U.S. Solheim Cup captain Juli Inkster was walking the course scouting prospective American players Friday at the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational team event.
The veteran duo of Paula Creamer and Morgan Pressel, on the outer fringe of potential team members at week’s start, gave themselves a chance to win.
They are making Inkster think twice.
“It’s their job to make me think,” Inkster said. “They’re so good together.”
With a 1-under-par 69 Friday in alternate shot, Creamer and Pressel slipped off the pace, but they are very much in the hunt. They’re tied for second, five shots behind Cydney Clanton and Jasmine Suwannapura, who teamed to shoot 63, a terrific score in a difficult format. The Jutanugarn sisters (Ariya and Moriya) shot 64 and are among four teams tied for second.
Clanton, an American teaming with the Thailand’s Suwannapura, is a distant 55th on the American Solheim Cup points list. The top eight at the conclusion of the CP Women’s Open (Aug. 25) automatically make the team. Creamer is 33rd on the U.S. points list, Pressel 27th. There are no Solheim Cup points available this week.
“When I started this thing, I told everybody you've got two years to make the team,” Inkster said when asked if she told Creamer/Pressel they would make the team with a victory. “If you make me pick you, you can't rely on that. And I think they know that, but I would love to see them make me sweat.”
Creamer has played in every Solheim Cup since she joined the LPGA in 2005. She’s 17-9-5 in Solheim Cup play, with her 19.5 points trailing only Cristie Kerr (21) for most in the American team history.
Pressel is 10-7-2 in six Solheim Cups.
They’re 2-2-1 as Solheim partners.
Inkster also spent time Friday watching Megan Khang, who’s eighth on the American points list, teaming with Annie Park, who is on the cusp of making the team off the world-rankings list.
“They're electrifying,” Inkster said. “They're fun and they're energetic. I love watching them.”
The Korda sisters (Jessica and Nelly) have already locked up American rosters spots in qualifying. They shot 68 and will enter Saturday’s better-ball final round tied for 20th, nine shots off the lead.
The dynamic duo of Kerr and Lexi Thompson, who had to rally Thursday to make the cut, endured a disappointing day. They shot 76 and fell 17 shots off the lead. They’re 11-1-2 as American partners in Solheim Cup and UL International Crown play. While Thompson has already qualified for the team, Kerr remains just outside the qualifying standard. She has four events to qualify on points.
What is Inkster focusing on as she watches players this week?
“I'm looking at how they react to a missed shot, or how they react to a missed putt,” she said. “Do they have their head up? Do they have their head down? What's their pace?
“And then, you know, how they are as a teammate out there. Are they picking the other person up? Are they slapping them on the head or the butt? I look for a lot of things, but I'm really out here just trying to watch how they play alternate shot, I think that's big for us.”