Can Juli Inkster make history and hold onto her spot on the U.S. Solheim Cup team?
Will Christina Kim take her fireworks show to Europe two years after she irritated the Euros with her celebrations at Rich Harvest Farms outside Chicago?
Will Kristy McPherson fight her way back onto the team? Will Vicky Hurst make it for the first time?
They’re all relevant questions with the competition to make the American team down to its final two events.
With double points in play at the Ricoh Women’s Open this week, every American playing the next two LPGA events still has a mathematical chance to qualify for captain Rosie Jones’ team.
The deadline to make the team on points is the Safeway Classic Aug. 19-21. The top 10 at the conclusion of Safeway qualify for the Sept. 23-25 matches at Killeen Castle in Ireland.
Here’s your U.S. Solheim Cup primer with the year’s final major about to begin (click for current U.S. standings):
Who’s already punched their tickets?
You can bank on the top seven on the U.S. point standings making the team: Cristie Kerr, Morgan Pressel, Angela Stanford, Stacy Lewis, Paula Creamer, Michelle Wie and Brittany Lincicome have their bags packed for Ireland.
No. 8 Brittany Lang is close to securing a spot but still on the edge.
No. 9 Inkster and No. 10 Kim are the most vulnerable.
Who’s knocking on the door?
At No. 11, McPherson is a mere 20.5 points behind Kim. If McPherson finishes 15th or better at Carnoustie this week and Kim earns no points, McPherson moves into the top 10.
At No. 12, Hurst moves past Kim this week by finishing ninth or better should Kim gain no ground.
At No. 13, Katie Futcher can get past Kim finishing eighth or better.
Wendy Ward, Pat Hurst and Natalie Gulbis are among players who need victories to crack the top 10 going to Safeway.
How does the top 10 compare to the ’09 American team?
Nine of the current top 10 in the standings helped the Americans defeat Europe at Rich Harvest Farms in ’09.
Stacy Lewis, winner of this year’s Kraft Nabisco Championship, is the only Solheim Cup rookie among the top 10.
In ’09, Inkster and Wie were captain’s picks.
Nicole Castrale made the team on points two years ago but isn’t a factor this year while struggling to come back from a shoulder injury. Gulbis also made the team on points in ’09 but has slid to 16th in points this year dealing with back problems.
Wouldn’t Inkster be a good captain’s pick if she falters on points?
At 51, Inkster’s a fabulous story if she makes her record ninth U.S. Solheim Cup team, but she says she’ll only play if she makes the team on points.
Inkster is one of Jones’ assistant captains. With a 15-10-6 Solheim Cup record, she’s already won more points (18) than any American player in the event’s history. If she makes her ninth team, she’ll separate herself from Beth Daniel and Meg Mallon as having made the most American teams.
Who’s in the picture as possible captain’s picks?
Nobody’s making it easy for Jones. Nobody’s making a big move.
At No. 11, McPherson will be hard to resist given her points position and her experience helping the Americans win two years ago, but like everyone else chasing the top 10, McPherson has struggled of late, missing three of the last five cuts with no top-10 finishes this year. Still, McPherson’s a good fit. While Jones says performance and experience are important, she’s also zeroing in hard on personality and team chemistry.
If Kim falls out of the top 10, she’s a strong possibility with her Solheim Cup experience. Kim is a two-time LPGA winner who is 5-2-1 in Solheim Cup matches. On the downside, she’s also missed three of the last five cuts and has missed the cut in all three of the year’s majors.
Gulbis is 5-4-1 in three Solheim Cups but also has failed to log a top-10 this season, though she’s made all but one cut.
Veterans Wendy Ward and Pat Hurst are 14th and 15th in points with top-10 summer showings. They’ve combined to play on eight Solheim Cups but are in the autumn of their careers.
If Jones is looking for youth, Vicky Hurst is on the points bubble, but she’s never played in a Solheim Cup, has no top-10s this season and has missed two of the last three cuts. Futcher got in the mix with a tie for third at the Kraft Nabisco but hasn’t built on the momentum created there.
Jones will be looking for somebody to step forward in the final two events.