Inkster takes experience to round out Solheim Cup team

Juli Inkster used her two Solheim Cup captain’s picks on Stacy Lewis and Morgan Pressel on Monday, wanting to add experience to an American team so young that eight of the 12 players have never competed in the tournament when it is away from home.

“I think they can bring a little calming factor to our team,” Inkster said in a conference call from New York.

Qualifying ended Sunday after the CP Women’s Open in Canada. Of the 10 players who earned automatic spots on the U.S. team — through Solheim Cup points or from the women’s world ranking — five are Solheim Cup rookies and three have never played the matches away from home.

The Solheim Cup is Sept. 13-15 at Gleneagles in Scotland, the course where Europe won the Ryder Cup five years ago.

Lewis, the last American to reach No. 1 in the world ranking, will be playing in her fifth Solheim Cup. The two-time major champion won her last tournament two years ago. She missed the second half of last year to have her first child.

Lewis made her Solheim Cup debut in Ireland in 2011 and recalled the nerves of walking to the first tee in foursomes, realizing she had the opening shot.

“I hit a horrendous tee shot,” she said. “That was kind of the moment for me that I wasn’t necessarily prepared for that I want the other rookies to be ready for.”

Pressel has played on five Solheim Cup teams dating to 2007, the year she won the Kraft Nabisco Championship at 18 to become at the time the youngest woman to win a major championship. Pressel has lost only once in five singles matches in the Solheim Cup.

She didn’t play in the last Solheim Cup, a U.S. victory in Iowa. Pressel showed enough form for Inkster to take her, particularly a tie for fourth in the Women’s British Open earlier this month at Woburn. It was the third top 10 of the year for Pressel, whose last — and only second — victory was in 2008 at Kapalua.

Inkster said she spoke to the 10 players who qualified and listened to who they wanted to fill out the team.

“Super excited when I got the call from Juli that she wanted me on her team,” Pressel said. “It’s a huge honour to play for Juli, to play for Team USA. And like she said, to have my teammates want me as part of the squad, as well, is definitely a confidence booster. I feel like I’ve been playing really well, especially this summer.”

Inkster is captain for the third straight time, and she will have a chance to become the only captain with three victories since the Solheim Cup began in 1990.

Missing from the U.S. team is Cristie Kerr, who had played on nine consecutive Solheim Cup teams dating to 2002. Brittany Lincicome is on maternity leave, while Michelle Wie is recovering from injuries that have hampered her career.

They are among seven players who were in Iowa last year who will not be part of this team.

The qualifiers were Lexi Thompson, Danielle Kang, Jessica and Nelly Korda, Lizette Salas, Angel Yin, Marina Alex, Brittany Altomare, Annie Park and Megan Khang.

Inkster said while experience matters, making a Solheim Cup debut away from home can help.

“I think when everybody is chanting, ‘USA, USA,’ it can get a little bit overwhelming,” Inkster said. “When it’s just you and your partner out there, I think you settle in a little bit more as a team.”

Pressel made her Solheim Cup debut in Sweden in 2007 and beat Annika Sorenstam in singles.

“I do remember on Sunday how quiet that golf course got compared to the first couple days,” Pressel said. “That’s definitely our goal and something that the rookies will be able to experience. But just controlling emotions I think is the big deal in the Solheim Cup. … For those experiencing it for the first time, it can be certainly overwhelming.”

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