Beth Daniels plan may determine Solheim Cup winner

By Jay CoffinAugust 22, 2009, 4:00 pm
2009 Solheim CupSUGAR GROVE, Ill. ' Its been a good fight so far.
This 11th Solheim Cup began with talks of an American walkover, was met with excitement on the first tee Friday morning, hit a bit of a lull Saturday morning, but now has exploded into an outright slugfest.
Europe grabbed the point back that it lost on Day 1 and the matches are now tied at 8 on the eve of Sunday singles.
The Americans wont admit that theyre the overwhelming favorites but they are. They know it; Europe knows it.
Paula Creamer
U.S. captain Beth Daniel chose to sit Paula Creamer during the Saturday morning fourballs. (Getty Images)
Sure, Europe has two major champions on its roster (Catriona Matthew and Anna Nordqvist) but that doesnt equate to experience and depth. The cumulative world ranking of the Europeans is 946 compared with 330 for the Americans. The averages are 78.83 for Europe and 27.5 for the U.S. Natalie Gulbis is the lowest ranked American at No. 51; Europe has six players ranked lower than Gulbis, including Diana Luna at No. 191.
Lucky for the Europeans, this just so happens to be the year of the underdog, Exhibit A being Y.E. Yang last week at the PGA Championship.
The nitty-gritty numbers still suggest that U.S. will win singles and keep its record intact of winning every Solheim Cup on home soil. Europe has only ever won three singles sessions outright in 10 attempts and is a paltry 41-64-5 overall in 10 previous Cups.
We havent been that good over the years [in singles], European captain Alison Nicholas said. But we have nothing to lose. We have to go out and play our hearts out.
Thats what theyve done so far. If youd have told Nicholas that by Saturday evening her team would be tied and that unheralded Frenchwoman Gwladys Nocera (3-0) would have as many points as Matthew, Suzann Pettersen and Helen Alfredsson combined (2-6-2) shed have also believed that she was next in line to succeed the Queen of England.
But the facts are the facts and Europe has a chance to win this Cup because of Nocera, Nordqvist (2-1) and Maria Hjorth (2-1-1). If theyre going to take the next step, the aforementioned triumvirate of Pettersen, Alfredsson and Matthew ' Europe s three best and most experienced players ' must find a way to step it up.
Were all playing well, said Nocera, who shot 91-74 at the Womens British Open just three weeks ago. Were willing to win the Cup.
Meanwhile, U.S. captain Beth Daniels decision to hold out each team member at least one session has been debated to death. She feels that the golf course is difficult and long and that having each person more rested, they will all have fresher legs for singles.
The decision was more in question after the morning fourball session when Europe came out storming to a 2 - 1 victory with American stalwart Paula Creamer on the bench, which marked the first time shes ever sat out a session in two previous Solheim Cups.
Its very hard because I want to play as much as I can, said 23-year-old Creamer. But Im here for my team.
The philosophy has received jeers from critics who are quick to point out that Tiger Woods never has sat out a session in either a Ryder Cup or a Presidents Cup.
Daniel has, however, mostly received praise from her team. Cristie Kerr, the LPGAs leading money winner, sat out Friday afternoon foursomes after she made five birdies in morning fourballs but supported the tactic.
I think its a great decision, said Angela Stanford, a prime candidate to play all five matches. This golf course will wear you out. I know I was beat last night after two [rounds]. Its kind of nice to have a breather.
Daniel wont hit a shot Sunday but a lot of people, particularly Americans, may remember her as the one who helped win or lose this Solheim Cup. Itll all depend on whether her philosophy works, one that she says was complete Saturday evening when she turned in her singles lineup.
My job is done, Daniel said. Its up to them, theres not a lot more I can do.
If the first two days are any indication, whatever happens, itll be a good fight.
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