Saturday, August 22, 2009

Assessing the Captains' Solheim Cup Strategies

So here are the day 1 results and scoring summary from the Solheim Cup, along with the Saturday morning match-ups. What do you make of captains Alison Nicholas's and Beth Daniel's strategies thus far?

Right now, I'm shocked at how close Team Europe is keeping things, given how badly their go-to players have performed. Nicholas's decision to rest Laura Davies comes as no surprise, but benching Sophie Gustafson and making new moms Catriona Matthew and Maria Hjorth work so hard definitely does. Clearly, Nicholas is hoping that Alfredsson and Elosegui support each other well, that Matthew and Luna wouldn't face too tough a match-up, that playing with Nordqvist steadies Pettersen, and that Hjorth and Nocera will be tough in the clean-up position. I think she's done a good job of pairing rookies with experienced players, despite my assumption heading into the week that putting LET players Nocera and Luna together Saturday morning would be the way to go (that assumption was based on the expectation that Team Europe would be tied or leading after Friday's play).

Team USA has needed some good morning comebacks and some clutch putting just to have a 1-point lead heading into today's team matches. But except for resting Paula Creamer, Daniel has done almost exactly what I called for her to do with her team leading this morning, down to leading off with Kim and Wie. Sure, she's mixed up her pairings more than I expected--Creamer, Kerr, and Stanford have played with someone different each match from among Lang, Castrale, and Inkster--and made sure to give everyone 1 match off. This has meant she's relied on the Lincicome-McPherson pairing much more often than I expected--plus they're batting clean-up in best-ball after getting beaten soundly in alternate shot. Clearly, Daniel is hoping her 1st 3 pairings can get wins and that the rookies might bounce back with a half or get caught up in the momentum and make it a Team USA sweep. That way, she can rest easy resting Stanford, Lincicome, and 2 other players.

So with Team Europe hoping for some morning upsets and Team USA looking to build a big lead, here's how I think the afternoon alternate-shot matches will look, with Nicholas's options limited and Daniels looking for the kill:

Inkster-Creamer v. Davies-Brewerton
Wie-Gulbis v. Nocera-Elosegui
Kerr-Lang v. Alfredsson-Gustafson
Kim-Pressel v. Pettersen-Nordqvist

You can follow the morning scoring live at Let's see how the players respond and what the captains actually pick for the afternoon.

[Update 1 (8:27 am): In the beginning of a critique of the 1st group's slow play that alternates between pettiness and fair-mindedness, Jim McCabe proclaims that this LPGA season is The. Most. Forgettable. Ever. Since when have respected media figures become whiny teenagers? Why does McCabe have to put down the rest of the LPGA season to find some glimmer of praise for the Solheim Cup? If he's so bored covering women's golf, I know a few bloggers who would do a much better job. Why not step aside? McCabe's professionalism aside, I'm wondering what would prompt him to make this claim. What's been so forgettable about this LPGA season compared to others? The only thing I can pinpoint is that there's no single Big Story the media herd can follow in their sleep like sheep. If Cristie Kerr had actually won the 2 majors she could have this season, she probably would have passed Lorena Ochoa to become #1 in the Rolex Rankings (as well as on the money list and in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index)--and boom, The Return of American Golf would have been the Big Story of 2009. And all would be well in the world of women's golf for the vast majority of American journalists. Maybe they like the Solheim Cup because they get to celebrate the dominance of American golfers this week like they wish they could every week. And they wish they could forget the fact they can't.

This has been one of my favorite seasons, so I can understand but not identify with the feeling of disappointment and disorientation emanating from McCabe's whine. And although I enjoy the Solheim Cup for what it is, I'm not going to take too much from an American win. But I have to ask you, my 18 regular readers, has this been the most forgettable LPGA season for you?]


Vince Spence said...

Hopefully, she is resting Juli and Paula in the morning, so they can play together in the afternoon. I think that is the 'dream pairing' for the United States.

Why do I have to come to your blog to get the best Solheim Cup coverage on the web? Are you sure you are not one of those 'mainstream' journalists everyone warns me about...???

The Constructivist said...

Thanks, man, but I'm sticking to analysis this week, as I'm back to my usual overdrive at work and squeezing in some last family stuff this weekend before the academic year begins for real. So Hound Dog will remain the 1st place to go for complete Solheim Cup coverage in blogoramaville.

The Florida Masochist said...

TC and Hound dog are the best at covering. Your time is better served reading their blogs than the mainstream media who continue to play the song 'We want Annika back' while at the same time not acknowledging that Annika isn't the same player she was was back 5 years ago. Didn't she go without a win in 2007? She won last year, but late in the year she wasn't playing well.

A boring golf season- LPGA Player of the Year and #1 on the money list with multiple players vying for both. Two major championships decided on the last hole. Boring sounds kind of exciting to me.