When the first Solheim Cup commenced in 1990, Americans were dominating women’s golf, and it wasn’t even close. The likes of Nancy Lopez, Pat Bradley, Patty Sheehan, Beth Daniel, Betsy King, Juli Inkster and Dottie Pepper were winning almost everything that was important and a lot that wasn’t.
The Europeans popped up every so often, and we knew about long-hitting Laura Davies and elegant Liselotte Neumann and a little about combustible Helen Alfredsson. So, when the U.S. won the inaugural Solheim, 11½-4½, at Lake Nona in Orlando, Fla., no one gave it a second thought.
© GOLFFILE/KEN MURRAY (2017 FILE)
But two years hence, at Dalmahoy in Scotland, the Europeans were lying in wait. Besides Davies, Neumann and Alfredsson, we discovered scrappers Trish Johnson and Alison Nicholas and inspired players such as Catrin Nilsmark and Dale Reid.
Most of all, the European women adopted the same tack as their male counterparts in the Ryder Cup by taking their match-play event way more seriously than the Americans did. Europe won seven of the 10 singles matches to claim the 1992 Solheim Cup by thrashing the U.S., 11½-6½.
And the game was on.
The Americans have dominated the Solheim Cup, but the Europeans haven’t exactly laid down. The U.S. leads the matches, 10-5, including winning the last two. The matches have been spirited and sometimes downright contentious. But winning always has mattered because each team had something to prove. Until now.
Whichever team wins this week’s Solheim Cup won’t have any reason to celebrate because it won’t have accomplished anything. The matches, which begin Friday at Gleneagles in Scotland, are simply irrelevant, no matter how much vitriol the Europeans muster or face paint and hair ribbons that the Americans adorn.
Neither team is close to being at its best, either in personnel or current form. This year, the Solheim Cup is no more than an expensive exhibition.
Since 2013, when the Evian Championship was elevated to major-championship status in women’s golf, there have been 35 major winners. The U.S. has won eight majors in that time, and the Europeans have won four.
The American team has five of the top 18 players in the Rolex Rankings but only two in the top 10: Lexi Thompson (No. 3) and Nelly Korda (No. 10). Lizette Salas, Danielle Kang and Jessica Korda are Nos. 16-18, and Angel Yin, Marina Alex and Brittany Altomare and Nos. 31-33. Annie Park is No. 42 and Meghan Khang is No. 45, to round out the top 10 points earners.
Captain Juli Inkster faced a problem. Five of the 10 are rookies, and three others have only one Solheim Cup behind them. So, she picked two veterans with a combined nine Solheim Cups. The issue is that neither Stacy Lewis nor Morgan Pressel is performing at nearly the level needed to justify a pick, but the captain’s pickings apparently were slim. Missing from the U.S. team are Cristie Kerr, Paula Creamer, Brittany Lang and Brittany Lincicome, who recently had her first child – all of whom have been anchors of successful Solheim Cup teams.
Lewis has dropped to No. 81 in the world rankings, and since taking time off to have her first child, she has played poorly in 2019. Although she finished third at the Marathon Classic in July, Lewis has missed the cut in three of her past four majors and has missed her last three cuts.
Since the U.S. Women’s Open, Pressel – No. 52 in the world – has played in 11 events and missed seven cuts. She did finish fourth at the AIG Women’s British Open, but she has missed cuts in her past three starts.
The Europeans are simply pitiful. Carlota Ciganda is the highest-ranked player on the team, at No. 12. Bronte Law, a captain’s pick, is No. 26, and Charley Hull is 29th. Azahara Munoz ranks 36th, and Georgia Hall is 38th. Caroline Masson, at No. 49, is the only other European among the world’s top 50.
Things were so bad for European captain Catriona Matthew that she had to use a pick on Suzann Pettersen, who was slated to be an assistant captain. Pettersen is ranked No. 635 in the world and went 20 months without hitting a shot on a professional tour while she was having her first child. She has played in four LPGA events since July, missing three cuts.
With all the mediocrity that permeates both sides, there can’t be any drama that means anything. Unless members of both teams significantly raise the level of their collective games over and above what they’ve demonstrated this season, the only excitement generated in this Solheim Cup will be among the players themselves. Even at that, there’s no guarantee.
Mike Purkey has written about golf for more than 30 years for a number of publications, including Golf Magazine and Global Golf Post. He lives in Charlotte, N.C. Email: email@example.com; Twitter: @mikepurkeygolf