So I'm in the lobby of the hotel, 15 feet from a blackjack table where the house wins if both player and dealer have 17, 18 or 19. In other words, I'm not making sense of a whole lot on a Sunday night in Scandinavia. Let me try to sort out a few items then from the Solheim Cup.
Forget Patty Sheehan's lineup gaffe for a moment. The Euros were the far better team--more explosive, better putters, and stronger ball strikers.
That said, there's no escaping the fact that Sheehan, a spirited, compassionate and funny human being, made a tactical blunder, and not just on Sunday. Michelle Redman should have played the afternoon four-ball on Saturday instead of Wendy Ward, who struggled terribly all three days.
As for the singles, there's simply no way you can put Heather Bowie and Ward in the third and fourth positions Sunday and expect to realistically generate serious momentum. You're three down on the road to start the day. You have to - absolutely HAVE to - gamble that your weaker players, positioned further down in the lineup at say 8, 9 or 10, can feed off the energy and momentum created by the proven commodities. Then if it's close, maybe the home team starts to feel the pressure late.
But to be in a spot where Cristie Kerr, Meg Mallon, Laura Diaz, Beth Daniel and Kelly Robbins don't matter is unthinkable. Certainly Daniel, Diaz and Kerr, as well as they played Saturday, should have been further up the card. I would have slid Bowie and Ward down toward the 8-9 area and maybe dropped hard-nosed Rosie Jones perhaps to 11th. Robbins as anchor is fine.
In any event, it's only a point of discussion, not one to beat to death. Patty stood up as soon as the matches ended and admitted she'd screwed up. She accepted the blame. How many people these days do that? Most would close ranks and get into a hissing contest with the media. So this needn't turn into a 'Let's heap on Patty' party. It's over. It's a golf match.
Looking back, Annika's the MVP. She went 4-1, set the proper tone for her team, and made the clutch putt of the week. Her bolt at 17 on Saturday was one of those moments which take great players to the category of legend. She deserves consideration for Sports Illustrated's Athlete of the Year.
Unfortunate that some may recall Laura Diaz for the missed putt at 18 on Saturday, because up to that point she hit some of the finest, most daring and timely shots you'll ever see in your lifetime. Should she have waited to putt? Maybe, if only to steady the nerves, though I'm not sure that was even humanly possible. That lost point obviously turned the tide. American hope from that point dripped inevitably to the European well.
In addition to Sorenstam, Janice Moodie just destroyed the Americans. She delivered one of the greatest putting displays I've ever seen. Dale Reid should be embarassed for not making Moodie a captain's selection at Interlachen a year ago. And the same can be said in the case of Catriona Matthew, who was also superb.
Looking ahead, it's time for the U.S. veteran core of Daniel, Jones, Mallon, and stalwart Juli Inkster to begin to pass the torch. But to whom? Where's the really exciting, young American talent? Diaz can play, and Kuehne and Kerr seem to thrive more on guile and tenacity than raw skill. But combined, the three own just five LPGA victories. Beth Bauer took a step back this year. Natalie Gulbis? Not now anyway.
Look at the young Euros. They're physically much more impressive than the Americans. Suzann Petterson, Sophie Gustafson and Iben Tinning are all strapping, athletic and hard-hitting types.
Finally, conjecture or criticism aside, the Solheim Cup exceeded whatever expectation I may have had. The excitement on Saturday was as intense as any Ryder Cup I've seen. The quality of shots under pressure was extraordinary. It's a shame the women don't see crowds like this more frequently. A little noise changes the game, doesn't it?
Also, Sweden proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that it's fully capable of hosting a major golf competition. The galleries were knowledgeable,
respectful and enthusiastic.
At the risk of sounding trite, it truly was a memorable week. And now it's time to take one last crack at deciphering the Swedish television offerings, to stare blankly until I nod off. The charter home leaves early. It's time to go.