OVER four weeksthe LPGA will hopscotch from Thailand to Singapore to Mexico before finallymaking its way back to the continental U.S. at the end of March. All themeandering underscores the increasingly global nature of the game, especiallyon the women's side, and it got me thinking about the Solheim Cup and, morespecifically, Is it time to blow up the event?
This teamtournament pitting Europe against the U.S. will be played Aug. 21--23 at RichHarvest Farms near Chicago. It is supposed to be a showdown of the game's best,but this year it more likely will conjure a Who's Who of Who's Missing.
Lorena Ochoa,unquestionably the best female player in the world, is from Mexico andtherefore ineligible. Annika Sorenstam, the biggest name in modern women'sgolf, has retired. Karrie Webb of Australia? Ineligible. Inbee Park, who lastyear, at 19, became the youngest U.S. Women's Open winner, is from South Korea,as is 20-year-old Ji Yai Shin, the 2008 Women's British Open champion. YaniTseng, the McDonald's LPGA Championship winner at only 19, is from Taiwan. Inall, only five of the top 10 and six of the top 20 players in the LPGA RolexRankings—and none of 2008's major champions—are eligible for the SolheimCup.
To make mattersworse, the biggest name among those eligible, Michelle Wie, will have to startwinning tournaments—something she hasn't done since she was 13—to qualifyautomatically, although judging by her second-place finish in this year's SBSOpen, it seems as if she'll play well enough to merit a captain's pick withoutcausing an uproar.
But even withWie, the U.S. versus Europe in the Solheim Cup is like playing the World Serieswith the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Kansas City Royals.
How long can theSolheim Cup keep ignoring the rest of the world, even as those diverse facescome to dominate the game? A tournament with only Europe and the U.S made senseonce upon a time, but now that notion seems prehistoric. At least the men'sgame has gotten the rest of the world involved with its Presidents Cup (whichshould be merged with the Ryder Cup to make one superworldwide event—but that'sanother story).
Even if theywanted to emulate the Presidents Cup, the women couldn't do it. Aninternational team with Ochoa, Webb and the Asians would be unbeatable. Whatthey need to do is remake the Presidents Cup: Asia against the World (NorthAmerica, South America, Europe, Africa and Australia). It would be the youngstars of the East—Park, Shin and Tseng—against the Americans (Wie, Creamer,etc.) and friends (Ochoa, Webb, Suzann Pettersen and Sorenstam, if she everunretires).
If that soundslike a mismatch, consider that if they named the teams now, the Asians wouldhave 26 of the top 50 ranked players. They're loaded.
It would be aheck of a match, and for the first time in team golf no great player would beleft behind (unlike Greg Norman and the Ryder Cup). The TV ratings in Korea andJapan would be Godzilla-like.
Play away,ladies. This is going to be good.
TRUST ME by JAMES P. HERRE
The Match Play would be better TV if the semis and an 18-hole final were heldon Sunday.
The Wachovia Championship becomes the Quail HollowChampionship
SIXTH MAJOR - LIQUIDITY + L.A. CONTROVERSY √ó TARPBLOWBACK - PARTY APPETITE = NEW NAME
DARREN CARROLL (KOREANS)
LEFT OUT Koreans (clockwise from top left) Shi Hyun Ahn, Birdie Kim, Jee Young Lee, Kyeong Bae, Sung Ah Yim, Meena Lee, Seon Hwa Lee.
SAM GREENWOOD/GETTY IMAGES (ANTHONY KIM)
ROBYN BECK/AFP PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES (SHERYL CROW)
SCOTT J. FERRELL/CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY/GETTY IMAGES (FRANK)
DIANA ELIAZOV (FAUCET)
ROGER KISBY/GETTY IMAGES (TIMES SQUARE)
DAVID MCNEW/GETTY IMAGES (QUAIL)