Julie Inkster hits back at Europe as slow play sullies Solheim Cup’s first day

Juli Inkster, the US captain, pointed the finger of blame at some of the Europeans for the slow play that marred the opening day of the 16th Solheim Cup, even though a “bad time” was called on one of the Americans.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 13th September 2019, 9:58 pm
Juli Inkster praised her players for fighting back in tough conditions
Juli Inkster praised her players for fighting back in tough conditions

On a day when the tone was set by Spaniard Carlota Ciganda, who has an annoying habit of backing off almost every shot and sometimes more than once, the pace of play ended up being the main talking point rather than the match position.

The first fourball match of the afternoon session took almost three hours to play nine holes and more than five hours for the 16 holes required for Suzann Pettersen and Anne van Dam to beat Lizette Salas and Danielle Kang.

Salas, playing in the match for a fourth time, was given a “bad time” for taking too long to hit her second shot on the 13th and was warned that another would have led to her disqualification from the hole, though the 30-year-old was by no means the only offender.

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“It’s painfully slow out there,” admitted Inkster. “I know we had maybe a couple on our side that are maybe a little bit slower, but they have a few on their side, too, that are a little slow.

“You look at this golf course, it’s tough. The wind’s blowing. The greens are firm. The ball’s not going anywhere. It’s cold. I mean, it’s not like it’s a pitch and putt. It’s a tough golf course. And out here every shot counts. Every putt counts.

“I think Lizette had a bad time, but that was the only player that had a bad time out there. She knows she probably has to speed it up a little bit. But I’m not going to say anything.

“It’s not fair, because the other players know how to play the game. So my players are playing at their pace. And then when they say we’re timing them, they speed up. And that’s... they make a living out of that. So, until we change the rule, they’re going to keep doing it. And they know who they are.”

In foursomes and fourballs, players are given 50 seconds to play, unless they are playing first on a hole, in which case they are allowed up to 60 seconds to hit. That will be cut to 40 seconds in Sunday’s singles. It had been reported earlier in the week that officials would be showing “no mercy” as they operated a zero tolerance policy, but that clearly wasn’t the case for the opening two sessions.

“Some of the players on both sides do take quite a while to hit a shot, but it’s the officials really, they are the ones who police the pace of play. So it’s up to them,” said European captain Catriona Matthew.

“Every week the players are aware of the pace of play policies. I mean, no one wants to see slow play. Obviously with the bigger crowds it’s more difficult sometimes, but ideally it would be nice to be faster tomorrow.”

Bidding to stop the Americans from making it three wins in a row, Europe have their noses in front, but Matthew admitted the home side had been “disappointed” to suffer two late blows as American duo Lexi Thompson and Brittany Altomare both holed last-hole birdie putts in the Perthshire twilight.

“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t what we were looking for,” said the North Berwick woman of a sting in the tail that left Europe leading 4.5-3.5 when it seemed set to be 5.5-2.5. “But I think you have to take the positives and we’re leading. We’re a point up. If we’re leading at the end of each day, that would be great.”

Inkster said of the late drama: “No-one really ever talks about the half point. And I have to say those two half points at the end were huge. For two rookies to be four down with five holes left and to come back and tie, you can’t teach that. It’s just in your belly. I’m just so impressed with them.

“We started off hot and we got a little lukewarm in that middle, but we finished hot. So I’m very pleased with the way the day went, because everybody played. And we had some good matches.

“We just gotta keep the Europeans, so we can see them. You don’t want to get too far down. It was looking like we could be two and a half points down. It’s not insurmountable, but you keep gnawing a half a point here and point there and it adds up. To be only a point down, I’m very pleased with where we’re at right now.”