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No way to pick a team
So the European Solheim Cup team has been selected - and there is only one Scot in the team. Unbelievable. The 12 players that are set to take on America at Interlachen in three weeks' time is far from the strongest side, and changes to the selection procedure must be made. And now.

This year the team was made up of the top seven from the rankings (and it turned out to be eight when Maria Hjorth and Iben Tinning tied for the last spot) plus four of Dale Reid's wild cards.

The captain chose Laura Davies, Carin Koch, Helen Alfredsson and the lonely Scot, Mhairi McKay. The Ladybank skipper certainly can't be accused of showing any tartan bias by ignoring the claims of both Janice Moodie and Catriona Matthew. Check the statistics, and it becomes clear that they both should be heading to Minnesota from September 20-22.

Janice has won in America this year - Annika Sorenstam is the only other European to have done so - she was seventh in the US Open, she has a wonderful matchplay record (joint top points scorer at Loch Lomond two years ago) and is a player that you would always want on your side.

Catriona was tenth on last year's LPGA rankings, she has just finished second and fourth in American events and, like Janice, has a great track record in head to head combat.
Instead, Dale has a team of six rookies - including McKay - and she is up to her eyeballs in unknown quality. Yes, Suzann Pettersen, Karine Icher, Paula Marti and Iben Tinning have all won in Europe. But how will they cope under extreme pressure in front of an alien crowd, on a tight Interlachen golf course and under the special intensity of a Solheim Cup? Annika Sorenstam recalls that the pressure was so much on her debut that she was nearly sick on the first tee.

I hope I'm wrong, but I've a feeling that there is too much new blood cursing through the veins of the visiting side.

Another Solheim is set for next year - there has been a switch to the odd years following the Ryder Cup's switch to the even numbers - and the rankings are already up and running.

But it is crucial that the powers that be at the Evian European Tour sit down very soon and work out a new policy to pick the side. Even more so considering that every one of this year's team is hoping to play on the LPGA Tour next season - many are taking part in this week's first qualifying school in Florida.

One proposal put forward by Laura Davies is to have five from the European rankings, five from the LPGA and two wild cards. That sounds fair, and if it had been in operation this time round, then Janice and Catriona would have been in the side. They have been among the most consistent performers over the past two years.

The feeling from Dale, however, is that loyalty towards the Evian Tour plays a big part. At the moment, the Solheim minimum requirement is to play in six Evian Tour events over two seasons. Janice and Catriona both met the requirement, but still came in for criticism.

Explaining her wild card choices, Dale stated: 'You have to play over here to be noticed,' while Alfredsson added: 'It's a shame that the Scots (Janice and Catriona) don't come back and support the Tour more often.'

But if it is not enough to play in the minimum number of events (and Catriona and Janice actually played in nine and eight respectively to McKay's seven), then that must be made clear.

Anyway, I've long been singing the praises of our Scottish women in America, and championing the fact that they are all - Mhairi, Janice, Catriona and Kathryn Marshall - world-class players.

Even a few weeks ago I wouldn't have believed that we would be heading into the Solheim Cup without three Scots in the team. Good grief, now we only have the same number as in the Ryder Cup (Colin Montgomerie). I genuinely feel sorry for both Janice and Catriona (and she was also really unlucky to miss out last time).

So I plead with the Evian Tour officials to sit down right now and work out a new strategy for picking next year's team.








©    27 - AUGUST 2002



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