I’m writing the blog – or at least starting it – a few hours earlier than usual, sitting in the press/media centre at Gleneagles, where we’re all getting ready for the Solheim Cup to start just after 0800 on Friday morning. In such a serious place, surrounded by people pounding away on their laptops (there are still some old schoolers who grew up with typewriters and haven’t quite adjusted to today’s more sensitive keyboards), composing, filming, recording, phoning, interviewing, scurrying to meet deadlines, I feel I should be doing likewise. Instead, resisting temptation womanfully, it’ll be the same old guff, only perhaps with better pictures….
I love the Solheim Cup and it’s great to see how it’s grown to become a proper, competitive, must-not-miss event with people saving up to travel to it every two years, to cheer on their favourites, deck themselves out in the most outrageous outfits and enjoy the banter with the opposition. Some commentators, slaves to the world rankings, which are currently dominated by the Rest of the World rather than Americans and Europeans, have written the Solheim off as mired in mediocrity (I paraphrase but only slightly) and described the Europeans as “simply pitiful”. Hmm.
That makes me think of the second Solheim at Dalmahoy – this is the 16th, which means that that unforgettable braveheart bouleversement when the Europeans hammered an American team laden with titles and major championships, was 27 years ago. Unbelievable. Anyway, Beth Daniel, one of the US stars, was quoted as saying that you could put any one of the Americans on the European team and make it better but only Laura Davies or Liselotte Neumann could conceivably improve the American side. Talk about lighting the blue touch paper. No more motivation needed. Hell hath no fury like an underdog scorned. Beth still denies she said any such thing but she was absolutely right, if lacking in diplomacy; several of the Europeans went on to great things but at that time they were raw in the extreme compared with their opponents.
Dalmahoy is right up there as one of the great sporting upsets and you don’t need the world’s best players to have one of the world’s best contests. I’m expecting great things from both sides this week and a ding-dong battle that will shred the nerves of everyone bar the odd stray neutral – who’ll have to pick a side to savour the atmosphere and occasion to the full.
The two captains, whom no one could describe as mediocre in any way, were relaxed and at ease as they gave the media their pairings in advance of the official announcement at the opening ceremony – on pain of expulsion were we to break the embargo – and both had a little fun at Suzann Pettersen’s expense. The feisty Norwegian, who has barely played any competitive golf since the birth of her son a year and a bit ago, was an interesting captain’s pick and is not playing in the opening session.
She was apparently sounding croaky in her press conference earlier in the day and Matthew was asked if she had any concerns. She said no, on the contrary: “Suzann said she’s actually feeling pretty good, obviously just a little bit hoarse. She’s actually feeling good. Her caddie is probably quite pleased at that; she’s not speaking so loudly.”
The Norwegian is notoriously vocal and, in the past, pre-motherhood, volatile and Inkster was quick to interject with her own quip: “It’s good for our side, too,” she said.
Inkster has paired the Korda sisters together despite initial misgivings. “I wasn’t too keen on it,” she said. “They really are two different personalities, even though they have the same game. They actually asked me to play together and the more I thought about it…..it would be stupid not to play them. They’re a strong team together and they wanted to play together…..it’s not often you get two sisters on one team and they should have the right to play together.”
For the record, the PING Junior Solheim Cup, which was played on the King’s Course, ended, as it usually does, with victory for the USA. It was close in the end – 13-11 – but the Europeans couldn’t quite make up for a big deficit in the fourballs.It’s not like me to run out of words – and I haven’t really – but I’m going to leave you with some more pictures, to give you a flavour of what’s going on here in Perthshire, Scotland. I travelled to Gleneagles by train from Edinburgh a couple of times and it really tickled me to see that ScotRail were pulling out all the Solheim stops at Waverley station. I didn’t notice the branding on the platform gates at first because I was rushing and starting to panic that I’d missed platform 13 – tucked away a bit around a corner.
An event in Scotland would not be complete without the pipers and these guys – and girls – were getting ready for action. The golfers aren’t the only players who have to be at their best on this big occasion.
Tuning up. Honestly, even bagpipes…..
You never know who you’ll bump into at the Solheim and sometimes you just have to take advantage of your good luck. Many years ago, Mo, still a very raw amateur, played with Nancy Lopez, a superstar if ever there was one, at Sunningdale, so we hijacked Nancy, one of the US assistant captains and universal icon, for this special pic. I even managed to get their heads in; wonders will never cease.
Finally, no blog of mine would be complete without a mention of Whittington Heath GC (although I really should say first how shocked and aghast I was to hear that Rory McIlroy, a hero in these parts, had been chosen as the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year ahead of Brooks Koepka; anyone know how that happened? Even Rory was stunned.)
Anyway, back to WHGC. No diggers or steel structures this week, just the intrepid crew up here to cheer Europe to victory (we hope).