U.S. Solheim Cup captain Pat Hurst drew a line in the sand earlier this season when she said she’d only consider picking players for her team who are ranked inside the top 20 in the point standings. Establishing that cutoff point made it easier for Hurst to determine who would receive her three captain’s picks, but also made it clear to players what the expectations were in order to make the team.
As qualifying rolls into the final week at the AIG Women’s Open, Brittany Lincicome is among several Solheim Cup veterans who need a solid finish in order to catch Captain Hurst’s attention. Double points are up for grabs to those who finish inside the top 20 at the season’s final major of the year.
The top seven players in the U.S. Solheim Cup point standings will automatically make the team. The next two players will be determined via the Rolex Rankings with the final three spots being named by Hurst.
Since 2007, Lincicome has missed playing in just one Solheim Cup, 2019 at Gleneagles because of the birth of her daughter, Emery, that year. Watching from home wasn’t something the six-time U.S. member wanted to repeat, but heading into the final qualifying event she sits outside Hurst’s criteria for consideration, at No. 23 in the point standings. Over the last two years, Lincicome earned points with seven top-20 finishes and has struggled to make up ground over the final qualifying events with missed cuts in her last two starts.
“I said when I had my daughter and I missed the last [Solheim Cup] I didn’t ever want to miss another one and it just hasn’t really gone my way,” Lincicome told GolfChannel.com about her game over the last year. “I took so much time off with having my daughter and then COVID hit, so it's just been hard.”
Captain Hurst has included Lincicome in team bonding and practice events despite her standing outside the top 20. Perhaps Hurst is willing to bend her own rules in considering a veteran like Lincome. Although she has an overall record of 7-12-2, Lincicome brings an energetic spirit that could fit well within one of the four player pods that Hurst is formulating based on players’ responses to a behavioral test.
“It’s definitely been challenging more mentally, and the short game is coming back, but it is what it is,” Lincicome said. “If I don’t get to go to Solheim Cup then I get to hang out with Emery. It's a win-win.”
While Lincicome will likely have to rely on a captain’s pick, there are several players inside the top 20 who can control their own fate with a solid finish at Carnoustie and lock up one of the automatic qualifying positions. Stacy Lewis, a four-time member of the U.S. team who withdrew from the event in 2019 due to a back injury, sits at No. 12 in the standings. Lewis knows what it takes to navigate a links-style layout like Carnoustie, where she finished T-11 when the Women’s Open was first held there in 2011. She also won both the 2013 AIG Women’s Open and last year’s Trust Golf Women’s Scottish Open.
“You’re going to have to make some 5- to 10-footers for par, so you have to putt well,” Lewis told GolfChannel.com. “From there, you just have to be able to control your golf ball. You’re going to get in some side winds, even if it's not strong you still have to be able to control it. If you can do that, you don’t have to be super creative around the greens.”
With her victory last week in Scotland, American Ryann O’Toole showed how quickly ground can be made up in the points standings. With her victory, she jumped from No. 25 into the Solheim Cup conversation at No. 18. O’Toole will be looking to make a final leap in the standings at Carnoustie as she hopes to qualify for her first Solheim Cup since 2011.
Sunday, the U.S. Solheim Cup team (and the top 6 on the European side; captain Catriona Matthew has six picks) will be finalized upon completion of the AIG Women’s Open and Captain Hurst will announce her three selections for the team. Will she bend her own rules and look outside the top 20 in the point standings and consider a veteran like Lincicome? Or, will the captain remain faithful to her original plan and only name players who have climbed inside the top 20? Perhaps it all hinges on the outcome of the season’s final major.