GOLF CHANNEL MEDIA CONFERENCE
September 11, 2019
THE MODERATOR: Hi everyone, welcome to the Solheim Cup media roundtable with Golf Channel analysts Judy Rankin and Karen Stupples. Judy and Karen will be rotating as lead analysts for Golf Channel's live tournament coverage Friday-Sunday, which we will air from the first tee shot through the final putt. Judy is a two-time successful U.S. Solheim Cup captain and Karen is a two-time European Solheim Cup participant. Questions?
Q. Judy, why are the Americans favored in this thing with six rookies?
JUDY RANKIN: Well, Juli's probably one reason. Juli and her team of assistants I think would be one reason that they're favored. And I think I'm going to say a few of the rookies I consider to be pretty experienced players. It's not like it's their first year in professional golf. This is a different kind of experience. But I've seen so many people that maybe wouldn't have expected to rise to this occasion.
I think that's what's fun for Karen and I to watch it, because it continues to amaze me in sports the things people do under great pressure.
And surely the points you make is rookies will feel more pressure than anyone else because they're not only trying to play well and do the right -- do good things for their team, but they're trying to do it under a pressure they've never felt before.
Now, I think a couple of these players have been Curtis Cup players, and that's a certain kind of pressure, but I don't think it really compares to this.
So you asked me why they are favored, I think they're favored simply because they have a better record in some regard, but not recently. Recently in the home field advantage, I wouldn't make -- I wouldn't make a favorite. I think this is a pretty 50/50 deal, I really do.
But I think both teams have some questions about why people are on the team. And we just have to see how they perform. I can't speak to why they're favored other than very general terms.
Q. Juli said we'll probably see some rookies paired together. I can think of the cons for that, but what are the pros of having two rookies together?
KAREN STUPPLES: Let's talk about rookies in general. I remember my first Solheim Cup that I played in. There wasn't many rookies on the team, and you feel like you're the only one who doesn't know what's going on. People that have been there before know exactly what it's all about. They've been there, they've done it. And everybody's trying to prepare themselves for the battle that's about to happen.
So nobody really has time to take you under their wing and show you the ropes and help you around. So you get lost. You're kind of lost in that Solheim Cup craziness and you're like, oh, my goodness, I don't know what I'm doing and everybody else does. It's a very strange position to be in.
Yet, if you have six rookies, half of the team is in the same boat as you. They've always got somebody to turn to that's in the same boat as them. And I think there's a good feeling, like a safety in numbers. And I think that it can be very reassuring to know that you're not the only one feeling that. And I think that for the rookies that could almost be a positive thing for the American side.
Q. Wendy Ward said that she played her best Solheim Cup in her rookie experience there because there was more of an "I'll show you" mentality. Do you see that among some of these players?
KAREN STUPPLES: I think so. I think they all have that ability to them, but they also have a very much of a fun-loving attitude around them, too. They have a sort of -- you see it with the men's Presidents Cups teams. You see it with the Jordan Spieths, Justin Thomases and Ricky Fowlers, you have that sort of friendship bond that they already have coming into that. You see that with the players already on the American side. And I think that's going to be huge for them anyway.
Q. Karen, Perthshire golf courses obviously are different than the link golf courses on the coastline. How well do you know the course and do you think there's an advantage one way or the other?
KAREN STUPPLES: I do think that the advantage is to the Europeans on this course, even though it's not a traditional links golf course. I think that with the weather being as wet as it has it's going to play long, which doesn't mean it's going to be easier, but it means that the greens will be slower.
We're expecting high winds on Saturday. Again, I can't imagine for the life of me that the rules officials will try and speed these greens up to any extent. I think you can expect greens that will putt maybe 10, maybe even 11, less than 10 on a stimpmeter, because if you've got gusts of 40 miles per hour people will want to keep playing. You're not going to want a stoppage of play because balls are rolling on the green. So the greens will be very slow.
And we say it in Ryder Cups all the time; it's something that's favorable to players who grew up over here.
Q. Judy, as a captain what did you do differently overseas than you did at home?
JUDY RANKIN: You know, my husband convinced me that being the away team was sometimes very good because you really had no distractions -- versus when you play at home you have so many people -- family, friends, whatever that might be. So he had me convinced that a team bonds better in an away situation.
And I think that was true for us at Wales because we needed a lot of bonding. We were in a real jam. So that's one thing that I think maybe played in our favor. Rather than worrying about the fact that you're not the home crowd and the home favorite, I took it as a bit of an advantage, so that we had a solo purpose and not much interfered with that. So that was the one thing different with away.
Clearly I was a rookie the first time I did it. And I think I had seven or eight months because JoAnne Carner's husband got very ill and she couldn't do it. So I was trying to figure out how to do this that first time away in very short order.
I did some things which I also did at home. But I made a little chart of all these players. And I listed things that I thought mattered. And I would ask players, which I think would be important here, I would ask players if they had a real preference about playing morning or afternoon. If they felt like -- I always put it in the sense that, would you, do you think you perform better.
And I marked everybody off on this chart. You would have had some people who say, I never play well early. And so you would check that one off and see if you could accommodate that. Now you couldn't always.
But I think that made a big difference. And we still had more ball issues than they have now. I think a lot of the balls are pretty comparable. So that wasn't a big issue, but that was one of the questions.
And here, one of the questions I would ask is have you been successful playing in cold weather -- and see if I couldn't accommodate that. And Karen's heard this before, but I always ask that question one time, one person you could say is there someone on this team that you do not think you would perform well with. And I said it exactly like that. And I never shared it with any players or anything.
So I tried to -- I guess my first thought was what kind of things can you do to not shoot yourself in the foot. And so that helped me a lot. And I think some of those things are even more important when you're away because there's a little more solo loneliness to it for the individual players and maybe for those this time that are rookies.
KAREN STUPPLES: I think that the question Judy said there is who do you think you would not perform well with is a great question, because most captains will ask their players who would you like to play with. And that's -- everyone is I'll play with anybody. That doesn't mean what Judy's trying to get to and what the captain really wants to know. And Judy cut straight to the chase. No wonder you were so successful.
JUDY RANKIN: You don't have to not like them or any of those things, but it could be their way of taking on the match, it's so different than your way that it doesn't work well, that's all.
Q. Juli has been very up front about her pod system since the first day she did it and has been successful doing it. Do you think it gives the Americans an edge, perhaps not in performance, but the fact that they think they have an edge because of this pod system she's implemented?
KAREN STUPPLES: I think so. I also think it gives the players peace of mind knowing that they're going to play within their pod. They don't have to think about the potential you've been practicing with somebody and all of a sudden you'll be thrown into the deep end with somebody who you haven't been practicing with and bonding with over the course all this period of time. I think you get confidence from that fact as well.
JUDY RANKIN: Good point.
Q. If I'm reading the pods right, I think the Kordas are together with Lexi and Brittany Altomare. My question would be what do you like about Lexi and Brittany Altomare?
KAREN STUPPLES: Brittany Altomare is a great putter, great putter. And what did you think when Cristie Kerr was left off the team either because she didn't make it or she didn't get picked, they needed to fill that void. I thought maybe Morgan Presser might have filled that void because of the feistiness she has and similar kind of demeanor in these matches that I've seen from her.
But when you talk about somebody who can read putts who can see the putts, who can putt, Brittany Altomare is your person.
Q. And seemingly cool under pressure?
KAREN STUPPLES: Very chill. Very chill, very chill. But I think that Lexi has always relied on somebody, on Kerr to have -- to read the putts and help her in that department, to get a line. I think Brittany will step into that role very easily.
Q. Judy, do you think Lexi will take on more of a leadership role?
JUDY RANKIN: I hope she does. I think it's time for Brittany Altomare or whoever it may be to lean on Lexi a little bit rather than figuring out whose going to have Lexi's back. And I think it's time for that. And I think that's good for her. I really do. I think she needs to see herself probably as that instead of who is going to play with Lexi, you know? Really. She needs that bit of confidence.
And I don't know what Juli has planned in that regard, in that pod, but I will tell you that I think Altomare and Nelly both have kind of a quiet seriousness to the way they play. And I would wonder if they might not be good together. I don't know. Could be.
Q. We don't see Jessica necessarily going every session anyways with her, I guess.
JUDY RANKIN: Would it be a little daunting, though, to play Jessica and Lexi?
JUDY RANKIN: Just the fact that you're going to play first every fairway.
KAREN STUPPLES: Unless you're playing against Anne Van Dam.
JUDY RANKIN: That's true. That's true.
KAREN STUPPLES: Sorry.
Q. Wouldn't that be fun to watch?
JUDY RANKIN: There's a case where you have two players, two good ball strikers who would -- they might struggle on the greens, I don't know. But I do kind of think everybody wants to see the sisters play together, don't you?
KAREN STUPPLES: Yes.
Q. Could you chat a little bit about the success of this event? I think it's a little bit -- day-to-day stroke play tournaments, it's about the process -- pre-shot routines, no emotional highs or lows and everybody buys into that as being a successful thing for the long game. This week all of that is ripped up and it's like a response to every shot and emotional highs and lows are celebrated on every shot. Do you think that's what drives the success of this week?
KAREN STUPPLES: I do. And I think it's a very genuine response from all the players too. I guess there's no forced fist pumps. There's no forced emotion. It's something that you can't stifle. It just comes out of you, even when you don't want it to come out of you and you're trying to keep everything in check. It just somehow finds a way of coming out and you just can't help yourself, because you're so -- you've spent two years working for this moment, to be in this position to play.
And you've been thinking about the battles. And you're thinking about winning the Cup. But it's like you're celebrating for everybody, not just yourself for making a good putt or hitting a good shot; you're celebrating for the rest of your teammates. And you're celebrating for your continent or your country.
It just seems bigger because of who you're representing and you can't help it. It just comes out and I think people see the genuineness in that.
JUDY RANKIN: You know, most sports, most things that create a lot of excitement, not cricket because I don't even understand it, but there's some sort of completion every day. There's a winner and a loser, per se. And I think this match play combined with the emotion of countries and so on gives the fans some sort of completion with every match and with each day.
And I think that makes it a little bit more fun to actually really follow and be right there and see every shot, because there is some sort of answer at the end of the round, rather than just appreciating a good round of golf. So I think people have responded to that in Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup, Solheim Cup, what ever that might be.
KAREN STUPPLES: And I think as a spectator, though, and us in the media, you attach yourself to their teams. They're the chosen -- they're the ones that are chosen or have earned that spot to represent you in this fight. They're there for America. They're there for Europe in this fight. And whether you're European or whether you're American, they're the ones that you're supporting because that's who's there doing the battle for you, if you see what I mean.
For all the golfers, all the golfers in Europe, they're being represented by these 12 women. All the golfers in America are being represented by these 12 women. And there's going to be a clash, and there's something that people can root for and get behind.
Q. A bit primal, isn't it?
KAREN STUPPLES: It is a little bit as if they were involved in it themselves. And I think that's what draws people to it, because they can almost picture themselves in that moment.
JUDY RANKIN: Golf's almost always good when people find an emotional involvement. And this is a real easy emotional involvement for everybody on every side. But that's when a player piques everyone's interests like people becoming emotionally involved always up, down, good or bad with Tiger -- people were very emotionally involved with Nancy Lopez and her success.
What we find ourselves, getting emotionally involved with players that we watch through a season or through several seasons. So this one's really simple. And I think that's so important to golf and to drawing fans and keeping fans is you've got to find a way for them to connect with one or several players where they care enough about what they do they're trying to find out how they did yesterday and they try to go see them when they can.
Q. With the wisdom of hindsight, what did playing on the Solheim Cup mean to you and has that changed over time?
KAREN STUPPLES: I think for me now looking-- it changed between my first Solheim and my second Solheim. My first Solheim I was coming off a Women's British Open win. I felt I was one of the best players. I felt like I was going to make something of, be part of the team, it was going to be a big deal. And it really didn't turn out that way. We lost. It was disappointing.
It's heartbreaking, actually, when you lose. It's a very bitter pill to swallow because you spent so much time and effort put into it. It really hurts.
And then I had a number of years away from it, looking from the outside in, watching. And what I realized was that just to be part of the team was all that really mattered. It didn't matter how I performed. It didn't matter what happened; just to be part of the team and to try and get a team result was more important than my individual achievements in that first match.
That first match I think I was so self-conscious of what I was doing as opposed to "for the good of the team." And I think that's something that I learned over watching from afar and realizing that I had more to offer than just hitting great golf shots and winning points.
Although that's important, obviously. I think that you learn that as you get a little bit older.
Q. Judy, when you were captain and in Solheims prior to that, Americans and Europeans were the two dominant players on tour, more majors, more wins, everything. That's not the case anymore. And yet the stature of this event has elevated tremendously over time. How do you attribute that? What's calling that?
JUDY RANKIN: I just think it became established. I think -- and I could be very wrong -- but I think it feeds off things like the Ryder Cup because the Ryder Cup gets so blooming much attention that -- and because this gets the promotion that it should, I think the Ryder Cup has benefited this, I really do.
There are times when we don't think men's golf necessarily benefits women's golf, but I think in this case it very much does.
And I think the LPGA Tour is starting to be exposed in the respect of how good these players are. And so the combination of those two things and the fact that, like I said, emotion is really great for this event -- and places like this. So it has a life of its own in women's golf, there's no doubt about it.
International Crown is great. Anything that they come up with is probably going to be great. We all know about the players who come from Asia, how skilled they are and that. But I think this has got a life of its own now. It is so established that it is part of the whole scene of women's golf.
And I've talked about people rising to the occasion earlier. The other thing that I love is how players respond to big crowds. And that has been a staple now for a number of years, really great crowds.
And I know they really expect them here. And we were having this discussion last night -- you were with us -- I was saying this is like a chicken-and-the-egg thing because as more people are seeing on television watching, in events like this, the more people get interested in it. But you have to figure out which exactly is the thing that comes first. And I don't know if we know what comes first. I know all the components.
But the biggest one of all, if you can convince people, is how good these players are. It's really astounding to me and I at one time played well, and I'm really astounded by how they play, I am.
KAREN STUPPLES: Can I add to the question? In my mind, it comes down to the roots of this tournament and the roots of the Ryder Cup. At the very beginning of both, it was very much a classic David and Goliath, and it was that battle of a smaller European Tour versus the giant of the LPGA or the PGA TOUR.
And I think that people warmed to that kind of fight and that battle. And it's whether it's you want to see the big giant win or the little David kind of go ahead and win. I think you see that come out in this tournament more than any other. And I think because of those beginnings that's kind of how -- that's kind of how it's grown.
And that's certainly how the players have found a way to -- even though they're great friends every week -- it's kind of how they've managed to find this desire and this fight.
And it's not something you would see if you had a giant of Korean golf playing against a giant of American golf. You wouldn't have that same kind of feel to it. And I think that's the difference, in my mind, between having the Solheim Cup and having -- if it was the rest of the world against America.
Q. Judy, I'm curious, Catriona, somebody asked Catriona how much this would mean to her, I'll have to read the transcript, but I think she said more than a major?
KAREN STUPPLES: She did, more than her British.
Q. Why does being a captain and winning -- does it mean more to you than when you won?
JUDY RANKIN: No. No, because it meant so much to me, just being -- but I'm pretty different than all of these people because I had not experienced a real team setting. I didn't play college golf. And I was an amateur and could have been named to the Curtis Cup team but I wasn't. I was only 15.
Q. Are you bitter about that?
JUDY RANKIN: I don't know if I was bitter about it, but it had to do with me turning pro early. It did. Because I was not a country club kid. And I just -- the mold was a little different then. I think now it's much more open to all comers that are good enough and 15-year-olds playing.
It was a different time. Judy Bell has always been nice to me in saying they probably needed me on that team. (Laughter).
But I'll tell you, I said at the time I would take the job for life. That's how enjoyable it is. And Inkster is trying to take it for life, I know she is. (Laughter).
She called me and she said, "You think it's wrong if I accept this a third time?" I said, "No, I don't think it's wrong." But it's just the bonding and it's quite honestly a very youthful experience. I was beyond playing. And it just was the most fun I had in a long time.
And, of course, I had my husband alongside then. And he had come from team sports. And I think it was the most fun he had in a long time, too. So it was one of the great experiences of my golf life, and I think it is for every captain.
And Catriona is such a thoughtful, special person. And to captain for Europe anyway, I would think, to captain in your home country is just the peak of things. So it is impossible to have any ill will towards Catriona Matthew. (Laughter). So if she should pull it off, a lot of people, including a lot of Americans, will be happy for her.
But I can't quite explain what makes it such a rewarding experience except not that many people get to do it. The fact that you are chosen to do it and that players respond to you as a captain is quite a special thing.
Q. The U.S. team, how does the dynamic change with Ally playing and Stacy being not on the team?
KAREN STUPPLES: I think, again, I think that it comes back to people talk about her being a rookie and having six rookies on the team. I think it comes down to that fact that they're going to feel, I think, almost more bonded because of it.
The rookies are going to keep together. They'll have their own little group going; it's going to be good. But the way Juli has her pod set up, Ally kind of slotted right in there in that pod. And I really feel like it's a good fit.
If you look through Ally's record, when she played in the Curtis Cup, she played with three different partners. She had a win and two halves with three different people. She wasn't just a one-person partner. She's very versatile. Her game kind of goes with just about anybody. And I think that's why she was a good fit to come on over just on the off chance somebody wasn't able to make it.
And I think that the American team, Stacy Lewis included, learned a little bit from what happened in 2011 when Cristie Kerr, who was kind of injured, had tendinitis, felt like -- had played a lot of matches, then she withdrew from the singles. And I think that Stacy didn't want something like that to have to happen again.
Q. Along those lines, do you view the Pettersen pick as a risk or a no-brainer?
KAREN STUPPLES: Obviously, I think it was a calculated one. I think that's what Catriona had intended all along. I feel like she had always wanted Suzann to be on the team, and I think everything was put in place in order for her to be able to make the selection without it seeming completely off the charts, even though she only played in a couple of events I think that in its own way was a good thing too because she hadn't had a number of events where she played poorly, Catriona couldn't possibly have picked her.
So she strategically, whether -- I don't know, I'm just guessing -- play a couple of events, pick her and then Suzann can play to get ready. I think she trusted the fact that Suzann would practice, work hard and get ready. And that's something that Catriona knows because she knows Suzann; they have such a big history together from these events that she knows that she can trust her.
And if you look at the other options, I didn't think there was a better option for her. I mean, I feel bad for Pernilla having won the major, the ANA Inspiration. But Pernilla didn't play well enough to be picked; she really didn't play well enough. She had a horrible year this year.
So I think you put Suzann in there with all the passion and fire and desire to go ahead and win, and with a little chip on her shoulder, a point to prove, I think that could be quite a dangerous combination.
But I think it was a well-thought out strategy on both of their parts. And I think it was something that was thought of for more than just a few weeks before she made the pick.
Q. As Catriona said yesterday, it's not 72 holes of stroke play; it's 18 holes of match play so you don't need four great days.
JUDY RANKIN: Well, she is the great intimidator. And an intimidating player --
Q. She's the Sergio.
JUDY RANKIN: Yes. That's the thing. But I was going to say the U.S. team might have the best of all worlds, because they've still got Stacy; she's just not striking any shots.
And I would just offer up for whoever might need to know it, that in the case of Ally McDonald, Jim Gallagher is here, and he watched her grow up and he knows a lot about her. Any information he might have has it because he knows her quite well; she grew up with his girls.
Q. To follow up on what you just said a little bit. All of us here know there's inside-the-rope Stacy and there's outside-the-rope Stacy. How important is it for this team to now have outside-the-rope Stacy being part of it?
JUDY RANKIN: She'll be more up. She never seems to be up as the player but away from the inside the ropes she's great.
Q. She'll be as rah rah as she can be.
KAREN STUPPLES: I'm trying to picture Stacy as rah rah. I don't know what that would look like.
Q. Her version of it.
JUDY RANKIN: I'm the one, when they're kicking the field goal, I'm quiet, just really trying to convey something.
Q. Willing it.
KAREN STUPPLES: Fingers crossed. Last time they missed I wasn't sitting on my fingers.
JUDY RANKIN: That's right. What underwear did I wear that day that I played so well. (Laughter).
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