Tour Confidential: Solheim Cup unanswered questions, Ryder Cup captain’s picks and more
Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors as they break down the hottest topics in the sport, and join the conversation by tweeting us @golf_com. This week, we discuss the Europeans’ Solheim Cup win, Ryder Cup captain’s picks, PGA Tour stars coming to Netflix and more.
1. The 17th Solheim Cup finished on Monday at Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio, with Europe beating the U.S. 15-13 to win its second straight meeting and fourth in the last six. The Americans were stronger on paper — several Europeans even said so — yet scored just half a point in the event’s opening session and could never claw back. What went wrong for the U.S.? Or, what went right for Europe? And who was the MVP?
Josh Sens, senior writer (@joshsens): The European players themselves said that the absence of their own fans created an even greater sense of solidarity for their team. That’s probably true. But it was also about players peaking at the right time and being unleashed appropriately. Witness Leona Maguire, the MVP, set loose in all five matches. She was ferocious. On a side note: is there a more worrisome sign for a team than being considered stronger on paper? It would not be surprising to see a repeat of this result at Whistling Straits later this month.
Zephyr Melton, assistant editor (@zephyrmelton): While the players deserve their due, Catriona Matthew out-captained Pat Hurst. Matthew rode the hot hand, leaning on Solheim Cup rookie Leona Maguire, and it paid off with 4.5 points. Hurst on the other hand had some head-scratchers, including her decision to play world No. 1 Nelly Korda in two foursomes matches, effectively limiting the number of shots her best player could hit, while sitting her in the all-important Sunday four-ball. This Cup was won on the headsets.
Michael Bamberger, senior writer: Incisive analysis, Zephyr Melton! This is much less insightful, but Inverness, surprisingly, played firm, some of the bounces were quirky, and it really required shot-making. I saw far more European shot-making than American shot-making. That is, shaping shots, punching shots, using different clubs from around the greens. But there was outstanding play on both sides. The Americans got outplayed. It also sounds like they they got out-lineuped, per Zephyr.
Dylan Dethier, senior writer (@dylan_dethier): Sixteen of 28 matches came down to the 18th hole, and Team USA simply didn’t win enough of those. Team match play comes down to making the little putts at big times and Europe thrived in that department. As for MVP? Leona Maguire, easily. She punctuated an undefeated week with a 5-and-4 drubbing of would-be rookie rival Jennifer Kupcho.
2. The first day of the Solheim Cup came with a minor rules controversy, when Nelly Korda’s eagle try slid past the hole on the 13th and settled on the lip of the cup. One of her opponents, Madelene Sagstrom, walked over and picked up the ball, conceding the tap-in birdie. But a rules official said Sagstrom had not allowed 10 seconds to pass to determine if the ball had stopped moving before picking it up, so Korda’s putt was considered holed, and the Americans won the hole and later the match 1 up. The incident made the rest of the match a tense one and few pleasantries were exchanged afterward. Korda said the rules official said they had no say in the matter, and the decision was a unilateral one from the rules committee. “I wasn’t following the rules about leaving the ball for 10 seconds, but I do believe in integrity and honor of the game of golf, and I would never pick up a putt that had a chance to go in,” Sagstrom said. What’s your opinion on the biggest rules drama of the week? Was the right decision made?
Sens: It was a bummer of an incident but the right decision. No doubt Sagstrom had no ill intent but she said it herself: she broke the rules. In that instance, it was not her place to decide whether the putt was going to drop before the allotted 10 seconds.
Melton: It was by the letter of the law, but it was disappointing to see a rules controversy dominate the storylines in a week when there was some great golf. Madelene will surely never make that mistake again.
Dethier: Perhaps it’s better that Team USA didn’t ultimately win the Cup by a single point, because then we’d really keep hearing about this. As it is, the strange quirks of golf rules remain. This was enforced correctly, if unfortunately — and perhaps unnecessarily, but without being on that green it’s tough to say for sure.
Bamberger: I agree with all of that. There are a hundred ways to parse it, but the most fundamental one is the issue of fairness. Korda had the right to 10 seconds, and, via Sagstrom’s actions, didn’t get them.
3. Patrick Cantlay continued his hot play and won the Tour Championship — and $15 million bonus — on Sunday at East Lake. His FedEx Cup finale capped a three-week stretch that also featured a T11 and win at the BMW Championship. Few golfers have surged over the last month like Cantlay. If you are drafting players for next season, where are you picking Cantlay?
Sens: In my top five with Rahm, Morikawa, Spieth and Thomas,
Melton: He’s definitely in the top five. His consistency is incredible.
Dethier: All the unbeatable golfers are looking beatable, so at risk of being prisoner of the moment I’d take Cantlay just behind Rahm and Xander Schauffele as the Tour stalwarts of the 2022 season. But ask me again in two months and I’m sure I’ll have a different answer.
Bamberger: Very, very, very hard to repeat. Very hard to keep a thing going. Not in my top five. But Jordan Spieth is.
4. The six automatic qualifiers for the U.S. Ryder Cup team are now set with Collin Morikawa, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas and Cantlay. Assuming players 7-9 in the standings make the team — Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele and Jordan Spieth — that leaves three more options for captain Steve Stricker to pick on Wednesday. Who would you select? [Editor’s note: Koepka WD’d from the Tour Championship with a wrist injury, and for this exercise we will assume he is healthy enough to play at Whistling Straits.]
Sens: Kevin Na, Sam Burns and Daniel Berger. Different styles, but all share that bulldog trait that makes me think they’d be great teammates and thrive in the atmosphere.
Melton: Harris English, Will Zalatoris, Scottie Scheffler. English is a fringe top-10 player in the world at the moment (11th) and for the other two, I’d like to see some new blood in the mix. Plus I’m a sucker for my fellow Texans.
Dethier: Harris English, Daniel Berger and Kevin Na. English for the steady ball-striking. Berger because he’s a gamer. Na because he seems like a pain in the ass to play against, regardless of golf course or setting.
Bamberger: Na, English, Scheffler. And in that order. Not that order matters.
5. PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan met with the media last week and said any fans that breach the Tour’s code of conduct policy are subject to expulsion from the tournament. He also made it clear when specifically asked about fans yelling “Brooksy” at DeChambeau — those spectators will be kicked out. “Is that respectful or disrespectful? That has been going on for an extended period of time,” he said. “To me, at this point, it’s disrespectful, and that kind of behavior we’re not going to tolerate going forward.” What do you think of Monahan’s decision?
Sens: The better solution would be for Bryson to ignore the yahoos. The people yelling Brooksy are knuckleheads, but the term they’re using is not a slur. Can you imagine what Charlie Sifford would have to say about all this?
Melton: Seems like too little, too late. The genie is out of the bottle on this one, and the heckling of players — DeChambeau and others — will continue.
Dethier: It seems like it worked at the Tour Championship, based on reporting from East Lake. In certain situations, crowd participation and occasional heckling is a fun and integral part of pro golf, but unoriginal heckling should be punished for its inanity. I think we’re at a net gain here, even if the rule seems lame on its face.
Bamberger: I think Monahan has it right. I suggest a new campaign, with Mike Myers as Austin Powers, saying just two words: “Oh, behave.” If golf becomes too much like other sports it will shoot itself in the foot. It’s different. That’s what makes it special.
6. Our Dylan Dethier broke the news of Netflix teaming with the PGA Tour to launch a docuseries offering an inside look at life on Tour, much like Netflix’s Uber-popular Formula 1 show “Drive to Survive.” Production is set to begin in the 2021-22 season with some big-time players potentially signing on. But what has made “Drive to Survive” take off is the behind-the-scenes buy in from Formula 1 and the drivers. Will the PGA Tour and/or the players allow the same access to make such a show thrive? And a bonus question: if you are the head of casting, who is the first pro you are desperately pitching to join?
Sens: If the lives of Tour pros are as most Tour pros describe them, I don’t think we’re going to be keeping up with the Kardashians here in the way of eccentricities, scandal or surprise. That said, if you really were granted unvarnished access (good luck with that for any of the big names) Tiger, of course. Right?
Melton: I’m not sold on the Tour and agents and players and managers giving up the access needed. I fear it will turn into inauthentic sponsored content. As for a player to join the cast, it’s gotta be Harry Higgs. He’s one of the most compelling characters in golf.
Dethier: It’s been said a hundred times already, but the key to the show’s success will be access and authenticity. Living the daily life of a pro golfer might be mostly monotonous, but when it’s condensed into hour-long form, there’s plenty of juice there. As a dark horse pick, gimme the inside life of Dustin Johnson. Instant TV star.
Bamberger: Dylan typed for me, right down to Dustin Johnson. It could be great, but the obstacles are huge.