Friday, August 16, 2013

Solheim Cup Friday Afternoon: Fourballs Observations and Possible Saturday Matches/Sunday Strategies

I got to watch a few holes in the best ball portion of the Solheim Cup, but we went out to celebrate a cousin/nephew's 7th birthday, so I missed lots of action.  When I left, Carlota Ciganda had just stuck her approach and made her short birdie putt to pull her and Suzann Pettersen even with Stacy Lewis and Lexi Thompson, who got hot late on the front, but couldn't take advantage of their birdie opportunities early on the back.  Well, Pettersen went back to carrying her partner when she made her 3rd birdie of the day on the 16th, and that proved to be the decider.  Chalk Day 1 of the Solheim Cup up to the world #3!  Stacy's Solheim slide continues; it seems she could never adjust to the speed of Colorado Golf Club's greens.

Putting was also the downfall for Angela Stanford and Gerina Piller, who could never quite pull even with Caroline Hedwall and Caroline Masson, and ended up losing 2&1 when Masson became the lone player in the foursome to par the 17th.  The American Brittanys were even more successful than the European Carolines, as Lincicome birdied 2 holes in a row as they made the turn and Lang birdied their final 2 holes to close out a 4&3 victory over Anna Nordqvist and Giulia Sergas.  And even though Michelle Wie played very solid golf, it was Cristie Kerr who carried their team to victory over Catriona Matthew and Charley Hull.  The short story there is that Kerr's putter finally heated up in the afternoon.

So at the end of day 1, Team Euro leads Team USA 5-3.  Pettersen and Hedwall have accounted for 4 of Team Euro's points, while Lewis and Stanford have been on the losing end in both their matches.  I don't see how Captain Mallon can sit Lewis, but we may not see much of Stanford tomorrow.

I think it'll be up to Creamer and Pressel to lead Team USA on the comeback trail tomorrow, what with Kerr's elbow issues and Korda's wrist issues.  I can see putting Pressel and Korda out first in Saturday foursomes, followed by Creamer and Thompson, Salas and Piller, and Lewis and Wie (I really liked the way Michelle was swinging the club around this afternoon).  If Korda's feeling up to it, sending her and Pressel out first again in the afternoon would be my choice, followed again by Creamer and Thompson, then Lewis and Lincicome, and then Kerr and Wie.  If not, I'd reunite the Brittanys and pair Lewis with Pressel, unless she played awful in the morning and Piller played great.

For Team Euro, I'd reunite their winning teams from this morning and put Masson out with Matthew in place of Ewart Shadoff.  For the afternoon, I'd keep their anchors from this afternoon but mix up the partners, keeping Recari with Pettersen to lead off, keeping the Carolines to follow them, pairing Nordqvist and Hull next, and closing out with Matthew and Ciganda.

So if the captains' decisions actually coincide with mine, we'd see:

Pressel/Korda vs. Nordqvist/Hedwall
Creamer/Thompson vs. Pettersen/Recari
Salas/Piller vs. Matthew/Masson
Lewis/Wie vs. Munoz/Icher


Pressel/Korda [or Pressel/Lewis] vs. Pettersen/Recari
Creamer/Thompson vs. Hedwall/Masson
Lewis/Lincicome [or Lang/Lincicome] vs. Nordqvist/Hull
Kerr/Wie vs. Matthew/Ciganda

The idea here is that Captain Neumann would expect Captain Mallon to put out her hottest players 1st, so she'd counter them with her toughest teams early.  I don't think she has the luxury to rest any of her 4 anchors, as the key here is to protect or even extend Team Euro's lead heading into Sunday singles matches.  If her strategy works on Saturday, she can keep front-loading her toughest talent on Sunday in an effort to get a quick knockout and retain the cup.  The key is to deny Team USA any momentum and make them fight hard for every single point.  Yes, that leaves Team Euro's B-Team vulnerable to Team USA's B-Team if their A-Team can't hold, but that's why they're the A-Team.  If the strategy doesn't work on Saturday and Team USA comes back, then I'd front-load Team Euro's more vulnerable players and put Pettersen and Matthew in the final two matches.

[Update 1 (11:26 am):  Oh, the Saturday morning pairings were just released:

Pressel/Korda vs. Nordqvist/Hedwall
Lewis/Creamer vs. Munoz/Icher
Lincicome/Salas vs. Matthew/Masson
Wie/Lang vs. Pettersen/Recari

As you can see, I got Team Euro's line-ups exactly right, just in a different order than Captain Neumann decided on.  But Captain Mallon and I disagree on whether to ride the Brittanys in the morning and who to pair Lewis with to get her going.  She's the captain and her team has been following the action much closer than me and knows the players much better than I do....]

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