Solheim Cup Polishing


2009 Solheim CupThe grumbling is growing louder.
U.S. Solheim Cup captain Beth Daniel acknowledges that she hears it, and it disturbs her.
The Solheim Cup is becoming a strictly Off Broadway affair. The United States vs. Europe feels like a consolation bracket with so many of the worlds best international players excluded and Swedens Annika Sorenstam now in retirement. The world No. 1 Lorena Ochoa of Mexico wont be there and neither will the most dominant force in womens golf ' the Asians. Not to mention the resurgent Aussies, who have three of the top 20 players in the world rankings, will be noticeably absent.
These sentiments are sure to lead to more media grousing that the Solheim Cup needs a makeover to broaden its appeal and create a grander stage to showcase the best in womens golf as the Aug. 21-23 international team competition nears at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill.
Such grumbling gets the dander up on the ultra competitive Daniel.
It does a little bit, she said Sunday in a telephone interview from Lancashire, England, where the Solheim Cup teams were presented. This is the competition Karsten Solheim wanted because of his Norwegian roots, a competition like the Ryder Cup.
These things go in cycles. Europe has some good, young players who will be good players, but right now, on paper, our team looks very, very strong. In two years, that could change.
Daniel didnt choose her two captains picks Sunday ' Michelle Wie and Juli Inkster ' because they create buzz, but the picks do help escalate interest.
The event needs good storylines to fuel interest beyond its traditional golf audience the way the Ryder Cup does.
Like her or not, Wie, 19, remains a lightning rod in womens golf, a spectacle who amps up TV ratings and gate receipts.
The Hall of Famer Inkster, 49, will be a focal point as the oldest player in the history of the competition who is likely playing her final Solheim Cup.
It also helps the event that Scotlands Catriona Matthew won the Ricoh Womens British Open because Europe looked downright sickly with its top three point-winners off the Ladies European Tour Solheim Cup standings missing the cut with dreadful showings at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.
Frances Gwladys Nocera, Spains Tania Elosegui and Italys Diana Luna were cumulatively 55-over par after two rounds of the seasons last major.
Nocera couldnt break 90 in the first round. Elosegui and Luna both failed to break 80 in the second round.
These dismal failures threaten the credibility of the competition.
So does the fact that the Americans have dominated it.
The United States leads the Solheim Cup series 7-3 and has never lost on American soil (5-0). The Americans won in a 16-12 rout in Sweden the last time the event was staged.
Make no mistake, we are up against it, said Englands Laura Davies, who will make her 11th appearance as the only player to compete in every Solheim Cup.
Matthews victory helps build some much needed momentum for the team competition.
As overmatched as the Europeans look on paper, at least they have two LPGA titles this summer, both major championships with Swedens Anna Nordqvist winning the McDonalds LPGA Championship in June.
Brittany Lincicomes victory at the Kraft Nabisco is the only major championship title won by an American in the last nine played.
Europeans have won seven of the last 21 majors, equaling the number won by Asians. The Americans have won four in that span.
Americans have gone the last three months without a victory, nine LPGA events without a title. Cristie Kerr was the last American to win when she hoisted the trophy at the Michelob Ultra Open on May 10. If a non-American wins the next LPGA event, it will equal the longest American drought in any season in the 59-year history of the LPGA. With Sorenstam at the height of her powers, international players won the last 10 events of the 2002 LPGA season.
The Asians are on a roll having won seven of the last nine LPGA events.
Daniels right about these international team events working in cycles, but she probably doesnt want to hear that what the Solheim Cup needs is an upset.
When Europe turned the Ryder Cup around, it jolted new interest in the event.
The Americans had won 13 consecutive Ryder Cups when a new breed of European players sparked a 16 to 11 upset in 1985. Spains Seve Ballesteros, Englands Nick Faldo and Germanys Bernhard Langer helped change the nature of the competition to the point where the Americans were actually the underdog when they upset Europe at Valhalla last year. The competition was expanded from Great Britain/Ireland to all of Europe in 1979.
While there is sure to be more grousing that the Solheim Cup needs to be expanded to include more of the worlds golf powers, there will be pushback, too.
To be honest, if they change it that way, it will be the end of the Solheim Cup, Davies said. Its Europe against America. Thats what the Solheim Cup is. If you try to bring internationals under one flag, it wont work. Europes a continent. If you make it international, a mish-mash of continents, there is no flag to fly. You couldnt come together as a team, and it wouldnt make sense. People wouldnt get it.
It has been suggested that new teams be given a chance, that an Asian team be brought into the mix, or an international team outside Europe and the United States.
Those suggestions wont end until the U.S. vs. Europe becomes so compelling nobody cares whos left out.
In that regard, as Davies says, Europes up against it with something to prove on American soil.
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