The Round Table: How about that Solheim Cup finish?

Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.

The Solheim Cup concluded with one of the biggest surprises ever in team golf competitions. What was your take on the event and the stunning finish?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): I’m a BIG fan of women’s golf, and the Solheim only reinforced why.  I watched from beginning to end on Sunday, and all day I was thinking it was going to be 15.5-12.5 for the US.  But then Suzann Pettersen, who’s as feisty as they come, hit that stunning wedge shot on 18, and that incredible putt, just seconds after the other two live matches were finishing.  What a climax!!  Though it was a different scenario, it reminded me of the nail-biting excitement of the Ryder Cup at Medinah.  If Pettersen truly meant she was retiring from professional golf in her post-match interview, what a storybook ending to an admirable career.

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): The Solheim Cup was amazing theatre. Great to see Team Europe squeak out a win, and good for Pettersen to slam that last putt home for the Cup. Every bit as entertaining as the Ryder Cup, and the Presidents Cup. But boy would I like to see some team event to recognize and involve Brooke Henderson. Maybe a Woman’s Canada Cup needs to be created, and can the US Team become Team North America, or expand and create 4 teams (Asia, USA, Europe and All other Countries)? There’s something to this, I hope its being explored.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Life Member, PGA of Canada: I followed the event but didn’t watch it until the final round. It was exciting but not high in women’s sporting prominence to the extent that many claim. According to Juli Inkster, this the ‘biggest’ women’s sporting event in the world because the girls/ladies are so good as ambassadors and they can play! True! They can play and they are great performers. And, they are great ambassadors, but it can’t be the ‘biggest’ when the best players aren’t in the competition including Brooke Henderson. As I have said many times “Women should be in the President’s Cup”!!!! That event is like watching grass grow. But, include the women and with yardage adjustments, mix them in with the men so women might have a match against a man or two women vs two men or a woman and a man vs two men. When I say ‘mix’ I mean MIX! As for the finish, I didn’t find it stunning at all! Was tired of the USA TV announcers basically giving the trophy to themselves until suddenly one of them actually counted the available points on the course and realized ‘it ain’t over until it’s over’!

Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): I’m not going to lie. I didn’t watch one second of it. But I heard that Pettersen locked it down for the Europeans with a clutch putt and that the Korda sisters made for one mean duo. So instead of providing second-rate analysis, allow me to pose a question: why isn’t this a three-way competition pitting an American, a European, and an International squad all against each other. Even if we forget about Brooke Henderson for a moment, who is currently destined to go her career without ever sniffing a Solheim Cup simply because she is Canadian, it’s hard to ignore the fact that Asian players comprise 10 of the Top 15 spots in the women’s world rankings. So why isn’t there an Asian/International team? Seems like a wasted opportunity to draw more ratings and attention to women’s golf.

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): I’ll be honest that I didn’t hear much about the event leading up to it, so I wasn’t excited to watch it – it kind of snuck up on me.  That being said, I always love watching the team competitions, especially when they take place in Europe.  The fans are more knowledgeable, cordial and respectful, and typically I like the golf course and conditions better.  I did manage to see a fair bit of the last two days, but had to miss the end of it, which is a shame, what a finish it turned out to be!  Great to see Suzann Pettersen as the hero given what she endured after the 2015 putt confession-gate.  What a way to enter retirement.  All in all, the event lacks the lustre and grandeur of the men’s events, and that’s a shame in a way because the golf was great, and you can’t ask for a better finish.

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: The Pacific time zone makes it tough to set the alarm when the Solheim is played over the pond — ahem, no problem with The Open, or Ryder Cup — so just feel lucky that it was raining here (shocking!) and happened to turn on The Golf Channel just in time to watch the last half dozen holes Sunday morning. Obviously, it was fantastic to watch as the Euros went from out of it, to a bit of a chance, to the fabulous finish. The Scots turned out to massively support the event, the weather was righteous, as was the result. The only bit of bother was the pace of play — weather and pressure induced, in some part — but inexcusable, nonetheless. Good on the Euros, good on Scotland, now to the R&A and USGA to work on slow and slower and slowest play.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): It would be difficult to script a more exciting finish. I was ready to turn it off on Sunday when it looked like a slam-dunk for the US team, but glad I didn’t. As they say, anything can happen in match play. This Solheim Cup was exceptional for women’s golf and proves that you don’t necessarily need the best players in the world to produce compelling drama.

As always after one of the big international match play events, captain’s picks and player decisions are second guessed. The American team was heavily favoured to win but came up agonizingly short. Should US Captain Juli Inkster have done anything different?

Deeks: But for Danielle Kang’s Saddam Hussein (bunker-to-bunker) on 18, the Americans would’ve probably retained the Cup, and that’s all you can really ask of a Captain.  So, no, I wouldn’t blame Inkster for the loss at all, and I don’t think she made one wrong decision.   Players on both sides had their good moments and bad, and it all came down to the last putt.  If Pettersen hadn’t made it, the golf world would’ve roasted both her and Catriona Matthew for picking her in the first place.  She made it, and everyone’s saying it was a brilliant decision.

Loughry: You can try and pin this on Juli, but she never hit a shot or made or missed a putt the whole week. You CAN pin it on a combination of poor play by the Americans and good play by Team Europe. It was a great putt that won it, and don’t forget Team Europe did have home soil advantage – never underestimate the power of a crowd. Regardless, this was good for golf and great for woman’s golf overall.

Schurman: If Juli Inkster was any kind of Captain she would have ‘willed’ Marina Alex’s putt to turn 1″ to the left and Suzann Pettersen’s to move 1” either way. Alex makes, Pettersen misses and the outcome is entirely different. So, all those shots struck, all those matches played, all those miles walked, and for the sake of 2″ of green, Inkster is a hero and Catriona Matthew wears goat horns. Sounds a lot like the War at the Shore. I wonder if Marina Alex would settle for career success parallel to Bernard Langer’s?

Kaplan: That’s just the way the cookie crumbles. No one knows American women’s golf better than Juli Inkster, so it’s difficult to nitpick and find a decision she made that resulted in the Americans losing. After all, from all of the highlights and analysis I’ve come across, it was a very close tournament that came down to the wire. I suppose you could question her choice to separate the Korda sisters during Day 1’s afternoon sessions, following such a dominant performance in the morning. Or maybe you could question her decision to not anchor both sides of the singles matches with the Kordas, who had been absolutely dominant to that point. But maybe Inkster saw some mismatches in those scenarios that she wanted to exploit and who are we to say that she should have done otherwise. That’s her prerogative as the captain. She earned the right to make those tough decisions.

Rule:  Hard to say.  Choosing Morgan Pressel over someone like Christie Kerr might have been a mistake, as Morgan got steamrolled on Sunday.  Although she had a 1-1-1 record, so she wasn’t a disastrous pick.  Her other captain’s pick Ally McDonald, a last-minute pick due to Stacy Lewis’s injury, had one great match, but ultimately ended up with a 1-3-0 record.  So, I suppose her captain’s picks could have performed better.  But let’s be honest, they had a putt to win the Cup, and lost on a 7-footer that Pettersen made, so it’s hard to fault her for the loss!

Quinn: Whatever Inkster did, whatever ‘bad’ picks she made, they were just what the PING Cup needed. Juli say it ain’t so, say you’ll go for four-straight captaincies (as if three wasn’t ill-advised, egomaniacal, and mindless). The Euros won, which is great for the game and for the women’s game. We all know where the dominant women players come from, but this will give the rest of the players, outside the US of A, heart.

Mumford: Inkster’s mistake occurred when she didn’t pick Cristie Kerr for the US team. Sure, she’s not having a great year, but neither were Lewis or Pressel. No current player has as much fire and determination as Kerr, not to mention experience. Cristie is the all-time leader in appearances and points (18-14-6) for the US and could have been a huge inspiration for the team, similar to Phil Mickelson’s role on a Ryder Cup team. Other than that, Inkster did what she had to do and lost to an amazing finish.

Last week the PGA Tour named Rory McIlroy as Player of the Year. The announcement was questioned in many quarters for the secretiveness of the vote amongst the players and the apparent lack of emphasis on performance in the majors. Some felt it turned into a popularity contest between McIlroy and Brooks Koepka. Is there any cause for concern here or did the players get it right?

Deeks: Well, if Koepka had been named POY, no doubt you’d be asking the same question.  In this case, it was comparing apples to apples; frankly, they were so close no one would’ve been surprised if they came out of the voting tied.  If Koepka really cared, and wanted to analyze why he didn’t more votes, he might consider that it boiled down to a personal popularity contest, and that perhaps some players find him a tad arrogant and dismissive of the regular grind… ergo, no soup for you!

Loughry: Ridiculous that Rory was POY. Listen, he had a great season, but another gent WON a major and finished 2nd, T2 and T4 in the other three Majors, and had a WGC win too. No chance in my books Brooks Koepka does not win POY.  Tell me I’m wrong; I dare you to try.

Schurman: I can’t believe an American didn’t win over a non-American when the majority of votes cast were by Americans. Rory had a great year but the events he won have more status based on monetary value. Brooks had a great year but the events he won have more status based on traditional value. The outcome is a reflection of the importance the players have come to place on winning certain events. It’s difficult to argue with them when you consider they play golf as a means to provide for their families. Ask your own wife if she would rather you bring home a major championship trophy with a $1.75M check and promise of much more to come in the future plus a lot of prestige or a nice trophy and cheque for $15,000,000 today?

Kaplan: I don’t think the issue revolved as much around the player’s personalities as it did around total earnings and the lack of emphasis the tour places on major victories compared to regular season event wins. Both players won three events this year, but McIlroy racked up more Top 10 finishes and earned a ton more money than Koepka did. So, from that perspective, McIlroy’s season was more impressive . . . although not by much. I’m more curious to see what the margin of victory was and how many players actually took the time to vote.

Rule: It sure seems like it was a popularity contest, Koepka still can’t get the respect he likely deserves.  I love Rory, but I disagreed with the decision.  I think the majors should matter and having a win and four top 4’s in the majors should count for something.

Quinn: The main thing is that the POY is a meaningless honourific to begin with. Who cares? Do the players? Does Koepka? Does Rory, really? Anyway, if the criteria for this meaningless secret ballot is performance in the Majors, then everyone vaguely attentive will know who played best in the big four. So why vote? Why heap another ‘honour’ on someone already mightily honoured and rewarded? This time around, the rank and file must have looked past the Majors, and maybe even taken a peek at Koepka’s personality. All’s fair when the contest is meaningless.

Mumford: This was too close to call. Since the PGA Tour doesn’t release any details we don’t know if McIlroy won by a little or a landslide. Most in the media, including a majority of the Round Table, put more weight on the majors where Koepka has the edge. I suspect a lot of Tour grinders, looking for top 10 finishes and bigger paycheques themselves, might be swayed by Rory’s bank balance. If it turns out it was decided by a popularity contest, I’d be inclined to put down a few bucks on Koepka to win all four majors next year. He seems to get inspired when he doesn’t get the respect he thinks he deserves.

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