Thursday, August 09, 2007

U.S. Solheim Cup Roster

With only two events remaining until the Solheim Cup teams are announced, I was going to take a look at how the U.S. team was shaping up but Mulligan Stu at the Waggle Room beat me to it! He does a great job of explaining how players qualify for each team and offers his opinion on who the captain’s picks will be (and should be). As you can probably tell by the number of times I’ve linked to him, I think Stu is one of the best golf bloggers around and I visit the Waggle Room at least a couple of times a day to keep up with his musings.

So let’s take a look instead at the qualities you might want from your Solheim Cup team members. As you know I love my lists, so I’ll put together another one here:

1) They need to be good players.
Well, duh! Of course if I had left that one out, you would have been even more disgusted with me. The Solheim point system, with points accumulated over two years and weighted towards the present year, guarantees that the Top 10 players have played well over that time frame.

2) They need to be playing well going into the Solheim Cup.
The next two weeks' results will influence our opinions regarding this point, but over the last couple of months the only Top 10 player who hasn’t played particularly well would be Pat Hurst. Pat has missed a couple of cuts and plummeted in my rankings but she did win two matches at the HSBC, so for that I will gladly accept her for the U.S. team.

3) They need to be good match-play players.
How can you tell if someone is a good match-play player? You can look at their records from previous Solheim and Lexus Cup competitions and you can also consider their playoff records from regular tournaments. Some of those are multi-player playoffs, but the strategy in a playoff is certainly similar to match play. Here are the match-play (singles and doubles) and playoff records for some of the U.S. players:

Creamer 14.5-5.5
Hurst 9.5-5.5 (0-1)
Inkster 8.5-3.5 (0-1)
C.Kim 7.5-4.5
Lincicome 7-3
Gulbis 7-6 (1-1)
Diaz 5-5
Ward 5-5
Kerr 4-5
Prammanasudh 3.5-3.5
Francella 3-1 (1-0)
Wie 3-1
Pressel 3-4
Stanford 3-5
Steinhauer 2.5-2.5
Lang 2-2
Daniel 2-4
Castrale 1-2 (1-0)
Rankin 1-3

These records go back as far as 2005 with their playoff records since the beginning of ‘05 in parentheses. The half-wins come from halving matches at Solheim or Lexus. We knew Inkster was a match-play wizard but look at Creamer! Six of Lincicome’s wins came in last year’s HSBC so it may not be appropriate to put her in Juli or Paula’s company just yet. Francella and Wie both racked up their good numbers in one HSBC event. Stu says Christina Kim needs to be on the team as a cheerleader – looks like she might be able to help even more than that.

So who should Betsy King pick for the final two? I agree with Stu on Christina Kim but am undecided about Nicole Castrale. She doesn’t have much experience but even though the U.S. team will be a young one, they have quite a bit of match-play under their belts. I’m going to hedge a bit and say the last spot is between Castrale and Laura Diaz. Laura has played better than Nicole over the last few weeks and if that continues over the next two tournaments, I would recommend selecting Diaz.

I don’t have enough info to dispute any of Stu’s choices for the European team. Any team that includes Annika Sorenstam, Suzann Pettersen, Laura Davies, Catriona Matthew and Sophie Gustafson is going to be a good one, especially playing in Sweden.


The Constructivist said...

Diaz is leading Annika's Scandinavian TPC event after 2 rounds! Looks like she's going to have a good August in the U.S.

The Constructivist said...

Diaz finished 3 shots behind Matthew and tied with Gustafson at the Scandinavian TPC. Good enough to be a captain's pick? I think so!

The Constructivist said...

And I would add Maria Hjorth to your list of scary-good Europeans--she's been playing about the best of anyone in the world from the HSBC on.

Hound Dog said...

I should have mentioned Hjorth - after all, I did just move her into my Top 30.

I'm rooting for Diaz to make the U.S. team, but I am a little torn. I like Castrale too, but she just hasn't played that well the last two months.