With two captains different in personality and style, it should come as no surprise that Juli Inkster and Annika Sorenstam chose different ways to build their respective Solheim Cup teams.
Juli Inkster was successful in 2015 by relying on similar system used by Paul Azinger in 2008 at Valhalla, in administering personality tests to group like-minded players into pairs and pods. It paid off for Inkster, as it did for Azinger, and Team U.S.A. overcame a 10 - 6 deficit to clinch the cup for the first time since 2009. Inkster, again this year, is putting a premium on personalities to decide the two captains picks she’ll add to her eight automatic qualifiers, which will be finalized on Sunday following the Ricoh Women’s British Open.
“Everybody got along great. Everybody knew who they were playing with or who they were potentially playing with. There was no question marks,” Inkster said Thursday during a call with the media. “Everybody has taken a personality test, and probably in the next week or so, I'll get together with my gal and we'll map out some strategies.”
That’s not to say their game doesn’t play a part. In fact, how players on the bubble like Mo Martin, Brittany Lincicome, Angela Stanford and Lizette Salas are playing right now weighs heavily on who will make the team. Inkster wants players who are hot right now.
“It's not just personalities, but it's also golf potential and golf, how they match up golf ball-wise, how they match up player-wise, skill-wise,” said Inkster. “But I did a lot, probably 75 percent on personalities last year and 25 percent on golf. And probably maybe do, see if I can do maybe 50/50 this year, because everybody kind of knows the system now, which helps.”
For Inkster it’s about finding the best two players that play well together the week of the Solheim Cup, not stats. And it’s just the opposite for Sorenstam, who is the first European captain to use a stats-based system to build her team.
“I'm very strategic. Some people think I'm very analytic. I use that a lot,” Sorenstam said during Thursday’s call. “As a matter of fact, we are using a stats program for the first time that keeps track of every player's performances, and we compare them to each other, of course. But then also gives you recommendation of pairings.”
The biggest challenge for Sorenstam this year has been making sure her team gets the reps they need. With a limited schedule on the Ladies European Tour, players like Georgia Hall and Florentyna Parker, who lead the LET Solheim Cup point standings, traveled around the world to find events to get their game ready for the matches. Consider that one piece of the puzzle. Then, having not competed during the same years as Hall or Parker, Sorenstam focused on getting to know them.
“I think being a good captain is to know your team, and I know that sounds very obvious, but how do they react and how do they want to be approached, what makes them tick, and how can I, together with a leadership team, how can we inspire these players just by knowing them.”
Sorenstam is considering 16 players for the four captains selections she’ll make to round out her squad. Players vying for a position on both teams can earn points at this week’s Marathon Classic, next week’s Ladies Scottish Open and Ricoh Women’s British Open.
What both captains have in common is when they’ll have to decide.
In 17 days. Not that anyone’s counting.