Team U.S.A. needs Michelle Wie and Paula Creamer.
The two American stalwarts in the Solheim Cup have earned 21 points for their team, helping lift Team U.S.A. to a trio of victories between 2005 and 2009. But the duo have been the subjects of uncertainty heading into this year’s matches with Wie battling a series of injuries throughout the season and Creamer’s lackluster play this year left her out of automatic qualifying for the first time in her career. Well aware of what was at stake for her team at the prospect of losing two critical members of Team U.S.A., captain Juli Inkster kept a close eye on the pair throughout the season.
Since May, Wie has battled bursitis in her hip and an injury to her ankle, resulting in withdraws from the Kingsmill Championship and RICOH Women’s British Open as well as three missed cuts. Last week’s Evian Championship put Inkster at ease, where Wie quieted critics by finishing T-16 for her third top-20 finish of the season.
“I played last week with no pain, knock on wood. And this week, too,” Wie told the media in Germany. “Every day I’ve been really diligent about my rehab routine. That has been my number one priority. And I have a good routine going. I feel great as soon as I check off all of that stuff. And I feel great.”
Throughout the season Wie was visibly struggling to walk the golf course, particularly showing pain when climbing the slightest of hills, lending to the argument that there was no physical way Wie would be able to play 36-holes in one day of the Solheim Cup matches. But Wie again silenced naysayers after successfully navigating the Evian Resort Golf Club, an undulating course nestled between the Alps and Lake Geneva.
“Before Evian, I made sure I played 36-holes one day, just to see,” said Wie. “I talked to Juli, I’m like, I’m good to go, you can play me as many or little as you want. Juli wants me to play five matches, I’m good to go.”
“She feels 100 percent,” said Inkster. “She played last week the Evian, and how hilly that golf course is, and a lot of side hills, angles. She said she felt great starting it, and when she got done she felt fine, too.”
With the question of Wie’s health appearing to have been answered, the focus has shifted to Creamer.
A mainstay for Team U.S.A., Creamer earned her way onto her first team as a rookie on Tour in 2005 and didn’t disappoint, with a record of 3-1-1 for the week. Her spirit and passion for the Solheim Cup is one that can’t be ignored, and one her fellow teammates couldn’t imagine playing without.
“I think we all wanted her on this team, there’s no question,” Morgan Pressel told the media Thursday. “She has a presence in the locker room. She leads by example, and the girls follow. I think it’s very important to have her on this team. I’m certainly excited she’s here.”
But it isn’t her desire that’s been called into question, but rather her game. Creamer was selected as a captain’s pick after failing to earn her way onto the team for the first time in her career. The pick has raised question since she missed cuts in each of the three events prior to her selection and has since failed to make the cut at last week’s Evian Championship. But Inkster doesn’t seem concerned, confident the Solheim Cup will once again bring out the best in Creamer.
“Match play is different,” said Inkster. “I think a lot of it is just confidence. Match play just seems to bring out the best in her. I’m not really worried about it. As far as me, she’s one of my 12 players, and I’m going to play her.”
“This week is so much fun for me,” Creamer said Thursday. “I love having partners. I love match play. It’s that format that brings out that fighter, that grinder that I have inside me.”
Creamer is confident her game is ready for the weekend, telling the media Thursday she put in some good practice in France. Teammates are echoing her sentiment, seeing glimmers of the player they’ve come to know and rely on during the Solheim Cup.
“I think she’s just putting in the work for sure,” Lizette Salas said this week. “I think we all just expect the Paula Creamer that you’ve seen in various Solheim Cups, just making clutch putts and making the shots that she needs to pull.”
“I actually played some with her in France and she was hitting the ball great, rolling it great,” said Brittany Lang. “When I played with her, I was very impressed. She was hitting it good, playing good, confident as ever. I think Paula will rise to the occasion.”
Team U.S.A. needs Creamer and Wie. Here’s to hoping the occasion brings out the best in both.