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Breezy Point

Local Golf
August 22, 2017

Solheim Cup 101
Jessica Korda, left, and Morgan Pressel produced the Americans only point in the morning foursome matches on day one in 2013.
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Jessica Korda, left, and Morgan Pressel produced the Americans only point in the morning foursome matches on day one in 2013.
2015 Solheim Cup controversy regarding Alison Lee picking up her ball.
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2015 Solheim Cup controversy regarding Alison Lee picking up her ball.
By R.J. Smiley

The driving force behind the Solheim Cup was a Norwegian-American golf club manufacturer (PING) Karsten Solheim. The inaugural event was held in 1990 and on subsequent even number years until 2002, alternating years with the Ryder Cup. The September 11 attacks caused a one-year postponement of the 2001 Ryder Cup. As part of the rescheduling of team golf events the Solheim Cup switched to odd numbered years beginning in 2003. Team USA leads 9-5 over the previous 14 Solheim Cup Matches. The Solheim Cup is played in a Match Play format.

"The momentum has shifted!" We hear this phrase often in sports. Think of Super Bowl LI, the Patriots were losing to the Falcons 28-3. Some fans had already exited the stadium. THEN - Momentum shifted! In the first overtime in Superbowl history, the Patriots scored the go-ahead touchdown to win the Super Bowl.

The momentum shifts that occur in Match Play golf, where a bad bounce, a three putt or a comment by an opponent can turn the table, is a major reason the Solheim Cup, and her big brother the Ryder Cup, generate such a huge fan appeal.

The "We did not concede that putt" controversy changed the momentum during the 2015 Solheim Cup, on European soil at Golf Club St. Leon-Rot, Wurttemberg, Germany.

Sunday's action began very early. Prior to the start of Singles Matches, three of the Four-Ball Matches, pushed to Sunday when play was suspended at 7:40 PM because of darkness, required completion. On the 17th hole, the match between Suzann Pettersen/Charley Hull, Team Europe and Allison Lee/Brittany Lincicome, Team USA was all square. Allison Lee faced with an eight-foot birdie putt to win the hole and go one up in the match. Her birdie putt slid about 18" past the hole as Pettersen and Hull walked off the green. Allison Lee, playing in her first Solheim Cup match, assumed that the putt had been conceded to halve the hole. Lee scooped her ball off the green with her putter. Then Pettersen said, "We did not concede that putt." The rules of golf specifically state that a putt not conceded must be holed to complete the hole. Team Europe, then 1-up, proceeded to win 18 for a 2-up victory. The disputed victory gave Team Europe a commanding10-6 lead going into the Singles Matches.

Trailing 10-6 (the equivalent of 28-3 in the Supper Bowl) the women of Team USA went into the Singles Matches POed and seeking revenge. Every U.S. player, riding on the very crest of the momentum wave, played without fear. Team USA, won 8-1/2 of the possible 12 Singles points to win the Cup for USA 14-1/2 to 13-1/2. As the Solheim Cup comes to Des Moines, these questions add to the tension: Can Team USA retain the momentum from 2015? Has Team Europe stopped crying in their beer when they felt that they should have been drinking the champagne that had been iced for four years?

The Solheim Cup uses the exact format as the Ryder Cup, first played in 1927. The trophy, Solheim Cup, is a traveling trophy that remains in the possession of the winning team until the next Matches. If the Matches end in a tie, the previous winner retains the Cup.

Teams are made up of 12 golfers, a Team Captain and several Vice-Captains. Eight golfers earn automatic spots on Team USA based on a yearlong point system earned by top twenty finishes on the LPGA Tour. The other four Team members are chosen by the Team Captain, Captain's Picks. Team Europe is made up of the top five players on the Ladies European Tour (LET) and four players based on the World Golf Ranking and the remainder are Captain's Picks.

With all time USA points leader, Julie Inkster, repeat Captain, heading Team USA and Annika Sorenstam, twice Vice-Captain and second on Team Europe points list, leading their respective Teams, leadership will not be an excuse.

Match Play is a hole-by-hole competition. In Match Play you are playing an opponent, not the golf course for a score. The opponent's shot determines your strategy for the hole. In Match Play teams or individuals must make shot decisions after their opponent hits her shot. In Match Play the winning team may in fact take more strokes during the round than the losing team.

The Solheim Cup is a series of 28 (Match Play) Matches or "games" played under the rules of Match Play. The 28 games are played over three days. During the first two days there are two sessions per day with four games played during each session. The winner of each game earns 1 point for a victory. Captains choose the eight players who compete as two women teams.

Each day's competition is made up of one foursomes (alternate shot) session and one fourball (better ball) session. On the final day all 12 players on each team compete in Singles Matches. The winner of each game is awarded 1 point.

Scoring is a snapshot of where the Match stands. Teams start every match All Square (AS). Meaning neither team has won a hole. If each Team has the same number of strokes on the first hole, the hole is Halved or tied. The score at the end of the first hole would be, "All Square after one." The teams remain All Square until say team "A" wins the 5th hole: "Team "A" 1-up through 5." If team "B" wins the 6th hole: "All Square through 6 holes." If team "A", 2-up through 14, wins the 15th hole to go 3-up, team "A" has taken their Match Dormie, meaning that team "A" can not lose the Match. Team "A" is 3-up with 3 holes to play. If team "B" were to catch a wave of momentum and rally to win the final three holes, the Match would be Halved ending All Square. Each team would earn half a point. On the other hand, if the teams would halve the 16th hole, Team "A" would win the Match 3&2 - three holes ahead with only two holes remaining. (The last two holes would not be played.) Golf fans seeing the final score would know that the match went 16 holes with team "A" winning three more holes than team "B".

In Match Play there is a sense of urgency! You never know how many holes you are going to play. Players are forced to take more chances, adding to the excitement.

The Team Captain's job description is very broad and difficult to define. Some duties, like making Captain's Picks, are difficult. Friendships, momentum, special abilities, and (most of all) "gut feel" are areas that keep Team Captains up at night. Course set-up is also the responsibility of the Captain of the home team.

Pairings - meaning choosing the two golfers who make up each twosome for foursomes and fourball matches is a major responsibility of the Team Captain. Before each session, the Team Captain submits her rosters for the games. The two rosters are matched for game one; pairing the players chosen by the Captains. Until the pairings are announced, no one knows who will compete with or against who. More drama!

Fourball is a game where two members of each team play their own ball. The term fourball means that all four balls in the group are in play. The best ball or score by team "A" is used against the best ball from team "B". Captains attempt to pair personalities in fourball.

Foursomes are an alternate shot format. There are only two balls in play in the group. One player drives from the tee. Her partner hits the second shot and they alternate shots until their ball is holed. One team member will tee off on odd numbered holes the other on even numbered holes.

Pairings are extremely important in foursomes. Who plays the tee shots on odd and even holes can sometimes give advantages. Captains want great wedge players hitting the wedge shot on shorter par-4 holes. The brand of golf ball is important in foursomes. The players today are so good that they know exactly how "their ball" will react.

Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup Matches are enjoyed much more with an understanding of the basic terms.

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