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Counting the cost
It doesn't give me much satisfaction; in fact, I'm still wallowing in disappointment. But my prediction that Europe would lose the Solheim Cup by 16.5-11.5 proved to be almost dead on.

After a drubbing in the singles at Interlachen Country Club on Sunday, the final score was a disappointing 15.5-12.5 in America's favour.

Inevitably, the inquest has already begun, and the truth is harsh. Was the team made up of Europe's 12 best players? No. Does Europe have a weakness in the singles? Yes. Did Europe lose a golden opportunity? Very much so.

There's no doubt, at least in my humble opinion, that the two omitted Scots, Janice Moodie and Catriona Matthew, would have strengthened the team. With loads of experience in America, they would have thrived on the pressure-laden atmosphere of the final day.

And could I suggest that Europe concentrates so much on getting the foursomes/fourball pairings right that they forget that the Cup is really won or lost in the singles?

What is especially sore is that the match was there for Europe's taking, and it was not only the match that was lost. A great promotional opportunity for the women's game in Europe also disappeared down the pan as quickly as Europe's so called finest lost holes in Minnesota throughout the sorry Sunday.

Because of the clash with Tiger Woods playing - and winning - in the WC Amex Championship in Ireland, and with the Ryder Cup ready to stoke up the hype this week, the biggest event in women's golf was always going to be overshadowed.

But if Dale Reid's team could have pulled off the historic first victory on US soil then everyone would have been side-tracked by events across the Atlantic. I'd be proudly be saying: 'I was there', and the rest of the golfing fraternity would be green with envy.

In a week dominated by golf, a glorious European victory would have earned the headlines, and just imagine how many times it would have been mentioned in the build-up to Sam Torrance's bid for glory at The De Vere Belfry this week. Everyone would have been asking: 'Can Europe do the double?'

Instead, it was a case of Europe's women suffering defeat. And, really, not even a particularly gallant one. Two points ahead going into Sunday's 12 singles, the mood in the visiting camp was one of confidence and huge anticipation. And I must admit that I suspected my prediction was going to be totally off the ball. But I was more than ready to have my nose rubbed in it, admit I called it wrong, and celebrate with the best.

But, really, there were few moments of optimism on Sunday. I watched the top match between Juli Inkster and Raquel Carriedo. Neither was playing well, but Juli, three over par after five holes, was two up. At that point, I glanced at a scoreboard, and it was awash in red figures. Seven matches had started, and the USA was up in six. That set a pattern that Europe couldn't unravel.

Mhairi McKay, the only Scot in the team, had a rather subdued debut. She won a fourball with Carin Koch, who won four and a half points and was the top points scorer from either side, on the opening day, but then lost a foursomes with Iben Tinning, and went down 3 and 2 to Pat Hurst in the tenth match in the singles.

The next Solheim is just a year away (it is changing to odd years to avoid a clash with the Ryder Cup) and it is too late to change the current selection process from seven from the European Tour rankings and five wild cards.

But I think that there has to be a major re-think before the next away match at Crooked Stick in Indiana in 2005, and results in America - or Japan or wherever - must be taken into account.

There should still be captain's wild cards - we love the controversy don't we? - but maybe just a couple.

The trouble is that the powers that be at the Evian Tour are very protective of their own circuit. But if everyone has to play in a certain number of events to qualify for the Solheim (it is currently six over two seasons), then what is the problem?

Did the men's European Tour not benefit from Ballesteros and company all winning in America? The players themselves became better and that enabled Europe to take on, and beat, the United States in the Ryder Cup. The knock-on effect was that golf in Europe boomed.

The European Women's Tour people must remove the blinkers. The Solheim Cup is a match between the 12 best European golfers, and the 12 best from America. It has nothing to do with the LPGA versus the Evian Tour.

If Europe had won at Interlachen, it would have produced a great platform to sell European women's golf. As I say, a great opportunity has been lost.

©    24 - SEPTEMBER 2002

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