What to Watch for at the
Solheim Cup - Seven Tips (2013 Colorado)
By: Nancy Berkley
When most of us think of
golf, we think of it as an individual sport - not a team game. Well, forget
that. This weekend is your chance to watch the Solheim Cup team competition - a
golf tournament like no other.
Twelve golfers from Team USA will compete against Team Europe over three days
starting Friday, August 16th, and going through Sunday the 18th at Colorado
Golf Club in Parker, just outside Denver. The Solheim Cup is match play where,
in essence, every hole is its own contest. One way to think of it is as a
tournament with many separate matches.
both Friday and Saturday, the formats provide for two players on each team to
compete against two players from the opposite side. On Sunday, the 12 players
on each squad will play individual matches against the 12 players on the other
team. See my article A Primer on the Solheim Cup athttp://www.cybergolf.com/golf_news/a_primer_on_the_solheim_cup_teams_all_set_for_matches_in_midaugust.
most golfers are not as familiar with match play, especially in this biennial
tournament, here are a few things to watch for.
Did the Captains select the right pairings?
It won't be until Thursday evening when Meg Mallon, captain of Team USA, and
Europe's captain, Liselotte Neumann, announce which of their 12 players will
play in Friday's matches. The Cup competition begins in earnest with four
foursome matches at 7:30 a.m. Friday morning, with the afternoon four-ball
matches teeing off at 1:15 p.m. In foursomes, two players from each team
compete against two opposing players, hitting alternate shots until the ball
drops in the cup. Players also alternate who hits the tee shot. An interesting
fact is that the player who hits the tee shot may use a golf ball of her
preferred manufacturer, and that hole must be played out with that ball (or one
of the same brand if a ball is lost or damaged).
The captain will face similar choices when she chooses who plays with whom in
the four-ball format; the winner of a hole in these matches is the best score.
On Sunday all 12 players must play individual matches, but who their opponents
will be is undecided.
You can be sure that the team captains have thought a lot about their
respective lineups. For example, in alternate-shot should a long hitter be
paired with a player with a good short game? Should a rookie be paired with a
veteran? Should an aggressive player be paired with someone more conservative?
Should players who like each other be paired together? Complicating the
captain's decisions is that they do not have a clue of their counterpart's
Much has been written and discussed regarding both the Ryder Cup and Solheim
Cup regarding the best methodology for selecting pairings. At the extremes are
captains who think that team spirit is more important than the pairings. At the
other extreme are captains who peruse data and each player's strengths and
weaknesses thoroughly in deciding the pairings. Let's see how these Solheim
captains make their choices.
captains will hold press conferences during the matches and I am sure that they
will be asked about their pairings. Some are sure to be controversial and I
will report on those.
Do the players demonstrate a "team" attitude?
Here's what I would watch for in the alternate-shot format. Do the players
confer about their shots? For example, on a par-3, does Player A, who tees off
(and hopefully can land it on the green), talk to her teammate about what part
of the green is the ideal landing place since she will have to putt that ball?
On a par-5, where Player A has hit a good drive and Player B now has a choice:
go for the green or lay up and leave Player A with a chip shot?
In better-ball format, even though each player hits her own ball, do the two
welcome advice from their teammate? If a player is not conferring with her
partner it is a clue that that the captain may not have done her job in
developing a team spirit.
Talk about spirit: TV viewers will be overwhelmed with the red, white and blue
clothing designed by Antigua for Team USA and the same colors dominating the
gallery. Playing on home soil has its advantages. Team Europe will be smartly
dressed in Abacus Sportswear, which focused its fabrics on Colorado's variable
climate and features a turquoise blue to complement the beautiful sky.
Will you ever hear "I'm sorry?"
Here is one scenario you will see. Player A has put the ball four feet from the
hole, but her partner misses the putt. Does Player B say, "I'm sorry"
to player A? Probably not. In fact, Player A's role is to tell her partner that
she made a good try and will avoid placing any blame. That is what team play is
all about. If it looks like players are thinking more like individuals than
members of a team that will be a bad sign and reflect on the captain's
was in fact critical of the U.S. captain, Davis Love III, in last year's Ryder
Cup matches. Seehttp://www.cybergolf.com/golf_news/the_ryder_cup_understanding_leadership_loss.
Do you know what "dormie" means?
You will hear announcers use this term many times during these types of
tournaments. It is a unique to match play, and comes from the French
"dormir" - to sleep. It means that the leading golfer's margin is the
same as the number of holes remaining. At the end of the 15th hole, for
example, instead of saying "3-up with three holes to play," an
announcer might say that the leader is "dormie." Lots can happen when
a player is dormie: she can win all the remaining holes and force extra holes;
or she can lose the next hole and fall to her opponent, who wins by a 2-up
Expect the players to be very careful about not incurring penalties.
The penalties in match play are different from those used in stroke (or medal)
play. In match play, most often the penalty is loss of the hole whether the
infraction came on the first or fourth shots. In contrast, a stroke-play
penalty is usually one or two strokes tacked onto the overall score of the
round. Because penalties in match play are so harsh, expect players to be very
careful and call in rules officials when in doubt. For example, if a player
hits a manmade object like a TV tower, the players may summon officials to make
sure where the player can take a "free" drop without penalty. Many
readers may recall that Tiger Woods in the 2013 Masters was penalized for
replacing his ball two yards further back than he should have after his
approach went into a water hazard. If this had occurred in match play, he would
have lost the hole.
In match play, a team (or an individual player) can concede a putt - or even
an entire hole.
If you are watching the matches and see that a player does not hole-out her
ball, it's probably because the opponent has simply said, "that's
good." Or, in a worst-case scenario, where one team has had trouble, more
trouble and even more trouble - for instance hitting from rough into a bunker,
a missed bunker shot, then into rough - while the other team is sitting pretty
with a one-foot birdie or par putt, it's likely the team in trouble would
concede the hole. It's very bad form (and it won't happen in this tournament)
if a player makes any kind of concession without conferring with her partner.
Use the websites to learn more about the players and the matches.
coordinators of this Solheim Cup have done an outstanding job of providing
information. Go towww.solheimcupusa.com, www.solheimcupeurope.com or www.lpga.com. You will see transcripts of interviews with
players as well as a current leaderboard. But remember, the leaderboard will be
reporting match-play results and look very different from those you're used to.
Check your local TV stations for coverage.
Nancy Berkley, President of Berkley Golf Consulting, is an expert on women's
golf and junior-girls golf. She is a frequent contributor to www.cybergolf.com/womensgolf. Her book, "Women Welcome Here! A Guide to
Growing Women's Golf," published by the National Golf Foundation, is an
industry reference on marketing golf to women and spotting trends within the
industry. She offers information and advice about the golf industry onwww.berkleygolfconsulting.com and is often quoted in national publications.
She was a contributing editor of "Golf for Women" magazine and a
founding advisor of "Golfer Girl Magazine." Her interviews with women
in the golf industry now appear on www.golfergirlcareers.com. Nancy lives in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., and
is a graduate of the University of Minnesota, Harvard University and Rutgers
Law School. After a business and legal career, she decided to write about the
game she learned and loved as a teenager. She describes herself as a good bogey
golfer with permanent potential.