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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Reflections on the Solheim Cup, Part 2

4) Cristie Kerr is still the best female American golfer.
I know Michelle Wie had a huge week. I know Paula Creamer seems to be the poster girl for American golf. But if the game is on the line and I can have only one female player on my side, I want Cristie Kerr.

If Paula Creamer was the Arnold Palmer of the LPGA, Cristie Kerr would be Jack Nicklaus. She came out on tour when she was very young, before it was the popular thing to do. In her efforts to improve she completely changed her body, her game, and her image; and she did it through sheer willpower, not surgery. She continues to get better, finally winning a major in 2007. She’s had a tough year and yet, had a few holes gone differently, she would have won 2 of this year’s majors.

And in this year’s Cup, she came from behind in virtually every match to win. The only exceptions were her four-ball with struggling Nicole Castrale (even then they took the match to the 18th) and her tie in singles, where she conceded a birdie putt on the 18th after the Cup had been decided. If it's possible to win on willpower alone, she will. She is as tough as any player out there, but still has a sense of humor about herself. (She thanked Juli Inkster for making the team because it meant she wasn’t the oldest one anymore. Cristie is only 31.)

The young guns of the LPGA are going to have their hands full with Cristie Kerr, “old woman” or not.
5) Don’t write Juli Inkster off yet.
Yes, I heard the interviews and I know what she said. She said she was through with the Solheim Cup as a player. That’s what she said, yes sir, she did.

I don’t believe it for a minute.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I heard the reason Juli’s play has been off this year is because she’s making swing changes; specifically, that she’s trying to flatten her swing plane. A 49-year-old making swing changes? Does that sound like someone who’s thinking about not competing as much?

It doesn’t to me, either. Personally, I think she was just disappointed that she didn’t qualify for the team on points, and that she had to be a captain’s pick; and then they talked to her when she was understandably drained after some miraculous play with a less-than-sharp game.

Let me put it this way: Let’s see if she qualifies on points for the 2011 Solheim Cup. If she does but refuses to play, then I’ll believe she’s tired of playing in the Cup.
6) Anna Nordqvist is for real.
She won the 2009 LPGA Championship in just her fifth start on tour. It’s easy to write her off as a one-hit wonder, but Anna Nordqvist has a pedigree. She’s a member of both the LPGA and the LET, she won the LET Qualifying School last December, and then she stepped up last week as a Solheim rookie and held her own with the big guns. That’s not bad for a Tour rookie.

Despite being rather tall (6’, just an inch shorter than Michelle Wie), she doesn’t hit the ball much farther than Morgan Pressel. I suspect she’ll experiment with her equipment and do a little weight work, just as Annika did. While I won’t say she’s the next Annika, I do think she’s the next big Swedish player. (Emphasis on big.)
7) And finally, we have seen Europe’s new superstar, and she is… Catriona Matthew.
Becoming the first Scottish woman to win a major seems to have changed Catriona Matthew far beyond anyone’s expectations. She’s always had a solid, dependable swing, and she’s always been a good player. This Solheim performance wasn’t anything unusual; when she makes the team, she plays well.

Still, there was a noticeable difference this time. She just looked comfortable.

I’m not going to make any predictions about her, despite calling her a new superstar. But I’m going to be watching Catriona Matthew closely over the next year or so; I suspect her career is about to take a serious step forward.

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