by Jeff Skinner
The U.S. Solheim Team has been finalized and Captain Meg Mallon will be trying to get her charges in top form for the August 16th-18th matches at the Colorado Golf Club.
Mallon’s team features the top American golfers who battled all year to earn points with the top eight players gaining an automatic slot. Current British Open Champion and America’s best golfer, Stacy Lewis led the points total followed by Paula Creamer, Cristie Kerr, Angela Stanford, Brittany Lincicome, Lexi Thompson, Jessica Korda and Brittany Lang.
The next two spots were awarded to the players who were highest in the Rolex World Rankings but hadn’t qualified on the points list. Lizette Salas was a lock for her spot and Morgan Pressel earned her way on with a T4 finish at the Women’s British Open.
That left two Captain’s Picks for Mallon with three players bunched together on the points list, Jennifer Johnson at eleventh, Gerina Piller at twelve followed by Michelle Wie at thirteen.
Mallon opted to go with the long hitting Piller who already has five top tens this season on the LPGA. And this is where it got interesting.
Jennifer Johnson has a win this season at the Mobile Bay LPGA classic and two top tens. She is currently in 24th place on the money list and sat twenty five points ahead of Wie on the Solheim Cup Points List and holds the 25th spot on tour in scoring average.
But that wasn’t enough to convince Mallon that she earned a spot on her team.
Mallon chose the higher profile Wie because “Michelle Wie can handle being on a big stage.” Really? Isn’t the LPGA the big stage? Wie hasn’t handled much this season at all.
Years ago, yes years ago, she’s been around forever, Wie had the reputation of a very long driver of the ball. But her numbers this year show she’s lost that advantage. She currently ranks 145th in driving accuracy and 45th in driving distance. So she’s not long but very wild. In scoring average she’s 57th on tour and in greens in regulation she comes in at 53rd. Money list…which is a good indicator of performance she is down at 55th.
So where is the advantage she gives the team over Johnson. The only significant stat where Wie tops Johnson is in putting average where believe it or not Wie comes in at 56 on tour and Johnson a dismal 143rd.
Mallon justified Wie’s selection this way, “I’ve said all along you have to be able to handle the pick. Michelle Wie can handle being on a big stage, being a big pick. I kept thinking, Do I want to leave five or six birdies a round at home on the couch?
I just couldn’t do that.”
For the record, Wie ranks 38th on the LPGA in birdies while Johnson beats her at 34th. Does Mallon have some statistics she would like to share with us?
Johnson was naturally disappointed and let the world know on her Twitter account and maybe she has a legitimate gripe. But that’s why they give the captain the picks. They have some control over the makeup of their team. But I can’t help but think there is more behind this pick.
Michelle Wie still moves the needle in women’s golf. Yes, even with her mediocre play people still tune in to see her. There are very few players that move the needle in golf: Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are the two biggest and as hard as it is to believe John Daly is one of them also.
And for the women it isn’t world number one Inbee Park or the top American Stacy Lewis. It’s Michelle Wie.
The television ratings will be higher with Michelle Wie on the team, there is no doubt about that. Did that enter Mallon’s mind? Was there any pressure from the powers that be to pick Wie? We’ll never know. But I can’t help but think that Wie’s ability to draw viewers had more to do with her pick than her ability on the course.