The Round Table: can Captain Pettersen do it again for Team Europe?

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 will be contested this week at Finca Cortesin in Andalucia, Spain. Team Europe is the two-time defending champion, but the Americans have a considerable edge in the rankings. Who or what is the best storyline around this event and which team do you think will win the Solheim Cup?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): Women’s golf is an interesting sport these days.  Look at LPGA Tour leaderboards on any given week, and there may only be one or two American flags… and even those “American” players may be of Asian descent.  That’s not a criticism… or (please!) a racist comment.  But it certainly speaks to the decline of American women’s golf… or more particularly to the astounding rise of Asian and other “foreign” players, like British, Continental European, Aussie/Kiwi and Canadian (well, just Brooke, to be honest.) Unfortunately, the Solheim Cup, like the Ryder, does not allow Asian or Canadian or Aussie/Kiwi players. Nonetheless, I’d say there are more Euro players who are better than the current crop of Americans, so I’d say that’s the real storyline, and I’d say the Euros will win.

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): I think Team USA wins this week, and they could sure use a win to help reignite and inspire US Woman’s Golf. The storyline I hope is one of respect and a nice feather in the cap for Captain Stacy Lewis.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: There are three stories I like. I like seeing both the Ryder Cup and the Solheim Cup playing in various countries. This exposure creates interest in the game and growth around the world. I predicted Ladies’ tournament golf would excel in growth and become one of the most enjoyed sports events played. It is happening but I missed it by 25 years. Last, is the recognition of Suzann Pettersen as one of the great female competitors. Europe wins.

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): Personally, I’m excited to see how the golf course shows, and for selfish reasons obviously, as we send lots of golfers to the south of Spain and they often play Finca Cortesin.  It’s a great match play course and should create some great action.  I am excited to see how the young talent on the Euro team perform, like Linn Grant and Leona Maguire.  They could be the catalysts to a European victory.

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: How about a drive-able par 4 opening hole — many will hit 3 metals — for a first line on this story? That is going to be fun, especially Day 4 in Singles if it’s close. I think the Euros will win and hope they do for captain Suzann Pettersen. Incredible player and even better competitor, Pettersen was reason enough to watch this Cup, and any Tour event she played. Here’s to the team dousing her with magnums of very good champagne.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Rookies Rose Zhang for the Americans and Linn Grant for Team Europe will be as closely watched as anyone. Both are well on their way to becoming stars, maybe mega-stars, on the LPGA Tour. While none of her team have quite the competitive fire as European Captain Suzann Pettersen, they’re not far behind and led by an emerging cadre of Swedes, should be able to handle the Americans.

According to reports, Sergio Garcia made a last-ditch pitch to be eligible for Team Europe in the upcoming Ryder Cup. That included offering to pay outstanding fines and make good with the DP World Tour. His request was denied based on the fact that he had resigned his membership and there wasn’t time to re-instate him. Other LIV Golf defectors like Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Henrik Stenson, Graeme McDowell and Garcia are pretty much past their chance to contribute to Team Europe as players but could form a pretty formidable group of Captains for years to come. Are you hoping whatever agreement is made amongst the Tours that these players will be re-instated or is it just time to move on?

Deeks: It’s time to move on.  These guys have proven that they don’t give a fig for the heritage or sportsmanship of the game, and that their only interest is themselves.  The worst of all is Sergio, a fine player but still, at age 43, a whiny, petulant little boy-child.  I hope that “whatever agreement” is reached, it focuses only on the future, and NOT on extending an olive branch to the defectors.

Loughry: Yes, I really hope these players have the opportunity to be re-instated only to become Captains, Assistant Captains. They’re all past their best golf (with the possible exception of Garcia, but two years out is two more years of game erosion) and if they are not welcomed back, then Team Europe will suffer for years to come. Stories and experiences should be passed down to the next generation of talent. And without the likes of Westwood, Poulter, Stenson and Garcia, a good chunk of the wisdom and knowledge will be lost, and with it some of the attraction and allure of the Ryder Cup too.

Schurman: Blaming the players for accepting large amounts of money from LIV is only fair game if you extend the same justification equally to any/all other entities who conduct business with Saudi Arabia. 15% of the gasoline consumed by Canadians comes from the Saudis. How many people do you see pour 15% of every tankful in the garbage? This entire disagreement was a reflection of the dislike of Greg Norman and Phil Mickelson by the players. It escalated with the dishonesty of Jay Monahan. I wonder if jealousy isn’t part of the problem because certain players who could have taken large amounts and didn’t are now having second thoughts, particularly with the new top 70 rule by the PGA TOUR. It was never about the money. It was always about a competing tour against a monopoly.

Rule: I was always such a big Sergio fan, especially because of his Ryder Cup career.  The players that migrated to LIV likely wouldn’t make their European team any stronger, but it would be a shame if they were never allowed back in to be captains and assistant captains down the road.  They have deserved that at the very least given their time spent on the team in the past and their past successes.  I assume that by the time the next one (or perhaps the one after that) rolls around, things will have sufficiently smoothed over between the tours to allow for that discussion to happen.

Quinn: It’s well past time to move on from the petulant perpetual teenager Garcia. He’s incapable of an adult decision. He thought paying a portion of the Euro Tour fines for leaving for Saudi millions — all the other defectors have fully paid up — would so impress the suits that he’d be welcomed back? Please, Sergio, just go away — or better yet, stay on LIVing your life where no one notices. As with Garcia, it’s way too late to think of the other guys as suddenly Euro-centric.

Mumford: Sergio’s game is in no shape to help the Europeans and never will be again. However, like the rest of the LIV defectors mentioned, he brings a wealth of experience and could be an asset as an Assistant Captain, and future Captain. While many have tried to make the Ryder Cup a loyalty test between the DP World Tour and PGA Tour, to the exclusion of LIV golfers, the reality is that teams can be populated by any top-level player with the right birthplace. I’d love to see future teams made up of 12 captain’s picks with Poulter, Westwood, Stenson and Mickelson eventually making those selections.

Sahith Theegala notched his first PGA Tour victory at the Fortinet Championship last week in front of a large throng of family and friends. What’s your take on Theegala’s upside?

Deeks: My hidden sources (well, okay, it’s Wikipedia) tell me that Sahith is a born American. Nonetheless, he’s from an East Indian family, and I’m sure his victory is big news throughout India and Asia, and rightfully so.  Just another positive sign of the growing universality of professional golf.  Is it not time that both the Solheim and Ryder Cups extended their parameters to USA vs. The Rest of the World? Sahith’s victory is yet another argument in favour, in my opinion, even though he was born in California.

Loughry: I thought it was great that Sahith brought this home (on home turf too). I only see this as a positive going forward for him, adds to his confidence and learning how to win and keep the peddle down. His short game was impeccable all week, for him I think that’s what its going to take (because he hits driver offline a lot).

Schurman: Many moons ago, I played the Canadian Tour. My experience was limited to the GTA and I thought some of the best players lived there. Once I began travelling, I found out it didn’t matter where you went, somebody could PLAY! I guess if you parachuted out of a plane with your clubs while flying over the Amazon, you’d find someone there who could shoot 64. Sahith Theegala proves good golfers are everywhere. He has an excellent-looking swing and seems like a nice person. I’m happy for him.

Rule: Just like so many other young players, he’s got oodles of talent and can obviously play under the pressure.  Now we learn if he can live with the pressures of being a PGA Tour winner or if he fades away like so many one hit wonders before him.  I certainly don’t think he’ll be a one hit wonder, but you’re playing with fire if you decide to bet on a young golfer becoming a dominant force on Tour these days, there just aren’t any sure bets anymore.  That being said, I do think Theegala’s upside is quite elevated, and hope to see him competing for a major next year.

Quinn: May have mentioned that I’m in the World’s Toughest -to -Win Golf Pool with 1,500 of my closest friends. Back in January (all picks before first tee ball in Hawaii) Theegala joined my squad. So not surprised by his great year, just expected a win sooner (for the $$, my pool ends with the FedEx Cup). Great attitude, solid swing, nice game — think he’s going to win a handful of tourneys and his gallery is going to earn a lot of travel points.

Mumford: Theegala is a wonderful scrambler, much in the mold of a young Seve Ballesteros, and his putting is pure magic. It won’t surprise me a bit if we’re talking about Sahith soon as a contender in majors. On top of that, he’s articulate and charismatic and already has a large following beyond his family, friends and Pepperdine buddies. He could be a transformative figure in American golf. Too soon to label him a superstar but I think he has that potential.

The Round Table
The Round Table is a panel of golf writers, PGA members and industry experts.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *