INKSTER GOING FOR HISTORIC THREE-PEAT
Since she was named a three-time Team USA captain in January 2018, Juli Inkster has been preparing to lead 12 American women to the goal of winning a third consecutive Solheim Cup. That week has finally come and Inkster is ready for her team to finally take to Gleneagles.
“I think the golf course is in great shape. I know you guys have had a ton of rain. It's drained well. The greens are awesome,” said Inkster. “There's a lot of risk/reward holes out there. It's a great match-play golf course. I think it's a good second-shot golf course. And the greens are tricky. So I think you're going to see a lot of birdies; I think you'll be very impressed with both sides of golf.”
Inkster previously led the USA to victory in Germany in 2015 and Iowa in 2017. Should the Americans regain the Cup on Sunday, she would become the first captain in Solheim Cup history to helm three victorious teams. Inkster and Judy Rankin (1996 and 1998) are the only captains to lead two winning teams.
LEWIS STEPS ASIDE, MCDONALD STEPS IN
After injuring her back at the Cambia Portland Classic and working hard to rehabilitate over the last week, four-time Team USA member Stacy Lewis decided on Monday afternoon that she was not in condition to represent Team USA this week.
“I've had MRIs, X-rays, ultrasounds and we haven't really been able to pinpoint it. We think it's muscular but we don't really know. And it's something that when I'm walking around it doesn't really hurt but the rotation of the golf swing really just fires it up,” said Lewis. “I think it's one of those things it needs rest more than anything. I can't go out there to ‘try’ on Friday. It's not just fair to the teammates. And I don't want to put Juli and the girls into a situation where they've got 11 on Sunday, because that's – Sunday is the most important day of this entire week.”
It was a very emotional decision for Lewis, a player known for her stoicism on the golf course. While Lewis will remain with the team in an advisory capacity, the competitor in her is still crying out to take to the course.
“I was glad we didn't do this press conference yesterday because I don't think I could have gotten a word out,” said Lewis. “I've had time to process it and the team's been super supportive. The girls have been great. They've helped me a lot through it. It's just really, really disappointing because this is my favorite tournament we have. And that first tee, there's nothing like it. So I'm just disappointed I don't get to hit that shot. But I'll be watching.”
Stepping in to replace Lewis is Solheim Cup rookie Ally McDonald, a fourth-year LPGA Tour player who finished ninth in the USA Solheim Cup points standings, just one spot short of automatically qualifying for the team. Lewis has already been in McDonald’s ear, giving her advice about what she’ll face over the coming days.
“She just lended a hand on some of the approaches she's had through the years with alternate shot and kind of strategy with how to prepare, odds and evens,” said McDonald. “Yesterday, obviously, when kind of we had an idea what was going on, she was just giving me advice and telling me to take it in, same thing, Morgan (Pressel) said with all the rookies this year is just to take in every moment and embrace it. We're going to do our best to represent the United States and try to bring the trophy back.”
YIN LAUGHING THROUGH CLUB CHAOS
At least she has a good attitude about it. Angel Yin is still waiting on her golf clubs and personal suitcase to arrive at Gleneagles, now pushing 48 hours after she arrived in Scotland.
“I haven't been practicing,” said Yin, who joked that she most missed her shampoo and toothpaste. “I've been walking the course, making my preparations so when I get my clubs I will be ready to go out and play a practice round, practice and do everything that I need to do to prepare for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.”
Yin has been working closely with the on-site PING equipment staff. She is now equipped with a full set of temporary clubs despite the fact that she plays a mixed set of clubs.
“We got it all set up so we're ready to go,” said Yin, who is playing in her second Solheim Cup. “If the clubs come, the clubs come. If not, I still have a set to go and play in the tournament.”
Captain Juli Inkster has been guiding Yin through these frustrating few days. “It's been hard on her because she wants to get out there. She's 20. She wants to be out there and be with her teammates. She's a strong girl. She has her own clubs,” said Inkster. “But PING made her a set today. I think we've located them. So hopefully tomorrow she can get out there. And I think this course is pretty straightforward. It's not a lot of trickiness to it. I mean, you do have to have, for her, some lines off the tee that she's got to know because of her distance.”
EUROPEAN ROOKIES LOOK TO MATTHEW FOR GUIDANCE
Much has been made of the six rookies on the American squad, but the European team has a stout rookie crew of its own. Three rookies will be teeing up for Team Europe – Celine Boutier (France), Bronte Law (England) and Anne van Dam (Netherlands). First-time European Captain Catriona Matthew had been paying special attention to her trio of first-timers.
“We're just here to keep them loose, keep them relaxed. Once Friday comes it's stressful enough. You can try and tell someone who has never been on that first tee what it's like. But really until you get there and experience it for yourself, you don't know how you're going to react,” said Matthew, a nine-time Solheim Cup player. “Obviously we're just trying to help them and give them advice. But it's just one of these things you have to do. But they're all good players. They've played in big events. I'm sure they'll cope with it. I think just trying to tell them to enjoy it. If you don't enjoy this, you're doing the wrong thing.”
While all three players are competing in their first Solheim Cup, all three have already reached the winner’s circle during their professional careers. Boutier and Law became Rolex First-Time Winners on the LPGA Tour in 2019, with Boutier winning the ISPS Handa Vic Open and Law capturing the Pure Silk Championship. Van Dam has yet to crack the LPGA Tour winner’s circle, but she has four wins on the Ladies European Tour.
“I think the biggest thing is (Matthew and her vice captains) said you have to experience it yourself. They all have their tips or things they experienced, but they said for us everything is personal. So just go out there and experience yourself,” said van Dam, who currently leads the LPGA in driving distance at 284.148 yards. “We've all played major championships, won tournaments. So we know how to deal with pressure. Of course, the first tee is going to be like no other. The grandstand is huge, and it's going to be really loud. But I think we have to realize like probably 80 percent of those people sitting there are rooting for us.”