Solheim Cup grades, Tiger Woods’ caddy win, Ryder Cup prediction | Monday Finish
Welcome back to the Monday Finish, where we’re undefeated in match play. Let’s get to it!
FIRST OFF THE TEE
Solheim Cup grades.
I’m writing to you from the sky — on a flight to Rome! This flight is teeming with men of the cloth, including, rumor has it, the archbishop of Oklahoma!
(And folks, I’m not just talking about Viktor Hovland.)
But before the golf world descends on the Holy See and its associated countryside, let’s review an epic Solheim Cup that was by dishing out some final grades.
Carlota Ciganda gets a clear and obvious A+ for facing the pressure of being the only Spaniard at the Ryder Cup, serving as enthusiastic host and then delivering an absolute beatdown on the course. Her 4-0-0 record speaks for itself. The fact that her birdies at 16 and 17 on Sunday took down Nelly Korda and delivered the point that clinched Europe’s 14th point? That was almost too good a story.
Megan Khang earned top honors of her own; 3-0-1 including a Sunday staredown of Linn Grant in the first singles match? Hell yeah.
Cheyenne Knight belongs here, too. You can only win the matches you play, and Knight went 2-0-1 including a particularly fun Saturday pairing alongside Angel Yin. Nails.
We’re giving Caroline Hedwall the nod here, too. Sure, she only went 1-1. But she played well in defeat on Saturday, and on Sunday she turned a 3-down deficit into victory on the back nine.
Finally let’s include Lexi Thompson. Nobody faced greater question marks entering the week; Thompson has been in the worst form of her career, with seven missed cuts and zero top-30s in nine stroke-play starts this season. Then captain Stacy Lewis sent her out first! She hit the opening tee shot on Friday. She won that hole. Then she won that match. On Sunday she played in the final pairing — and won that match, too. Yeah, there was that unfortunate chip shot… but that was outweighed by so much good. Congrats on the A, Lexi. You earned it.
European captain Suzann Pettersen earned a solid B+ — perhaps just a point or two ahead of U.S. captain Stacy Lewis. Pettersen finishes the week with a better grade than her American counterpart because the tie goes to the Cup-keeper, but I enjoyed their contrasting styles. Lewis’ approach kept analytics at the forefront, while Pettersen seemed determined to shoot from the hip. It’s tough to say one worked better than the other, given each side claimed 14 points, but Pettersen was the one who got to celebrate.
Oh, and their captain’s picks went fairly well, too: Ewing (1-3-0) Yin (2-1-0) and Knight (2-0-1) combined for a 5-4-1 record for the U.S., while Pettersen’s Sagstrom (1-1-1), Hedwall (1-1-0), Dryburgh (0-0-2) and Pedersen (2-2-1) each (remarkably) won exactly 50% of her matches.
Leona Maguire, Linn Grant and Maja Stark all belong in the “B” grade and perhaps higher; these three felt like the current and future stars of this team. Maguire made five birdies and an eagle in Sunday singles to take down Rose Zhang and improve her record to 3-2-0. Grant lost her first and last match of the week but won the three in between. And Grant, her countrywoman and partner, went 2-1-1.
Gemma Dryburgh didn’t win a match. But she didn’t lose a match, either. She earned two gritty half-points. Scotland should be proud and she gets a solid B, too.
Nobody expected Emily Pedersen to play all five sessions — perhaps not even Pedersen herself. But she fared well, going 2-2-1 including an ace and a number of big-time moments. It seemed like her week might be destined for top-tier heroism when she had a 2 up lead through two holes on Sunday in the final match before Thompson chased her down.
Madelene Sagstrom earned her first team win in three Solheim appearances when she and Pedersen teamed up Saturday and finished with a solid 1-1-1 effort.
Angel Yin seemed to be in competition with Khang to see who could have the most fun of anyone on the U.S. side. She also found out that winning tends to be more fun than losing — and tapped into that with an eagle and two birdies in her final four holes to flip a deficit into a 2 and 1 win and a 2-1 record.
Allisen Corpuz was nearly flawless in team matches, winning 2.5 points in three sessions. But she made just one birdie during her singles match against Stark, turning a great week into a solid B effort.
Danielle Kang came out hot and stayed hot on Sunday; she birdied the first and then birdied 8, 9, 12, 14 and 16 to put a 4 and 2 beatdown on Charley Hull and leveling out a 2-2-0 week. Speaking of which…
Charley Hull went 1-2-0, a perfectly respectable showing considering she was playing hurt. She and previous Cup partner Maguire even crushed the high-powered team of Nelly Korda and Ally Ewing on Saturday. But there’s no doubt Hull was disappointed to play just three matches given her season and her competitive fire.
Nelly Korda went 2-2-0, which might make this a harsh grade were it not for the fact that she — and we — hold her to a higher standard. After she won Friday and Saturday morning I would have wagered on a 4-0-0 week; instead she wound up on the losing end of Ciganda’s clinching birdie putt.
Georgia Hall went 1-2-1, which is perfectly respectable. But Europe expected more from her 0-2 partnership with Celine Boutier — and considering she was 2 up with four holes to play on Sunday, coming away with just a half-point was disappointing.
Andrea Lee earned that half-point from Hall to match her at 1-2-1. There’s no shame in that result, especially given one loss came to the formidable Grant/Stark team.
Look, we take no pleasure in putting anybody down here! But the Monday Finish can’t be accused of easy grading or people will start to talk. Not everybody’s Cup can be above average.
Ally Ewing‘s week started hot; she and Knight led a preposterous 6 up through nine holes on Friday morning. It was all downhill from there, though. Ewing’s next two team matches were 4 down losses — and in Sunday singles she was 3 up with six holes to play but lost five of those six to suffer a disappointing defeat.
Lilia Vu entered the week as the highest-ranking member of the event; the two-time major champ is also No. 2 in the world. She didn’t make enough birdies in her three team matches to stay competitive but seemed to get ’em all out on Sunday instead: she birdied five of the first six holes en route to a romp over Sagstrom.
Like Vu, Anna Nordqvist got off to a distressing 0-3-0 start in team matches before rallying with a commanding showing on Sunday; she beat Jennifer Kupcho 2 and 1 to salvage a point. As for Kupcho herself? She earned just a half-point in three matches, though a half-point is notably better than no points at all.
Rose Zhang finished the week at 0-2-1, too. It was a bit surprising to see the talented rookie only play three of five sessions. It was even more surprising to see her a bit out of sorts. It’s tough to blame her for a Sunday singles defeat, given Maguire was on the other end. But I’m betting Zhang is already looking forward to the next Solheim Cup; she’s not used to losing. (Nor bad grades.)
Celine Boutier was the only pro on either side to finish the week without at least a half-point. That was a particular shock because she entered the week asEurope’s top-ranked pro (Boutier is World No. 5) and played just three times. She led 1 up with five holes to play on Sunday before Yin chased her down.
I also would like to speak for you, my sports-viewing people, when I say the quality of the event was not matched by the quality of the broadcast. The commentators were clearly frustrated by it; they weren’t in control of the feed and the provided feed wasn’t good enough. We missed crucial storylines, we lacked context from scorekeeping graphics, we spent too much time some places and far too little others. The gripes of Meghan and Tron below seemed to resonate with those watching…
My final failing grade would go to “ties” and this notion of “retaining the Cup.” Surely there’s a playoff format that would have felt more satisfying, more certain, more substantial and more entertaining than just tie-goes-to-the-last-winner? We never discuss this specific circumstance because it basically never happens. So I’m glad my boss Alan Bastable is leading the discourse around installing a playoff rather than finishing the week at a delightful 14-14 standstill.
WHAT WE’RE HEARING
Bryson DeChambeau would have liked a call.
LIV returned to action this week at Rich Harvest Farms outside of Chicago, and Bryson DeChambeau emerged the champion. It’s been a strong summer for DeChambeau; he finished T4 at the PGA and T20 at the U.S. Open and racked up four top-fives on LIV, including two wins (and a 58). A middling result at the Open (T60) may have sealed his fate, but DeChambeau said post-win he would have at least appreciated a call from U.S. captain Zach Johnson.
“I am playing better than Winged Foot,” he said, referencing his 2020 U.S. Open victory. “It would have been nice to at least just have a call. There’s numerous people that I think Zach should have called out here (on LIV), and we didn’t get that.
“I understand it, I get it, but we’re nothing different. We’re still competing. We’re still working super hard to be the best we possibly can be. Brooks [Koepka] is obviously going to kill it for Team USA next week and excited for the team, but yeah, it definitely does sting a little bit, but say what you want, we’re still golfers, and I personally think that given the way I played this week, I could have definitely racked up some points for Team USA. But that’s neither here nor there. As time has gone on, hopefully I’ll be in line for it in a couple years.”
Pair DeChambeau’s lament with Sergio Garcia‘s admission that he’d gone to the DP World Tour in an attempt to get onto the Ryder Cup team — even if it meant paying all his fines — and it’s clear that as the Cup arrives, some past contestants are sad to miss out.
WHAT WE’RE SEEING
Tiger caddying, Charlie winning.
Let’s not get all weird about this. But it’s great to see Tiger Woods walking. It’s great to see Charlie Woods playing good golf and enjoying it. It’s uncanny how much the two move, swing and talk like each other. And I have a feeling these two each have some golfing successes in their future.
At least one fellow caddie raved about the experience, too:
RYDER CUP PREDICTION
I’m feeling so pleased with myself for tipping Megan Khang as the top U.S. points-getter on last week’s Drop Zone podcast that I’m going to tease out a couple Ryder Cup picks that have my eye, via Bet365:
Ludvig Aberg going off at 16 to 1 as top European points scorer is just too high.
We don’t yet know who his partners will be. But predicting this stuff is usually just a numbers game, right? You want to have the guy who’s playing the most matches. In this case, Marco Simone is such a demanding walk that I’m not sure we’ll see even the horses go all five sessions. Aberg is as likely as most to play four. And who’s to say he won’t win 3.5 points from those four matches, like Khang just did?
On the U.S. side, how ’bout Xander Schauffele to be top U.S. scorer at 7 to 1? He and Patrick Cantlay may currently be the most cohesive golf partnership in the world, and he’ll play at least four matches. Feels like he’ll at least get to Sunday singles with a chance to earn this honor.
We’ll have a fuller preview show coming via the Drop Zone (subscribe via Apple or Spotify!) later this week, though, once I’ve got feet on the ground and pizza in my system. I’ll lock in some more official picks then. (You shouldn’t trust them, for the record.)
3 things to watch this week.
1. Justin Thomas
Are we forgetting who this guy is in these events?
2. Ludvig Aberg
It seems to be Sweden Szn. Who will Aberg pair with, how often will he play and how will he handle golf’s brightest lights?
3. The Ryder Cup, period
For the first time in a long time we’re entering arguably golf’s greatest week without a clear favorite. Europe looks strong. The U.S. looks deep. And we know how these things have gone for Team America in the past, when traveling abroad…
I’m pumped to be on site starting Monday morning. The whole GOLF crew be releasing some behind-the-scenes videos and writing up a storm. Hope you’ll follow along while we do!
I’ll raise an aperol spritz in your direction.