There have been 3 ways by which gamers may safe a spot on the 2023 U.S Solheim Cup workforce, which is able to sq. off towards their European counterparts at Finca Cortesín, in Andalucía, Spain, subsequent month: (1) ending within the high seven on the factors listing on the finish of the qualifying interval (which concluded Aug. 27); (2) touchdown one among Stacy Lewis’ three captain’s picks; or (3) being one of many highest-ranked gamers on the Rolex Ladies’s World Golf Rankings who didn’t in any other case qualify by the use of the factors system.
This yr, that third qualifying route delivered to the U.S. workforce two gamers on wildly totally different trajectories: Rose Zhang and Lexi Thompson. In June, Zhang — a much-hyped LPGA rookie — grew to become the primary participant to win her first-career LPGA begin, on the Mizuho Americas Open, since Beverley Hanson in 1951. Since then, Zhang has three top-10s in six begins — all coming at majors — and ranks twelfth in Strokes Gained on tour.
If Zhang, who has rapidly climbed to thirtieth on the planet, had not certified by the use of her world rating, certainly Lewis would have expended one among her captain’s picks on the ascendant 20-year-old.
Thompson yr’s has been decidedly much less rosy. In 9 stroke-play begins in 2023, she has missed seven cuts and didn’t notch a top-30 end. She has damaged 70 simply twice and ranks 196th in Strokes Gained. Her SG: Tee to Inexperienced and SG: Across the Inexperienced rankings are even worse, at 202nd and 215th, respectively. She is a hundred and fortieth on the cash listing (with lower than $56,000 in earnings) and 157th within the Race to the CME Globe, the LPGA’s season-long factors competitors, which suggests she is in jeopardy of shedding her full taking part in privileges for 2024. Final week, on the CPKC Ladies’s Open, in Canada, Thompson shot 76-80 to overlook the minimize by eight.
If Thompson, who has slid to twenty sixth on the planet, had not certified by the use of her world rating, Lewis would have needed to assume lengthy and laborious about whether or not the 28-year-old, who’s 7-8-3 in 5 prior Solheim Cup appearances, could be worthy of a wildcard choose.
“There’s undoubtedly some issues about her recreation, one hundred pc,” Lewis mentioned on a convention name with reporters earlier this week after her workforce had been finalized. “Speaking to her, although, she’s been dealing with all this remarkably nicely. I’ve mentioned it earlier than, however you see her off the golf course, and you’d by no means know she’s struggling like she is correct now.”
It’s been a remarkably swift descent. In 2022, Thompson missed solely 4 cuts in 18 begins and had eight top-10 finishes. She didn’t win however often threatened to, 4 instances ending second.
“It’s been a great yr,” Thompson mentioned in her final begin of the ’22 season the place she performed within the remaining pairing on Sunday with Nelly Korda. “I’ve simply been attempting to enhance on my recreation on and off the golf course; the psychological aspect as nicely. I really feel like I’ve performed constant golf, and I’m slowly selecting at it and bettering on the issues that I’ve wanted to enhance on, and slowly getting increasingly constant. In order that’s actually all I would like. I do know the wins will come.”
Right here’s who earned a captain’s choose Monday for the Solheim Cup
However they haven’t. Not less than not this yr.
Conversely, Thompson adopted a promising 2022 with what has been by far the worst season of her profession. On the 2023 Chevron Championship, in Houston, the primary ladies’s main of the yr, she performed with a taped-up proper wrist — the outcome, she mentioned, of over-practicing. That harm was a part of the rationale she has made so few begins this yr, however so too, she has mentioned, was merely desirous to take extra time for herself. (Given her youth, it’s simple to neglect that Thompson has been taking part in professionally for 13 years. Or that she performed in her first U.S. Open 16 years in the past — when she was 12.)
4 months later, at one other main — the KPMG Ladies’s PGA, at Baltusrol, in New Jersey — Thompson mentioned she’d been “grinding” this season, including, “It’s been robust. Simply attempting to get one thing that may click on with my swing and simply every part on the market.”
When pushed for extra element, Thompson mentioned she had been attempting to simplify her swing and never get slowed down with technical ideas. She mentioned her driver swing is at its greatest when it’s producing a child draw. “That’s the place I get most of my distance, most of my middle contact,” she mentioned. “I’m engaged on that.”
Name it a piece in progress. Whereas Thompson continues to be among the many longer hitters — her 265-yard common ranks twenty ninth on tour — she additionally has been wild, hitting simply 59.64% of her fairways, which ranks 156th. That deficiency has led to too-many missed greens; her greens in regulation share of 63.61 ranks 109th.
Affordable minds would possibly wonder if Thompson may damage the U.S. workforce greater than she’ll assist it. Lewis has the choice to play Thompson sparingly in the course of the workforce matches, however come the high-pressure Sunday singles, each participant takes middle stage. Thompson’s profession singles document is 1-1-3.
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U.S. Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson has been dealing with a sort-of related dilemma with one among his stalwarts, Justin Thomas. We are saying kind of as a result of whereas Thomas’ recreation, like Thompson’s, has been off form, his struggles have been nothing near Thompson’s. Thomas additionally has a a lot stronger Ryder Cup document (6-2-1) than Thompson’s Solheim Cup outcomes, and he has developed into the rabble-rousing coronary heart and soul of the U.S. workforce in a approach that Thompson has not finished on the ladies’s aspect. There’s additionally one different key distinction between the 2 gamers: Johnson actively put Thomas on his workforce, whereas Thompson was among the many 9 gamers assigned to Lewis.
For her half, although, Lewis is optimistic that Thompson will discover methods to contribute in Spain. “She is just not going to give up, and she or he is just not going to surrender on the golf course,” Lewis mentioned, “and generally I believe that’s an important factor in Solheim Cups and workforce occasions.”
Lewis added: “We’re going to depend on her behind the scenes, too, to assist in the workforce room and be in a unique place than she’s been previously, as a result of she in all probability is essentially the most skilled of anyone on the workforce. We’re simply going to depend on her in another way and hopefully over the subsequent month along with her work that she’s placing in that she will get some issues found out.”
Thompson is just not within the area this week on the Portland Basic, however is scheduled to play subsequent week on the Kroger Queen Metropolis Championship, in Ohio, the final LPGA occasion earlier than the Solheim Cup.
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