Road Hole Shorts

Golf Design, golf, golf, GOLF

My Picks for Solheim Pairings

By Mary Armstrong

Published in the Las Cruces Sun-News 9/23/11

Getting the best players for the Solheim Cup or any team golf competition may not be the most important factor in producing a win. How those players perform in the given format and whether they can be a productive part of a team are just as important. In the 2004, as Tiger and Phil Mickelson were battling it out for world number one they were paired in a Ryder Cup four ball match with a hint that they might stay together for the afternoon foursomes.. Pairing players that spray the ball like those two isn’t a great idea, but putting together two personalities like Mickelson and Woods is just plain suicidal. The result – catastrophe and a “chill in the air” that nearly caused a frost delay.

USA Solheim Captain Rosie Jones, a New Mexico native, needs to figure out who she wants playing. Once she knows that, matching the personalities will be just as critical. Putting the two best players together doesn’t necessarily guarantee a win – as we saw with Woods and Mickelson – but just because my friend ViAnn and I get along great doesn’t mean we could do squat against Suzann Pettersen and Sophie Gustafson. It seemed to me a great challenge for Rosie to pair up the right people with the best talent, so I decided to give it a try.

My first task was to see what outside factors might come into play. In a recent interview, European captain Alison Nicholas said the greens at Killeen Castle are difficult to hit in regulation. Foursomes (alternate shot) is the first competition. It is my feeling that this is the most difficult format for the Americans. All other factors being equal, I think it’s important to match players that are steady to a similar degree – notwithstanding the Woods/Mickelson fiasco. If you put a player that hits the ball down the middle all the time with a player that misses half the fairways there’ll be discomfort and tension. So, the first thing I did was to create a table of all the players with their LPGA tour rankings for different aspects of the game:

GIR – Greens In Regulation  DAC – Driving Accuracy  PPG – Putts per Green  DD – Driving Distance

Since hitting greens in regulation is considered to be a particularly difficult aspect of the course, I ranked the players according to how high the ranked in GIR. Through this process, I eliminated Morgan Pressel, Ryan O’Toole, Julie Inkster and Vicki Hurst from consideration in the Foursomes matches. In 2009 the US split the 8 foursome’s matches. The only two matched players that are back from that team are Michelle Wie and Christie Kerr, so I would keep them together. Also, Brittany Lang and Brittany Lincicome paired well in the first day of Foursomes. Christina didn’t play well last week, and Julie Inkster had played well with Paula in ’09, so I decided to drop Christina for Foursomes. I see Stacy and Angela as grinders, and a good match. So, if I were arranging the teams for the first Foursomes matches, they would look like this:

• Christie Kerr/Michelle Wie because they did well together in Foursomes in 2009.

• Brittany Lang/Brittany Lincicome because they did well together in Foursomes in 2009.

• Stacy Lewis/Angela Stanford because they have similar games.

• Paula Creamer/Julie Inkster because they did well together in Foursomes in 2009.

If all the pairings do well in the morning matches, I would go with them the next day in Foursomes. For the afternoon Fourball event, some adjustments are in order. Scoring is what is important there as each player plays her ball and the best score of the two teammates goes on the card – commonly called best ball here in the U.S. Therefore, if you look at the table above, you can see that Christina Kim hasn’t done well as far as scoring birdies. She is tied for 21st in eagles, but that only represents three eagles all year. Ryann O’Toole warrants some careful consideration as well because while her birdie ranking is a not so good 73rd, she has only played in ten events as compared to Christina Kim’s 42nd in 17 events. However, she, Christie Kerr and Christina Kim didn’t make the cut last week at the Navistar LPGA Classic.

The Fourball events are usually won by the teams that have a player with a hot hand. What happens in the morning Foursomes might change my pairings, but based upon what I know today, I would go with these two person teams:

• Christina Kim/Morgan Pressel because they have similar games.

• Paula Creamer/Christie Kerr because they did well together in Fourball in 2009.

• Stacy Lewis/Angela Stanford because they have similar games

• Brittany Lang/Brittany Lincicome because they have similar games (and similar names) and did well together in Fourball in 2009.

Well, that’s about it. From my desk, being a coach is maybe one part statistics analyst, one part historian, one part cheerleader and three parts gambler. By the time you read this Friday morning, the Foursomes matches will probably be completed. I probably missed the boat, but I won’t miss the action ‘cause I’m recording it.

A golf architect in New Hampshire for over 20 years, Armstrong brought her craft to Las Cruces in January 2010. She is the founder of Armstrong Golf Architects, which provides planning, designing, permitting and construction monitoring services for golf course projects. You can comment on her writing and view past articles at her blog:


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