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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Some Final Thoughts on the Solheim Cup

Obviously, as an American I'm extremely pleased that the US team won the Solheim Cup on Sunday. But with all the controversy that surrounded it, I also have a few thoughts of my own.

2015 US Solheim Cup Team

First of all, it may surprise many of you that I don't really have a problem with Suzann using a little gamesmanship during the matches. While I personally wouldn't want to win using it, it's a valid technique that has been used for decades at the Ryder Cup and probably for centuries if you want to include all the informal matches that have been played since golf was invented. It's common practice in every sport.

I think there were two reasons that this instance caused so much controversy. The first is simply that Suzann wouldn't admit that's what she did. Regardless of your feelings about gamesmanship, you probably have a problem with dishonesty and, if you're ashamed to admit you play mind games, you probably shouldn't play them.

But the bigger problem is who became her target. Alison Lee made a rookie mistake, but that's the whole point. She WAS a rookie -- not just a Solheim Cup rookie, but she's in her rookie year as a pro. Bear in mind that she didn't even declare as a pro until after she successfully made it through Q-School last season, so she hasn't even been a pro for a full year. Using gamesmanship on a rookie like Alison simply comes across badly, and I suspect that's why it drew such harsh criticism from even European players like Laura Davies.

Credit Suzann for being the kind of woman who can honestly reflect on her actions and then ask for forgiveness. And she should get it too. We keep saying that we want our sport to teach values, and the ability to recognize that we're all human and that a sincere apology -- which Suzann issued Monday morning -- deserves to be accepted is definitely one of the values we want to pass on.

In case you missed it, Tripp Isenhour made a case on Golf Central that the official on the spot mishandled the whole affair and that The Decisions on the Rules of Golf would have allowed Alison's ball to be replaced and putted without penalty. Here's a link to the Monday Golf Central show if you'd like to hear what he said. The show began with the controversy and Tripp's explanation begins at around the 5:10 mark.

Of course, the whole situation pointed out a real danger of gamesmanship: The target may find new motivation in what he or she sees as a cheap trick and then lift his or her play as a result. Suzann may have won the point in that match, but the backlash likely caused the loss of several points in singles. If you saw the team huddle after it happened then you heard the team consoling Alison... and you heard Stacy Lewis tell the team to use it as motivation. If you're someone who likes to use gamemanship, that's a caveat you should take to heart.

Another thought: Juli Inkster was a Hall of Famer before, but she's going to be a legend now. Think about how Ben Crenshaw and Jose Maria Olazabal are regarded in Ryder Cup circles; Juli joins them as the only captains to coach their teams back from 6-10 deficits. The younger players already think she's amazing. Now, given her own record in Solheim Cup play, plus her seven majors and 30-something total wins, this is just going to raise her popularity to a level that borders on reverence.

Are there any US players whose careers may suddenly get a boost from this Solheim Cup? Gerina Piller and Lizette Salas are likely to get the "Solheim bump," coming through under pressure the way they did. Alison Lee might also, given how she rebounded from the controversy and won her singles match.But I wouldn't be surprised if Angela Stanford got a bump as well; she had the worst record coming in (3-11-3) but she's the one who took down Suzann by making two critical birdies on 15 and 16 after Suzann's run on 11, 13 & 14 squared the match.

Lexi Thompson was already playing well but her performance definitely gave her a new position as a leader on future teams. I don't know that it will have any immediate effect on her game but she should gain some confidence from this. And perhaps Stacy Lewis will look at her struggles in these matches and realize she's got to make some mental adjustments to her game -- I know she feels she needs pressure to perform but she's clearly putting more pressure on herself than is healthy. Her game is just too good for the results she's been getting lately.

As for the Euros, Karine Icher and Mel Reid should have taken some real encouragement from their play, and I think Anna Nordqvist and Carlota Ciganda are in the same situation as Lexi Thompson. I'm not sure how the losses Sunday will affect the rest of the team since they were so overwhelming that they may feel more like a blip in the road once the initial shock wears off.

Overall, a tight competition always helps an event like this. And after this incredible finish, the Solheim Cup should be a much bigger source of interest when 2017 rolls around.


  1. Cristie Kerr also had an outrageous week

  2. I agree, Phil, but I don't think it changes anything for her. Her leadership status was already established (and she knows it) and she's still winning on Tour (the Kia earlier this year). That's why I didn't mention her.

  3. Ironic though that Kerr yelled after hugging Woburn member Hull