Solheim Cup points races and rosters take shape as team captains play together at U.S. Senior Women's Open
Solheim Cup captains Catriona Matthew and Pat Hurst are paired together at this week's U.S. Senior Women's Open for the first two rounds. They won't be lacking for topics to discuss as the European and American team pictures sharpen into focus. Only three events -- the ISPS Handa World Invitational, the Trust Scottish Open and the AIG Women's British Open -- remain before the Solheim qualifying period concludes on August 22, with the match at Inverness Club set for Labor Day weekend.
Hurst will have nine of her 12 players solidified after the final major of the 2021 season. Seven of them come from the U.S. Solheim Cup points list, the remaining two off the Rolex Rankings. It's a change made by the U.S. Solheim Cup Committee in March, dropping from an original 10 automatic qualifiers to hand Hurst an additional captain's pick.
World No. 1 Nelly Korda (579.5) and Danielle Kang (495.5) are perched far above the rest of their compatriots in U.S. qualifying. In third is Ally Ewing (290), who trails Kang by more than 200 points. Austin Ernst (263.5), Lexi Thompson (260.5) and Jessica Korda (256.5) are next, and all look to be set to wear red, white and blue come September. Megan Khang (238.5) is in a more precarious position at the seventh and final spot. Points are earned by top-20 finishes in ranking events and are doubled at the majors. Winning the Women’s British Open will earn a player 60 points.
Brittany Altomare (205 points) is sitting in eighth place in the points list, trailing Khang by 33.5 points. The 2019 Solheim veteran is the last player with more than 200 points, as assistant U.S. Solheim captain Angela Stanford (179.5) is in ninth place and Stacy Lewis is in 10th (173). Given how the points shake out, any player farther down the list—including Solheim veterans Lizette Salas (14th/145) and Angel Yin (15th/143.5)—would have to win at least two of the last three events, including the Women’s British Open to have any shot of sneaking off with the seventh and final spot from the points list.
As for the two players who make the U.S. team from the Rolex Rankings, Salas (24th) and Jennifer Kupcho (27th) currently hold those positions as of Monday’s updated rankings after the Amundi Evian Championship. Yealimi Noh (31st) is closest to catching Kupcho and serves as a reminder of how much potential volatility remains with a major left in the qualifying period. Noh soared 31 spots up the rankings following her third-place finish at Evian. Altomare (46th) is the next closest in the rankings, followed by Lewis (53rd).
After those nine spots are finalized, Hurst will have three captain's picks to make. It's currently an experience-laden roster, with Kupcho the only rookie. That’s a different dynamic than the 2019 American team, which had six rookies and narrowly lost to the Europeans, 14.5-13.5, at Gleneagles. It gives Hurst flexibility in terms of tapping another veteran (Yin, Marina Alex) or giving a first-timer (Noh, Amy Olson, Lauren Stephenson) an opportunity.
Matthew will know six players on her European team after the qualifying period concludes, two from a LET points list and four from the Rolex Rankings. She then has six captain’s picks, an increase from the original plan of four, an adjustment made in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic impacting playing schedules in 2020 and 2021.
Emily Kristine Pedersen (119.88) and Sanna Nuutinen (81.75) hold the top two positions of the LET ranking. As with the Americans, three events remain to earn LET Solheim points. Almost anyone with LET status in the field at the Women’s British Open at Carnoustie could surge into one of these two positions; a victory there is worth 80 LET Solheim points. LPGA players Nanna Koerstz Madsen (68.25) and Georgia Hall (56) are in fourth and sixth in LET Solheim points, respectively.
Sophia Popov, by way of her lead in the Rolex Rankings, and Emily Kristine Pedersen, by way of her current lead in the LET points list, should be representatives for the European side at Inverness.
As for the four potential European players coming from the Rolex Rankings, Sophia Popov (26th), Carlota Ciganda (35th), Charley Hull (38th), and Mel Reid (40th) currently hold those positions. The closest chasers are Hall (43rd), Leona Maguire (50th), and Matilda Castren (52nd). Hall moved up 10 spots in the Rolex Rankings after a T-6 at the Evian.
Of the six current projected players on Team Europe, Matthew has two rookies in Nuutinen and Popov, which might influence her captain’s picks. Celine Boutier, Anne van Dam and Bronte Law were the three rookies Matthew had in 2019. Castren, a 26-year-old from Finland, recently earned LET status and with an LPGA win earlier this season is somebody Matthew is strongly considering should she not earn an automatic spot.
In her blog post to the LET's website on July 23, Matthew shared her happiness with the quality of her potential players’ recent form.
“The players are certainly making it all tricky!” Matthew wrote. "It is great that we have so many players peaking and putting in those top performances.”
While not the instant prize in these last few events, the points races and roster jostling are set up for an exciting finish at the last major in golf this year.