NAPLES, Fla. – With Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker joining Golf Channel’s broadcast at the CME Group Tour Championship and Solheim Cup captain Pat Hurst zooming around Tiburon Golf Club in a cart, it seemed fitting to start thinking about how next year’s teams might shape up.
The 2021 golf season will be a Cup extravaganza. In the wake of fewer playing opportunities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, every team has made changes to how players qualify – with the exception of the U.S. Solheim Cup team.
Stricker’s picks were raised from four to six for 2021. The same goes for European Solheim Cup captain Catriona Matthew. On Wednesday, the European Ryder Cup team announced changes to its points system to better reward the hottest players leading into Whistling Straits.
Sticker said he wanted the six picks due to the uncertainty of how the pandemic would impact the PGA Tour’s schedule.
“Whistling straits is a big course,” said Stricker. “We want to make sure we’ve got guys on there that are hitting it a long ways and playing well. If that means going outside the top 12, then we’ll probably do it.”
As for the PGA of America’s role in the decision, “If we’re OK with it, they seemed to be OK with it too.”
Earlier this year, Hurst said she had lobbied to increase the number of picks she receives from two to four. The Solheim committee that makes such decisions includes LPGA commissioner Mike Whan, the chair of the board, the player president and the three previous U.S. Solheim Cup captains.
The 2021 Solheim Cup will be contested Sept. 4-6 at the Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio, three weeks ahead of the Ryder Cup and about six hours away from Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.
Currently eight players will qualify off of Solheim Cup points, two will get in off Rolex Rankings and two are captain’s picks.
“We should get at least four,” said Solheim veteran Cristie Kerr. “I would think you would have to. Even if it’s only ever this one time in history.”
Assistant captain Angela Stanford would also like to see Hurst get four picks, noting that while points increase in 2021 (1.5 times more points for regular events and two times more for majors), there are no guarantees how next year might go.
“I feel like you can err on the safe side,” said Stanford, “and give us more picks just in case it doesn’t go as planned.”
Stanford, by the way, won in Dallas earlier this month and currently ranks fifth on the points list.
Stacy Lewis’ main concern is that the Rolex Rankings were altered this year to protect players who chose not to compete. In other words, points and divisors only changed and aged on weeks when an athlete competes. It’s how Jin Young Ko never dropped out of the No. 1 position even though she didn’t compete on tour until November.
“I think you take those two Rolex (spots) and make them picks,” said Lewis. “The rankings aren’t running normally still. To me, that’s the bigger issue.”
It would seem that the committee would need to make a decision before the tour restarts Jan. 21-24 at the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
The current top 8 on the points list include Danielle Kang, Nelly Korda, Ally Ewing, Brittany Altomare, Angela Stanford, Marina Alex, Austin Ernst and Amy Olson.
The next eight: Jessica Korda, Megan Khang, Stacy Lewis, Jennifer Song, Lexi Thompson, Jennifer Kupcho, Cheyenne Knight and Mina Harigae.
– Greg Hardwig of the Naples Daily News contributed to this article.
original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2020/12/19/lpga-solheim-cup-pat-hurst-captains-picks/