By Ron Sirak
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- The game within the game this week at the Ricoh Women's British Open is the finalizing of the Solheim Cup teams for both the United States and Europe.
While the American side is pretty close to set, the blue and gold team will be going through a significant transition before the competition at Colorado GC next month.
Confusing matters a bit is the fact the two sides use different qualifying criteria.
The U.S. team takes the top eight from the Solheim Cup points list, the two highest in the Rolex Rankings not otherwise qualified and two captain's picks.
Europe has four players from the Solheim Cup points list, four from the Rolex Rankings and four captain's picks.
The side for the Yanks basically has 13 players fighting for 12 spots, unless captain Meg Mallon decides to dip well down the points list to add a veteran to a team that will have a few Solheim Cup rookies.
The top eight as of now are Stacy Lewis, Paula Creamer, Cristie Kerr, Angela Stanford, Brittany Lincicome, Lexi Thompson, Jessica Korda and Brittany Lang. Lexi and Korda would be first-timers on the team.
No one outside Michelle Wie at No. 13 can barge into the top-eight. Wie, Morgan Pressel and Lizette Salas all need a victory at the Ricoh to break into the top eight while Jennifer Johnson could get in with a second-place finish.
If that doesn't happen, the eight automatic spots are set and Salas, another Solheim rookie, is a lock as the ninth player off the Rolex Rankings.
That leaves Johnson, Pressel and Piller fighting for the last automatic spot, with Johnson holding a 0.03 lead over Pressel and a 0.13 leadover Piller in the Rolex Rankings. Wie is 0.67 points behind Johnson. Both Johnson and Piller would also be rookies.
A good guess is that Pressel and Wie will be on the team no matter what. That means if Johnson works her way onto the team off the Rolex Rankings, Piller is the odd woman out.
The leaders for Europe on the Solheim Cup points list are Suzann Pettersen, Carlota Ciganda, Catriona Matthew and Caroline Masson. Ciganda and Masson would be rookies.
Qualified as of now off the Rolex Rankings are Beatriz Recari, who would be a first-timer, Anna Nordqvist, Karine Icher and Azahara Munoz.
Leaders in the clubhouse for the four captain's picks, from what I'm hearing, are Caroline Headwall, Jodi Ewart and Charley Hull. Ewart and Hull would be rookies.
That would leave Gwladys Nocera, Sandra Gal and Giulia Sergas contending for the final spot, with Sergas a potential first-timer.
Unless Liselotte Neumann makes a stretch with one of her four wild-card spots, three veterans of Solheim Cup play will be missing for Europe in Colorado.
Laura Davies, 49, is the only woman to have played in all 12 of the competitions, having won 25 points. That streak likely ends this year.
Sophie Gustafson has played in eight straight and accumulated 16 points, but unless she wins this week is an unlikely participant. And Maria Hjorth and her five appearances will not be there.
The last Solheim Cup had one of the most exciting finishes in the history of team competitions as Europe won 3 1/2 of the final 4 points for a 15-13 victory.
It was also an outcome that guaranteed the future of the event. With the Americans having won the previous three and leading 8-3 overall, there was mounting pressure to add the rest of the world to the competition.
But the intense finish at Killeen Castle made it clear the Solheim Cup is an event worth preserving in its current format. Instead, the LPGA created the International Crown, a competition that will give non-Solheim Cup nations a team event.
For now, it's on to Colorado, and the names of the 24 women who will be wearing team colors in the Rockies will be known about two hours after the women's British Open ends on Sunday.