The good, the bad, and the main talking points from the week in Iowa after Team USA retained the Solheim Cup.
The standard of golf, over the second two days in particular, was of a very high quality. The opening day’s foursomes session was, perhaps understandably, rather scrappy and teams appeared just as likely to win a hole with a par as a birdie at times.
But the players gradually settled and produced the kind of golf that earned them their places in Iowa, and the picturesque Des Moines course was set up to promote aggression. There were eagles and birdies galore, the majority coming from the home team, and there was a pleasing variety of holes on all pars.
The Solheim Cup was extremely well attended from the moment Mel Reid smashed the opening drive of the contest on Friday morning, and the vast galleries cannot deny that they got their money’s worth.
We saw hole-outs from the fairway, huge putts finding the target, and some thrilling comebacks over the final day from the likes of Lexi Thompson and Catriona Matthew, and Europe did well to keep the scoreline respectable after being outclassed in the two key fourballs sessions as the visitors lost seven of the eight matches in the afternoon.
All things considered, the event was well run, well played and proved a great showcase for women’s golf. However…
The pace of play in the men’s game has been a huge talking point in recent years, and this was a chance for the ladies to step up and prove that you don’t need to take an age over any type of shot.
But the problem of slow play is clearly a big issue on the LPGA and Ladies European Tours as well, and yet nothing was done over the week. Nobody was put on the clock or given any type of warning as far as we know, and this despite the fourballs matches taking in the region of five-and-a-half hours for those that went the distance.
Yes, there are allowances to be made for team competitions as the pressure of playing for 11 others is far more intense than in individual competition, but many of the players in Iowa pushed their shot times to the limit … and far beyond.
Watching certain players go through their putting routines was painstaking; Line up putt from behind hole, have a long glance from the side, slowly wander round to behind marker, plumb bob, chat with caddie, another plumb bob, and all this before she had even replaced her ball on the green!
We’ve seen the European Tour and the R&A introduce measures to combat slow play, but it’s about time all the main golfing authorities worldwide indicated they are serious about getting tougher on the players. And don’t bother with paltry fines, only shot penalties will speed the game up.
With so many youngsters flying high in the world rankings in both the men’s and women’s games currently, it was refreshing to see the “old guard” putting in some incredible performances at the Solheim Cup.
None more so than veteran campaigner Catriona Matthew who, at the age of 47, was handed a late call-up to a playing role when Suzann Pettersen was forced to withdraw due to a back injury just two days before the competition started.
The evergreen “Beany” had arrived in Iowa charged with the responsibility of leading by example as a vice-captain, but she proved she still has what it takes with clubs in hand as she won three of her four matches, including two foursomes wins in partnership with fellow SuperMum Karine Icher followed by a stunning singles upset win over Stacy Lewis.
Icher, 38, claimed two wins and a half for Europe, while the star performer for Team USA was Cristie Kerr as she collected three-and-a-half points from a possible four and produced some dazzling golf in every one of her matches.
Kerr, who turns 40 in October, was particularly hot with the putter, and her performance injected energy and enthusiasm into her team-mates. Is there another major in her? Don’t rule it out.
HOPE FOR LET
There have been many rumours circulating for many months that the Ladies European Tour is in deep financial difficulty and struggling to stay afloat. Several tournaments on the original 2017 schedule have been cancelled, including one of the more prestigious events in the Ladies European Masters.
The rumours intensified earlier this month when Ivan Khodabakhsh stepped down as chief executive officer for the LET, but it emerged over the weekend that the LPGA Tour and the European Tour are keen to come to the rescue.
LPGA commissioner Mike Whan revealed to the Golf Channel that he is set to meet with European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley to discuss plans to join forces and establish stability for the LET, and that initial talks with the LET board have been encouraging.
Perhaps more importantly, Whan is certain that the Solheim Cup will not be affected. “I would be lying if I said I was concerned about the Solheim Cup,” he said. “The Solheim Cup is going to be fine, but I do want to make sure my partner in the Solheim Cup is as healthy as they can be.”
Huge credit must go to Whan, Pelley and all involved as they attempt their salvage operation, but it is also imperative that the star names of European golf commit to more tournaments on the LET to give them more prominence and, in turn, attract priceless investment from sponsors.
FIRST LADIES’ CUP?
I’ve seen a few misguided comments on social media that the 15th Solheim Cup was too one-sided, with Team USA being vastly superior over the three days.
But I venture to suggest this was not the case. The Europeans won the opening foursomes session, shared the Friday morning foursomes, and Sunday’s singles was a 6-6 draw. Unfortunately for Annika Sorenstam, her players did not produce their best in the fourballs, with seven of the eight going America’s way.
It was nowhere near as lop-sided as some have suggested, and there was much encouragement for Europe with Georgia Hall enjoying an impressive debut, three other young rookies getting some valuable experience under their belts, while Charley Hull and Mel Reid showed huge fighting spirit that Ian Poulter would have been proud of.
There have been a few calls for a ladies’ version of the Presidents Cup, which would pit Team USA against an Internationals team (excluding Europeans) – a sort of “First Ladies’ Cup” if you like.
It would be an intriguing prospect and an event such as this would certainly generate huge interest in Asia, especially with the conveyor belt of huge talent from South Korea contending in almost every LPGA Tour event and major championship in recent years.
But if this were to be played this week, the Internationals team would feature 12 players all ranked in the world’s top 15, so I’m not so sure the Americans would be overly keen to contest this one just yet!