Paula Creamer’s heart trumps her current form.
That’s why Creamer joined Brittany Lang as the two captain’s picks named Monday to the U.S. Solheim Cup team that will meet the Europeans next month in Germany.
U.S. Solheim Cup captain Juli Inkster filled out her 12-woman roster in a Golf Channel telecast, naming Creamer to her sixth consecutive team despite Creamer’s struggles this year. Inkster named Lang to her fourth team.
“These are the two players that best fit what we’re trying to do,” Inkster told GolfChannel.com before going on the air Monday night.
Creamer, 29, created some angst Friday, missing the cut at the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open with team qualifying concluding, assuring that for the first time in her career she wouldn’t gain one of the 10 automatic roster spots. The fact that Creamer struggled to an 81, ensuring her third consecutive missed cut, caused much handwringing, but Inkster saw what others weren’t seeing. She saw what Creamer’s heart for the Solheim Cup means.
On Saturday near Vancouver Golf Club, site of the Canadian Women’s Open, Inkster and Creamer met for a heart-to-heart talk at “The Keg,” a restaurant bar in the area. They talked over a glass of wine, maybe two, Inkster said. For 90 minutes, they talked about golf, the Solheim Cup and life.
Inkster said she left feeling confident Creamer was the right choice to join Lang.
“I wanted to know where she was at mentally and physically,” Inkster said. “I went with my gut. I really believe in her. The team believes in her. I think she’s earned the right to prove herself, and I wanted to give her a shot to do that.”
Inkster heard everything she wanted to hear from Creamer.
“I feel like she’s not as lost as everyone thinks she is,” Inkster said. “She has a lot of confidence in herself, and that’s what I wanted to hear. I wanted to hear she still believes in herself. That was pretty much the deciding factor. There were no tears. No woe is me. She was very outspoken and very honest with me, and I felt like this could really turn her game around.”
Inkster knows better than anyone what Creamer means to the Solheim Cup. She teamed with Creamer six times as Solheim Cup partners early in Creamer’s career, going 3-2-1. Creamer is 12-6-5 in her five Solheim Cup appearances.
Inkster said separating her friendship from her captain’s role wasn’t difficult.
“Paula really made it easy on me,” Inkster said. “She knew she would be a controversial pick. She said, `You do what you have to do. It’s not going to hurt our friendship at all.’
“I don’t have Paula on the team because she’s a good friend of mine. I have Paula on the team because I think she will help the team.”
Creamer has struggled much of the last two seasons to reach the high standard she set in her first nine LPGA seasons. She won her 10th tour title early last year, claiming the HSBC Women’s Champions, but finished the year 22nd on the LPGA money list, the lowest finish of her career. Though she has shown flashes of regaining her best form this season, with three top-10 finishes, she’s 36th on the money list today.
Inkster sees potential parallels with Greg Norman picking Adam Scott on his International squad at the 2009 Presidents Cup. Scott was slumping back then, but he responded to Norman’s confidence in him. It proved a spark to Scott’s resurgence. Inkster can see the same thing happening with Creamer.
Creamer felt good about her conversation with Inkster, too.
“Juli obviously wanted to ask me where I was mentally, and how I was doing,” Creamer said. “I believe in myself. I told her I know you can count on me. It was just a very raw conversation. I felt like I told her everything and didn’t hold anything back, and same with her.”
Inkster said Creamer has strong support from players who qualified. That factored into the decision, too.
Inkster passed over Jessica Korda, Christina Kim, Mo Martin and Austin Ernst. Inkster said that was the toughest part of her role.
Lang, 30, is 5-4-2 in her three Solheim Cup appearances. She has had a solid summer, finishing sixth at the Meijer Classic and fifth at the Marathon Classic.
“I’m so thrilled and excited,” Lang said. “I’ve played well recently, and I’m just really honored Juli [and assistant captains] Wendy [Ward] and Pat [Hurst] had confidence in me.”
Eight Americans made the team off the final U.S. points list: Stacy Lewis, Lexi Thompson, Cristie Kerr, Michelle Wie, Brittany Lincicome, Morgan Pressel, Angela Stanford and Gerina Piller. Two Americans made it off the Rolex world rankings list: Alison Lee and Lizette Salas.
Eleven of the 12 Americans heading to Germany were part of that historic loss in Colorado two years ago, when the Europeans beat the Americans in a record 18-10 rout. It marked the first time the Americans lost on home soil and the first time they lost the cup twice in a row since the matches began in 1990. Europe defeated the Americans 15-13 in Ireland in four years ago.
“I think a lot of girls that were a part of that kind of have a chip,” Lang said. “We have been doing things a little differently. You can’t do things the same way and expect them to change. Juli, Pat and Wendy have a nice plan, nice setup, and are confident in what they’re doing.”