U.S. Open

Pinehurst Resort & Country Club (Course No. 2)

now or never

Handful of Americans jockeying for position in last effort to make Solheim Cup team

August 23, 2023

Stuart Franklin

The U.S. Solheim qualification has unsettled spots remaining, with five of its nine automatic qualifying spots still on the line. This week’s CPKC Women's Open marks the final chance for players to earn their way onto the team instead of relying on Captain Stacy Lewis to use one of her three picks on them to make it to the Solheim in just under a month. Lewis explained that her pool of potential players has fallen from 20 to 25 at the start of the qualification period down to 13 or 14 going into this week.

"I don't think anything crazy is going to happen this week," Lewis said. "I like where we are. We have some scenarios in our head of what's going to happen. Could be some movement within the points and Rolex. In my head I don't think there will be a lot of movement."

The Americans have two automatic qualification categories to make the team, with seven spots earned from its points list and two off the Rolex Women's World Rankings. Lilia Vu, Nelly Korda, Allisen Corpuz and Megan Khang are the first four to lock their spots on the team. Only five players could mathematically earn the last three points positions, currently held by Jennifer Kupcho (283), Danielle Kang (281) and Lexi Thompson (258). Andrea Lee (245.5) and Ally Ewing (232.5) could play their way in, earning up to 60 points this week for a victory. Alison Lee (197), in 10th, would fall just a point shy of Thompson's current points with a win.

Kupcho and Kang's notable points lead in fifth and sixth place requires multi-layered scenarios to get them knocked out from a spot. For the 2022 Chevron Championship winner to lose her spot, Kupcho would need to score no points, Lee or Ewing has to win, Thompson requires a T-5 or better and Kang needs to finish T-20 or better. Regardless of everyone else's performance, Kupcho can lock in a points position with at least a T-7. Kang will get knocked out of the top seven if she does not earn a point, a Lee or Ewing victory, and a Thompson T-6 or better. The three-time Solheim veteran can secure her spot independent of how everyone else does with a T-5 or better.

Thompson's position is much less secure. Should she not earn any points this week, Lee can pass Thompson with a T-13 or better, and Ewing would pass Thompson with at least a T-4 finish. Ewing would tie Thompson in points with a fifth-place finish, but the tiebreaker goes to the Rolex rankings. Thompson's currently 21st, and Ewing is 34th, likely resulting in Thompson winning the tiebreaker. Regardless of how Lee and Ewing play, Thompson can only lock her spot with a victory.

However, Thompson holds quite the safety net for a roster spot because of her Rolex Rankings position. Those two spots get filled after the seven qualifiers from the points list are locked in.

The Rolex rankings positions are an incredibly close race, currently filled by Angel Yin (31) and Rose Zhang (32), who are in a virtual tie with a points average of 2.94. Ewing (34) looms only two spots away, with the next closest chasers in striking distance of Andrea Lee (44) and Cheyenne Knight (45). The improbable scenarios of Kupcho (28) and Kang (30) getting knocked off the points list would further add to the jostling of how the world rankings spots might play out. Given the tight race and Lewis not quite settled on a top 12, a strong finish is crucial this week at Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club to secure an automatic spot.

"We wanted this event to be a part of our picks because I feel like it's a championship event," Lewis said.

Lewis shed light Wednesday on some of her team-building philosophy from what the analytics system—which the Ryder Cup team used the last three cups—reveals for roster construction possibilities. Lewis pointed out the system's emphasis on players with solid performances on Bermuda grass and an ability to birdie from varying distances. Lewis highlighted Yin as a strong Bermuda player and Ewing as a great teammate to anyone based on her ability to hit fairways and score from numerous yardages consistently.

Lewis will make her three captain’s selections for the Sept. 22-24 matches early next week.