World's best missing from Solheim Cup
The Solheim Cup was patterned after the Ryder Cup, and rarely does anyone go wrong following the blueprint of a tried-and-true success.
So every two years since 1990, the United States and Europe have picked a dozen of their best female golfers, dressed them in uniforms, added a healthy dose of nationalism and sent them out to perform under the extreme pressure of team competition.
The result, just as in the Ryder Cup, has been moments of great golf theater, raw-nerve emotion and captivating competition.
But this time, when the U.S. and Europe begin Solheim Cup play Friday at Killeen Castle in Dunsany, Ireland, something significant will be missing. Namely, too many of the world's best female players.
Of the top 30-ranked female golfers in the world, only 10 will be competing this weekend and just five are among the top 10.
The strength of American golf -- or the lack of it -- on the LPGA has been an easy target of late, but the United States, with eight players ranked in the world's top 30 and four in the top 10, can take solace: Only two Europeans are listed among the top 30. Norway's No. 2 Suzann Pettersen is the team's only top-10 representative.
Meanwhile, Asian countries -- led by world No. 1 Yani Tseng of Taiwan -- account for 19 of the top 30. Also, there is Australia's Karrie Webb.
"Obviously, there are a lot of Asians out here," Pettersen told reporters earlier this season while discussing the LPGA's future in the American market. "The LPGA really needs those Americans to play well. ... I would like to see more Europeans up at the top."
That leaves this week's Solheim Cup feeling like a tennis championship without Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal, an NFL Pro Bowl team missing Tom Brady or a supermarket tabloid without a mention of Casey Anthony.
For those keeping score, the U.S. leads Europe 8-3 in the Solheim Cup series, including three straight victories. But is that really an accomplishment, or has it become more a case of the second team beating up on the junior varsity?
"There is no plan, nor is there any desire, to change the format of the Solheim Cup," LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said. "The Solheim Cup is one of the absolute best events in women's professional golf and professional sport. While the media and fans may think the recent run of U.S. success suggests that the format is no longer competitive, nothing could be further from the truth.
"The players and captains know that both teams come loaded with talent, and I'm sure this competition will continue to grow and prosper with swings in success by each side."
When the PGA Tour faced a slightly similar problem with a wealth of players from Australia and South Africa being excluded from team play -- and because it recognized a revenue opportunity -- the Presidents Cup was created. During alternating years the Ryder Cup is not played, the Presidents Cup pits the United States against an international team excluding Europeans.
While lacking the history and passion of the original, the spin-off has produced some significant moments and entertaining play.
As the old saying goes, imitation is the greatest form of flattery. If it worked for the LPGA once, it can work again.
"Regarding an event or format that can/will showcase our incredible international LPGA superstars, I would tell you to 'stay tuned,'" Whan said. "We agree that the time is right to create something that puts 'Golf's Global Tour' in head-to-head competition. However, we will not change/alter the Solheim Cup with the development of new ideas."
Meanwhile, women's golf will watch this week's matches intently. Exactly what it sees will be open to interpretation.