Alternate Solheim Solutions


So American golf wakes up this morning to the sobering realization that the Ryder Cup belongs to the Europeans, the Solheim Cup belongs to the Europeans and the Walker Cup belongs to Great Britain and Ireland. This has never been the case before. Does it signal the end of American superiority in our sport?
But it does provide reason to take a measured pause. It was impossible not to be struck, watching the Solheim Cup matches, that the Americans had eight tries to win a foursomes (alternate shot) match and didn't convert on any of them. That's hard to do. The Americans did halve three of the eight foursomes matches. But the primary reason they entered Sunday's singles matches shouldering the large burden of a three-point deficit was because of their ineffectuality in alternate shot.
Is there a way to fix this? Maybe.
If the Solheim Cup means as much to the American women as they say it does (and there's no reason to doubt them on this), why don't they force themselves to practice alternate shot more often? The Euros benefit from the fact that alternate shot competitions are common in inter-club matches. They are more exposed to the vagaries of this format growing up in the game.
It's probably impractical to stage a sanctioned LPGA event with alternate shot as the format. But what about the silly season? Or what about that schedule gap early in the year? How about a week-long winter training camp for prospective Solheim Cuppers with lots of alternate shot in the mix?
For that matter, has anybody considered that college golf--a team sport in the best sense--doesn't promote alternate shot. It's certainly not the fault of college golf that the American women got trounced over the weekend in Sweden. But would it be such a bad thing to consider an occasional alternate shot event for women's college golf?
Alternate shot is a demanding and entertaining way of playing golf. If installed, in some fashion at the college golf level, it would even further promote teamwork. Would that be such a bad thing?
Meanwhile, it's no secret that certain of the top American men aren't excited about playing a 'Cup' every year. Now it is the Ryder Cup in even-numbered years and the Presidents Cup in the odd-numbered years. But one of the benefits of having our top men compete in foursomes and fourballs every year is it gives them and their captains a better chance to find out which pairs work best. It also gives them more practice 'under the gun' at alternate shot.
Finally, it easy to second-guess American Patty Sheehan's captain's pick of rookie Heather Bowie at this Solheim Cup. Bowie did not win a match and did not especially distinguish herself with her quality of play. But the fact is, we 'first-guessed' Sheehan on this pick at the time of the selections. To repeat: Veteran Pat Hurst (6-4-1 lifetime in Solheim Cup matches and playing well at the time of the selections) still has to be scratching her head in wonderment over her omission from the team.
Give Sheehan credit for standing up to her choices after the matches ended. Give her credit for sportsmanship and avoiding the temptation to offer excuses. Sheehan is a class act. But it is the hope here that the next American captain is Nancy Lopez. Lopez is not shy about her desire to captain the American Solheim Cup team. Why not sooner rather than later?
Already Lopez has demonstrated she understands the dynamic of the Solheim Cup. Last week she told The Golf Channel that, if selected captain, she would hope to have more than two captain's picks. Currently the Euros have five to the Americans' two. This is a huge discretionary advantage for the Europeans. Lopez also said, before the matches, that she would lean more towards putting her best players at the top of the lineup for the Sunday singles.
This is called 'front-loading.' It worked famously for U.S. Ryder Cup captain Ben Crenshaw in Massachusetts in 1999. And it worked just as effectively for Euro Ryder Cup captain Sam Torrance at the Belfry last year.
Finally, this: Since when did it become fashionable to 'concede' singles matches once the team outcome is determined? Players should feel honor-bound to play the matches until they are over. This is all about the spirit of the competition. It shouldn't be that hard to figure out. If you go off late in the day, resign yourself to the fact that the team competition may be over before you finish.
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