by Jeff Skinner
The LPGA Tour is in the middle of a critical stretch of tournaments that could very well decide the future of the tour. The US Women’s Open, The Evian Masters, The Women’s British Open and The Solheim Cup in August comprise a group of tournaments that are the most important and highly publicized events of the year. The Solheim Cup is a chance for women’s golf to get some much needed positive exposure. The Solheim Cup is the women’s version of the Ryder Cup where teams from Europe and The United States compete in a team format. It is a showcase event for women’s golf and a chance for the LPGA to recover from the black eye caused by the Bivens situation. The US captain, Beth Daniel will field a team of twelve players, ten of which earn their way on through a points system and two more players that she will pick as “captain’s picks.”
The top ten players in the points system represent some of the best and most popular golfers in the game. Paula Creamer, Cristie Kerr and Angela Stanford have set themselves apart from the rest of the players based on their play over the last two years. Popular players like Natalie Gulbis, Morgan Pressel, Brittany Lincicome and Christina Kim are in the top ten as well as solid players Nicole Castrale, Kristy McPherson and Brittany Lang. Captain Daniel is faced with a tough decision as to which players should be named as captain picks. All captains agonize over such decisions. They want to select the players that they think will give the team the best chance of winning. One of Daniel’s pick is obvious and a little controversial. She should select Michelle Wie as one of her captain’s picks. True, Wie is only in sixteenth place in the points standings, but she is the one to pick. Players have one more tournament to gather points but Wie should be the pick regardless of her finish in the Women’s British Open.
Wie is by far the hottest player of the 11-16 players in the points standing. She has finished 23rd, 3rd,19th and 23rd in her last four tournaments, much higher than any of the others in contention. Wie has accumulated five top tens this year, again, more than her competition. Only Pat Hurst has a win among the top six players not in the top ten. Wie is having the best year of these players and since she is a rookie this year she was only able to gather points this current season, while the other players had two years to accumulate points. Daniel has said that she wants her players to earn their way on the team. Wie might not have piled up enough points, but she has earned her way on the team based on her play. In addition to her play there is the “Michelle” factor. There are only a few players that “move the needle” in golf, those players that can get television ratings and plenty of press just by showing up. We all know that Tiger is the player when it comes to inflating ratings. Michelle Wie is one of those players. At a time when the LPGA needs all the positive press it can use, Michelle Wie on the team is a slam dunk. The Solheim Cup and the LPGA Tour would reap the benefits of having the most famous female golfer in the world front and center for the entire week. Wie’s selection may cause some controversy, but she is the pick Daniel needs to make.
The team as it stands now is a very young team. To offer some valued experience to the youngsters, Daniel should select Juli Inkster and her seven years of Solheim Cup experience to add a little Cup knowledge to the team. This pick may cause more controversy than the Wie selection as Inkster has no top tens this year, but her experience and attitude would be invaluable to the team. Wie and Inkster, they are the picks Captain Daniel should make and hope the US team pumps some excitement into women’s golf.