Cup will be three rookies; Tania Elosegui 27, Diana Luna 26, and 22 year old Anna Nordqvist who made the team as a captain’s selection after winning the McDonald’s LPGA Championship back in June. Rookies aren’t always a bad thing to have in team cup action, some believe that these ladies come in with a fresh slate, no history one way or the other in the Solheim Cup and when your team is behind 3-7 in overall, perhaps some young inexperience is exactly what you need to turn things around and get back in the “win” column. With three rookies on the squad don’t for one minute think the Europeans aren’t otherwise stacked with experience, every other player (with the exception of Becky Brewerton 1) has multiple Solheim Cup experiences. Leading the way is Laura Davies who has played in every single Solheim Cup contested and is just one point behind Annika Sorenstam in overall points won. In case you want more experience yet, how about Helen Alfredsson who is making her 8th appearance, yes that is the same Helen Alfredsson who captained the 2007 squad! Who makes a team after they had previously captained the thing? Well we’ve never seen it in Solheim Cup history, just think this would be like seeing Paul Azinger qualify for next year’s Ryder Cup….guess what, that’s not going to happen! I don’t mean to continue to go around and around on the experience thing, but incase Alfredsson and Davies didn’t have enough for you, also throw in there Sophie Gustafson who has played in every Solheim Cup since 1998. Between these three ladies the Europeans are rolling out a combined 23 years and an overall accumulative record of 39-38-12. That’s mind boggling experience!

Rounding out Team Europe are plenty of average experienced Solheim Cup veterans as well. Recent RICOH Women’s British Open Champion Catriona Matthew, who will be making her 5th appearance and was one of the bright spots on the 2007 team going a combined 3-1-0 in her matches, will be joined by another very successful Jodie Moodie who currently sports a very impressive 6-1-1 Solheim Cup mark. Rounding out the team will be leading point getter Gwladys Nocera, Maria Hjorth, the aforementioned Becky Brewerton, and LPGA star Suzann Petterson, who is currently at No. 6 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings. I must have mentioned to word experience a few times in that rundown of the European players, even with three rookies the team more than makes up for that inexperience by rolling out a team that has certainly seen their share of ups and downs in Solheim Cup play. I don’t expect they’ll be easily rattled and I think most would agree that there seems to be a great mix of fresh faces and veteran experience to give this version of the European team their best shot yet at winning on enemy soil.

Now you know that the American team will be as ready and fired up as ever to take on their European counterpart in the 2009 Solheim Cup… without further ado, let’s take a look at who will strapping on the Red, White, and Blue to try to make it three straight. Captaining the girls from the US will be Beth Daniel, like Alison Nicholas, Daniel has been around the Solheim Cup in the recent past in the form of an Assistant Captain now takes her turn at trying to ensure that the American team continue the dominance in the bi-annual event. Beth Daniel has a pretty solid Solheim Cup record herself; she’s tied with Meg Mallon for the most Solheim Cup experience by an American. Oh, speaking of Meg Mallon, she’ll be joining the festivities as an Assistant Captain along with Kelly Robbins. Sounds like we’ve already got a great leadership team, but as we know, that doesn’t always equate to an automatic win in international team competition. It remains to be seen if Daniel and her assistants are able to get the most out of the ample amount of talent the players on her team have. Let’s take a closer look at those players now.

Leading the way in points over the last two years is eight time LPGA Tour winner Paula Creamer. At 22, Creamer will be making her 3rd straight Solheim Cup appearance and currently has a very formidable mark of 5-1-4 to her credit. Cristie Kerr came in next, she has 12 titles to her name including 1 major (07 US Women’s Open). Kerr is now a 4 time veteran of the Solheim Cup and has an overall record of 7-9-1. Joining Creamer and Kerr are fellow 2007 Solheim Cup winners Angela Stanford, Nicole Castrale, Morgan Pressel, Brittany Lincicome, Natalie Gulbis, and captain selection for 2009 Juli Inkster. Inkster seems to be the US squad’s answer to Laura Davies of the Euro team; Inkster will be looking to break her tie with Meg Mallon as the top point earner for the Americans in Solheim Cup history. While Inkster might not have been the obvious choice as far as points are concerned, she certainly will help out in all important experience factor, just like the European team, the Americans look to have plenty of experience, a slight difference being that many of the American girls have experience in only winning the Solheim Cup.

Just like Europe, the American squad has three rookies in the 2009 Solheim Cup. Kristy McPherson made the team on points thanks to a couple of T2 finishes early this season and was one of the few bright spots for the American girls at the RICOH Women’s British Open where she finished 7th. Brittany Lang is another one of the rookies who made the team based on her 7th place finish in the points list. Lang earned those points by playing steadily with 3 top 10 finishes this year coupled up with the fact that she didn’t miss a single cut all season. By my count that makes 11 players….any guess who the 12th might be? I’ll give you a hint, she’s 6’ tall, 19 years old, and is currently in her rookie LPGA season.

Michelle Wie was selected by Captain Daniel to round out the 2009 Solheim Cup squad, Wie hasn’t yet won a tournament on the LPGA tour but she was selected based on some pretty strong finishes despite not winning. Wie has five top 10 finishes in her first season and nearly made the team on points while having half the amount of time to earn points as many of her fellow LPGA tour members, she finished 13th in the final points standings. Seems everyone has an opinion one way or the other when it comes to Wie making the squad, she hasn’t proven herself on the LPGA tour, she has never won, she is this, she is that….of all those things she is, the one thing that stands out is that she is destined to be a star on this tour and very soon.

There they are, a rundown of all the players on both teams, surely one of the teams has to stand out as the eventual victor. Who will Captain Beth Daniel pair up with Michele Wie; will she mesh well with the rest of the team who certainly without a doubt has earned the right to be there? Will Dottie Pepper call the girls a “bunch of choking freaking dogs” again? Um, no and sorry I brought that up, but after all, it did happen and I am just doing my job reporting what I see. Experience wise I definitely see the European team with the advantage, having ladies like Helen Alfredsson, Sophie Gustafson, and of course Mrs. Solheim Cup herself Laura Davies all on the same team is definitely more experience than you can even dream of. However in this case experience doesn’t always make a team better, after all, the experience these Europeans ladies have that likely haunts them is the experience of never winning a Solheim Cup contested on American soil. That and losing seven of the ten Solheim Cups, regardless of where they’re contested. Ok, I’m tired of talking experience, so the question is “Who’s going to win?” I hate to sound like a homer, but Beth Daniel and her American girls are going to make it three in a row at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill. You want more proof, fine I’ve got more reasons for you right here:

• The United States have never lost on home turf.

• The Americans have eight players ranked top 30 in the world rankings.

• Juli Inkster and her 14-8-5 overall record, her 7 previous cups, and her 16.5 points will not be denied.

And your 4th reason….Michelle Wie! Like it or not, I’m telling you, she is going to be a force to be reckoned with at the 2009 Solheim Cup. I predict that Wie finishes no worse than 3-1-1 in her Solheim Cup debut. In a Solheim Cup with an overwhelming amount of experience involved it’s funny to me that a 19 year old is going to be the developing story and lasting figure of the event when it’s all said and done. Consider this the passing of the torch in American Solheim Cup history, as Juli Inkster becomes America’s all time points winner she’ll be helping to usher in a new era, an era which Michelle Wie will become a staple for years to come. The 2009 Solheim Cup is about to turn into the launching pad for Michelle Wie’s career, you heard it here first!

Here is to keeping on the short grass

Jason K.

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Jason Kunze
Jason is a busy husband and father of 2 daughters who are both just starting to take up the game that he has loved for years. Golf is his passion, when Jason is not playing golf and testing equipment he's hanging out with all his friends on the THP forum discussing every aspect of this great game.
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