When the European Solheim Cup team is finalized after this week’s Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open the host side in Scotland next month will likely have a much more experienced team than the United States, which determines its players after the CP Women’s Open ends Aug. 25. It truly is a changing of the guard for the Yanks.
Also becoming clear is the importance of the captain’s picks – four by Catriona Matthew for Europe and two by Juli Inkster for the U.S. team. Inkster, especially, will have to decide how much to value experience, which those players who are likely to qualify for the team have in very short supply.
Europe’s team came much more into focus after the AIG Women’s British Open at Woburn Golf Club. The three qualifiers as of now off the Ladies European Tour points list are Carlota Ciganda, Caroline Hedwall and Ann Van Dam. The five who qualify off the Rolex Rankings are Charley Hull, Georgia Hall, Azahara Munoz, Caroline Masson and Anna Nordqvist.
Those eight players, who appear to be a lock for Europe, have played in a combined 21 Solheim Cups. The 10 Americans currently qualified for the team have played in a combined nine Cups. That’s a startling difference.
Currently qualified off the points list for the Americans are Lexi Thompson, Nelly Korda, Danielle Kang, Lizette Salas, Jessica Korda, Marina Alex, Megan Khang and Brittany Altomare. Making the team off the Rolex Rankings would be Angel Yin and Austin Ernst.
Five of those ten would be Solheim Cup rookies, two more have only one appearance and the most experienced at handling the intensity of a Cup competition would be Thompson and Salas with three appearances each under their belt.
A certainty for one of Matthew’s four captain’s picks is Bronte Hall, who has not played enough LET events to qualify off the points list but is Rolex No. 25. Matthew also has experience she can tap if she wants to go that route in Mel Reid (3), Jody Ewart Shadoff (2) and Madelene Sagstrom (1). There are also Pernilla Lindberg, who won the 2018 ANA Inspiration, and Celine Boutier, winner of this year’s ISPS Handa Vic Open.
While the top five on the U.S. points list are safe and Nos. 6 and 7 are pretty safe, Altomare is only 7 points ahead of Ally McDonald for the eighth and final automatic spot. Cristie Kerr and Stacy Lewis are also in the hunt there. Yin at No. 33 appears safe as one of the two Rolex Rankings qualifiers but No. 41 Austin Ernst, No. 42 Annie Park, No. 45 Angela Stanford, No. 47 Amy Olson and No. 52 Morgan Pressel are all in the hunt for the second spot.
Here is the most staggering stat about Team USA. Right now NOT qualified to be on the squad are Kerr, Pressel, Lewis, Stanford, Paula Creamer, Brittany Lang, Gerina Piller, Michelle Wie, who’s injured, and Brittany Lincicome, who recently gave birth. Those nine have competed in a combined 50 Solheim Cups. That’s a lot of experience to have watching from the sidelines.
And that may mean Inkster will have to dip into that well of experience when she makes her two captain’s picks. Her team may also need a fiery leader. Kerr, with nine Solheim Cup appearances and a ton of attitude, fits the bill. So does Creamer with seven appearances and Pressel with five. Both of them bleed red, white and blue. And Pressel made a strong case for herself with a fourth-place finish at the AIG, closing 66-67 on the weekend.
“The only time it's on my mind is I wonder how long it's going to take somebody to ask me about it,” Pressel said after her round Sunday about whether she’s thinking Solheim cup.
“I was out here trying to win major championships," she said. "Solheim Cup, it is what it is. I haven't played particularly well over the last two years, but certainly fine now, and whatever happens, happens.”
There were very good signs for both teams at the AIG where Salas, Pressel, Nelly Korda, Thompson, Alex and McDonald all finished in the top-21 for the Americans while Boutier, Ciganda, Nordqvist, Masson and Hull did the same for Europe.
At Des Moines in 2017, Europe had an inexperienced team that ran into an American squad playing brilliant golf and riding the emotions of large, supportive home crowds. The roles could be reversed Sept. 13-15 at Gleneagles in Scotland. Certainly, it seems as if Inkster has the much more difficult captain’s picks, especially since she only has half as many as Matthew.
The one thing we know for certain is that the Solheim Cup brings with it a truly special intensity. On Monday, we will know the team Europe will send. After the CP Women's Open we will get the America squad. Then it will be time to tee it up and play some golf in one of the game’s great events.