Monday At The Solheim Cup

The first and tenth tees at the Solheim Cup

Monday At The Solheim Cup

The third — and final — day at the Solheim Cup featured 12 singles matches. The European team came into the day with a two point lead, and finished with same margin, ultimately winning 15-13.

You can read the Solheim Cup final match summaries at the link.

TOLEDO, OHIO – SEPTEMBER 06: Team Europe poses with the Solheim Cup after their win over Team USA during day three of the Solheim Cup at the Inverness Club on September 06, 2021 in Toledo, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

As with previous days, the crowd around the first and tenth tees was enthusiastic, cheering loudly for the Americans, while music pumped through the speakers. As before many of the American players indicated to the crowd that they wanted cheers as they teed off.

Lexi Thompson encouraging the crowd to keep cheering while she teed off.

I have a theory about that: it doesn’t matter to golfers if the noise is loud or quiet, as long as the sound state is steady. A sudden noise in a quiet background can throw off a swing; a steady wall of sound, on the other hand, becomes white noise.

The European Squad brought its own flamenco dancer. Not coincidentally, the next Solheim Cup event is at Finca Cortesin, Andalucia, Spain.

Charley Hull tees off from the thirteenth tee box.

Away from the main pavilion, the area around the Meijer pavilion, which includes the second green, the fifth green, the eleventh green, the par 3 twelfth hole and the 13th tee box was packed for much of the day.

A crowd around the seventeenth green.

The seventeenth green also had a sizable crowd, as did the ninth, sixteenth and eighteenth. Outside of those areas, though, crowds seemed smaller and much more subdued. Much of that, I think, was due to the fact that at the height of the competition, there were 12 groups spread out over fourteen or fifteen holes.

Fans around the third green.

The best scoreboards were also in those areas. I think more scoreboard and a few more bleachers could have helped. A great place for grandstands would have been behind the 3rd green / 4th tees, and the 6th green / 7th tees. Those were great viewing areas that were a long way from anything else. Add in a beer and brats vendor and you’re in great shape.

Speaking of beer and brats, where was Tony Packo’s? A missed opportunity.

Hinkle Tree plaque

In my wandering around Inverness Club, I found a plaque marking the location of the infamous “Hinkle Tree.”

During the 1979 US Open, Lon Hinkle found that if he hit a ball from the eighth tee to the 17th fairway, he could dramatically shorten the par five. After Hinkle pulled off the stunt in the first round, the USGA took action. Overnight, the USGA planted a 25 foot pine tree on the line of play to prevent others from copying the “cheat.”

The tree is gone, but a plaque testifies to the degree to which the USGA will do anything to protect its’ precious par.

During Monday’s matches, I watched a number of players use a similar tactic. They shortened the seventeenth by hitting to the sixteenth fairway off the tee.

A decent drive from the seventeenth tee to the middle or far side of the sixteenth fairway would put a player to the left of a big tree between the holes, with a clear shot to the green. The only catch was that it put a large greenside bunker in play.

Carlotta Ciganda hitting from the 17th tee to the 16th fairway. Notice how her body is aimed well to the left of the ropes defining the lines of the 17th fairway.

The USGA would have planted a tree. The LPGA let it go. Good for the LPGA.

Matilda Castren putts out.

I have no data, but my impression is that putting made all the difference over the three days of the Solheim Cup. It seems that everywhere I looked, a European player was bombing a putt in for a win. I’d love to see how the “shots gained putting” statistic of the Europeans compared to the US team.

I have long wondered about the role of Captains in these sort of competitions. Do they make any difference? In the case of the 2021 Solheim Cup, I think it may have. Catriona Matthew recognized a hot hand in rookie Leona Magure and penciled her in for five matches, which resulted in four and a half points. Good call, and one that a less confident Captain might not have made.

American Captain Pat Hurst, on the other hand, sat Nelly Korda — the World No. 1 — for the Sunday Four Balls. Instead, Korda played in two foursomes on the weekend. Foursomes, if you recall, are alternate shot affairs. That means the best player in the world was only hitting half the shots in those matches.

Of course, it is likely that I’m missing a lot of information in my analysis. Hurst knows far more about golf than I do. My only experience is coaching high school teams through a couple of Ryder-Solheim Cup style competitions. In those matches, however, my goal was to ensure that my best players took as many of the shots as possible.

Solheim Cup radio unit.

At the tournament, a great many were sporting earpiece radios that simulcast the tv coverage. It was a decent way to try to keep track of what was going on around the course, but without the visuals was lacking something. After the tournament was over, I caught the Sirius/XM PGA TOUR radio rebroadcast of the event and thought it was much better. The radio announcers know they’re on radio and fill in details appropriately.

Next time, the Solheim Cup should figure out a way to get PGA TOUR radio to provide the coverage.

An interesting thing that came up on the radio was that eight of the twelve European players attended US colleges. I don’t know if that is of any import for the Solheim Cup competition, but as a teacher of economics I find it interesting. Education is one of the United States’ primary exports. According to the Commerce Department, in 2019, it was our sixth biggest export. Hosting one million foreign students generated $44.04 billion, and supported 458,000 jobs.

There are a lot of reasons why an American education is valued more than, say, a Chinese education, but this is a golf blog, not an economics/government blog, so I’ll spare you the lecture (even as the teacher in me screams “give them a lecture!).

Bubba Watson talks with Captain Pat Hurst and others on the 17th fairway.

On Sunday, there were quite a few Bubba Watson sightings. He was all over the course. In the morning, he was dancing and leading cheers on the first tee. Later, I saw him having discussions with the Captain..

Watson, a Ping player, has long had an interest in the Solheim Cup (named after Ping founder Karsten Solheim). He is friends with Pat Hurst and Angela Sanford. Watson arrived for the first team event on Monday, August 30 and stayed through the final day.

Bubba apparently was available to do whatever was needed, which included filling divots and driving players around. He also helped out with the Junior Soleim Cup team.

I loved Bubba’s reaction to the Solheim Cup: “I think it’s important for the world to see that these girls have just as much talent, if not more, than we do.”

And that’s a good place to leave this disquisition. LPGA players are great athletes and great golfers. In spite of testosterone fueled machismo, the vast majority of male amateurs would have zero chance of beating Solheim Cup Players in a match. The Solheim Cup was an exquisite display of talent, and I hope people took notice.

To steal a phrase from the PGA TOUR: These gals are good.

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