How to Follow a Major – the Solheim Cup
Weâ€™ve had the men and womenâ€™s British Open this month, and ended up with the PGA Championship. Every major acted like a major, and we were shown great stories at each venue. With so many central events owned by all the tours, a new problem has arisen â€“ how to follow upÂ a big stroke play tournament that wonâ€™t suffer the fate of an anticlimax.
One excellent answer is to abandon stroke play for a week, to throw the golfing public a curve ball, and return to the sparse schedule of match play in several format variations. Match play, contrary to watching a field struggle against itself, is a spectacle of face to face competition with a touch of intercontinental rivalry, and the women do it very well with a bi-annual face-off between the U.S. and Europe.
Itâ€™s a successful formula, one which has been repeated twelve times, the thirteenth starting this week. The U.S. has won eight of the meetings, and has never been defeated on home soil. However, thereâ€™s a time for everything, and Europe is never to be taken lightly â€“ never.
For this yearâ€™s event, to be held in Parker, Colorado at the Colorado Golf Club, the U.S. team has earnestly sought out some top leadership, someone whoâ€™s been thereâ€¦and been there. Veteran leadership will be needed, as the team boasts several rookies, not entirely new to the tour, perhaps, but new to this strange match play potpourri that demands a different mentality and a different menu of tactics.
This yearâ€™s captain is Meg Mallon. Born in â€™63, Mallon entered the LPGA in â€™87. Her finest year was â€™91, in which she was victorious four times. She finished in the top ten money winners for nine years, and all in all, won 18 LPGA events, four of them majors.
Good enough, but the most important statistic of all is that she played on U.S. Solheim teams in â€™92, â€™94, â€™96, â€™98, 2000, â€™02, â€™03 and â€™05, serving as an assistant captain in â€™09. Mallon will have much to say to the rookies, and she has the record to say it with conviction.
With the U.S. holding the majority of wins, the team will still enter this yearâ€™s Solheim knowing that they were not the most recent winners. The Europeans were successful in Ireland, in 2011. The four rookies, who include Jessica Korda, Lexi Thompson, Lizette Salas and captainâ€™s pick Gerina Piller were chosen by various rating systems, as were the Europeans. Korda has the distinction of a successful record (2-0-1) in the Junior Solheim, and some impressive appearances on the tour this year. Lizette Salas has demonstrated consistency, elevating her to #19 in the world, and a recent contender in big events. Mallonâ€™s wisdom in choosing long-driver Gerina Piller will have to be trusted, and to one who follows it, the decision makes sense. Perhaps Mallon is dreaming of Pillerâ€™s substantial drives hitting fast fairways at an elevation making them hard to stop. Finally, thereâ€™s Lexi Thompson, who is there becauseâ€¦well, sheâ€™s Lexi Thompson.
In the past, the U.S. has relied on particularly strong match competitors like Paula Creamer, but these rookies donâ€™t show any apparent trepidation. Granted, the pressure is different. No matter where one is in the field, the spotlight will be on her, and winning or losing an individual match will be huge in terms of points. Thereâ€™s a type of player who relishes that, and on the home turf, the teamâ€™s chances look good.
But donâ€™t tell that to the Europeans. We canâ€™t see any trepidation over there, either, and everyoneâ€™s up for the Solheim, no matter what major just ended.