Solheim Cup

The Slowheim Cup: Five-hour-plus rounds push matches into the twilight zone

September 23, 2023

Icon Sportswire

ANDALUCIA, Spain -- The organizers of the Solheim Cup, it goes without saying, are strictly neutral when it comes to which side wins and loses individual matches in this 18th playing of the biennial contest between the best women golfers from Europe and the United States. But very quietly, it is a safe bet that the hope behind the scenes was that the last of the four Saturday afternoon fourball matches would come to a conclusion -- one way or the other -- well before the 18th green at Finca Cortesin.

The match in question featured Danielle Kang and Lilia Vu for the U.S against Europeans Carlota Ciganda and Linn Grant. If the first day’s play was anything to go by, the 2:25 p.m. local starting time meant the four players would need to move a bit quicker than the equivalent match did 24 hours earlier. In that, Ciganda and Grant combined effectively to see off Angel Yin and Ally Ewing 4&2. In other words, the match lasted 16 holes. But here’s the kicker: the players were on the course in excess of five hours, beating darkness by less than half an hour.

In other words (2), they were struggling to make it around all 18 holes before the sun disappeared in the west -- at 8:17 p.m. -- behind the giant Rock of Gibraltar.

The presence of Ciganda was surely a factor in that tardiness, although all concerned are just as certainly implicated. Famously, the Spaniard was disqualified from the Evian Championship when she refused to accept a two-shot penalty for slow play. And it’s safe to say that harsh sentence continues to rankle. Speaking to Golf Digest during last month’s AIG Women’s Open at Walton Heath, the seven-time winner on the Ladies European Tour was unrepentant.

“I know I am not quick and there are players who are quicker,” admitted the now six-time Solheim Cup player. “I can improve and I can do better. But there are other slow players who don’t get timed or penalized as much as I do. I don’t think that is fair. They should be doing the same thing for everyone.”

Well, this week “they” are. The chances of anyone being penalized for slow play at this Solheim Cup range between the proverbial slim and none. But maybe they should be. While there is only a small “field” at this event, the example set is hardly what anyone would like young, aspiring golfers to see and replicate.

It is then, far from difficult to predict the prevailing view amongst those unfortunates who paid good money to watch golf at this snail’s pace played on a course only mountaineers would find inviting. Former European Tour player Mark Mouland called his experience as a spectator, “three days of pure desperation walking and watching -- it’s horrendous how long they take. Funniest is range-finder from 20 yards.”

Anyway, here’s how each of the four Saturday fourballs progressed around the Finca Cortesin course. (The times, while largely accurate, are mildly approximate, given that the television coverage from which they are gleaned is not always live. But it’s close.) As things turned out, the play, while consistently close to glacial, would have beaten the setting of the sun. The details: Game one between Nelly Korda/Ally Ewing and Hull/Leona Maguire teed off at 1:40 p.m. and concluded four hours and 16 minutes later on the 15th green. In other words, the average time for each hole was a shade over 17 minutes.

Game two, contested by Cheyenne Knight and Angel Yin for the U.S. and Swedes Anna Nordqvist and Caroline Hedwall lasted five hours and 25 minutes and went all the way to the final green. Average time per hole: just over 18 minutes.

Game three between Rose Zhang/Andrea Lee and Madelene Sagstrom/Emily Pedersen climaxed on the 17th green after five hours and six minutes. Average time per hole: exactly 18 minutes.

Game four, a re-match between Kang/Vu and Ciganda/Grant, ended on the penultimate green at 7:40 p.m., five hours and 15 minutes after it started. Average time per hole: 18.53 minutes.

So there you have it. Ciganda, as expected, was involved in the slowest match. But she and it hardly stood out from the rest. Sadly, this torpor appears to be a universal problem in both the male and female professional game and seems to have no viable solution. Next week’s Ryder Cup is unlikely to be any speedier. You heard it here first.