Solheim Cup needs fixing
Let me begin by saying congratulations to the European Solheim Cup team and its captain, Liselotte Neumann, for the thorough pummeling it handed our USA team last weekend in Colorado.
With six rookies on their team, the Euros won the Solheim Cup on American soil for the first time, winning four of five sessions and allowing the USA to score only two clear singles victories on Sunday -- historically the red, white and blue's best format. They played fearlessly, aggressively and especially well to close over the last three crucial holes at Colorado Golf Club.
I was privileged to share the week with the USA team and captain Meg Mallon as one of her two vice captains, but after a few hours of reflection, if the Solheim Cup is to remain the pinnacle of women's golf, a couple of things need further review.
Friday afternoon's opening four-balls match endured a 27-minute ruling on the 15th hole, a ruling that not only stifled the momentum the U.S. team was building (yes, I am unapologetically biased in this opinion) but also was, in the end, absolutely incorrect.
It took the rules committee nearly three hours to issue a statement admitting that Carlota Ciganda of Spain had been allowed to hit from the wrong spot, an error that could not be corrected, according to the Solheim Cup captain's agreement.
I'm not claiming to be a rules expert, but I have been to USGA/PGA rules school twice and know enough to tell when things seem odd and when to ask questions of the referees. Stacy Lewis and I were absolutely barbecued for politely asking the referee to talk us through the process of how the ruling was decided and handled. It was only after that discussion that it became apparent that the ruling had been blown.
The U.S. golfers handled the news of the error, which Meg and I delivered to them late that night, like champions, and they moved forward into Saturday as asked. But the damage had been done, mostly to the reputation of the competition's integrity. Compound it with another ruling that took more than 30 minutes late Saturday, and with European vice captain Annika Sorenstam's borderline violation of the advice rule earlier that same day (a situation that necessitated a call to the USGA by the Solheim Cup rules committee), and you're left with a pretty nasty black eye on an event that deserves better.
You can make the case that the rules of golf are too complicated (if you agree, check out the newly launched website SimpleGolfRules.com), but the handling of the rules, however complex or simple they are, should never impact the integrity of the competition. Period.
Why are we here?
I may be old-school, but I believe international cup matches like the Solheim Cup, Ryder Cup, Curtis Cup and Walker Cup were about meeting every two years to battle it out for something that was buried deep in your soul. It was about being so nervous you couldn't sleep, eat or take a deep breath.
I never made it through a Solheim Cup as a player without throwing up. It was about bonding so closely with people you were trying to pummel 51 other weeks of the year that you'd sprint back nine holes to find and support them after you were done with your match, win or lose. It was about having the opposition spend Thanksgiving at your house a week after the first Solheim Cup and literally watching as Margaret Thatcher was forced to resign.
Yes, one of the stalwarts of so many of Europe's Solheim Cup teams used to get her mail at my house in Florida and had a car registered to my address. I treasure my friendship with Trish Johnson, going back even beyond that first Solheim Cup to when she kicked my butt at the 1986 Curtis Cup. We shared all of those life experiences together.
It wasn't about participation medals, face paint, hair ribbons, spousal gown allowances, decorated hotel rooms, custom rain suits and "inside the ropes" badges; it was about pouring your heart and soul into something you got no material benefit from. It was about beating the tar out of each other and being so exhausted you could barely get out of bed the next morning. It was about winning big and losing hard.
Like I said, maybe I am old-school, but maybe we should take a look at where we are with all of these matches. We will all be better for it.