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Mallon Discusses 2013 Solheim Cup Team
This week's Wegmans LPGA Championship is big for American players seeking a spot on the 2013 Solheim Cup team. The LPGA's second major of the year will offer U.S.-born players the chance to earn double points for the biennial competition, which will be held August 16-18 at Colorado Golf Club in Parker, Colo.
The LPGA Champion starts Thursday at Locust Hill Country Club in Pittsford, N.Y. China's Shanshan Feng will return to defend her title at the tournament, which starts Thursday.
On Wednesday, U.S. Solheim Cup captain Meg Mallon held a press conference to discuss the status of the American squad, and how she feels the team is shaping up in the run-up to the matches against the Europeans. Here's what the four-time major champion had to tell reporters.
MEG MALLON: I met last night with eight of the players, and it was just a really good bonding experience. We had a good time, thinking about the Solheim Cup. I just told them last night, I said, don't worry about getting points. Keep concentrating on winning golf tournaments. If you think about winning a golf tournament, the points will take care of themselves. You know, you can tell that they are excited, uptight, all those emotions they should have going into this last stretch.
Q. The fact that you can have so many first timers, playing into your decision going forward -
MEG MALLON: As far as who my picks are? The dynamic - like I said, my five core, I have a good, solid group there that are veterans, but I could have four to six random players. But they are also players that do have match play experience, international experience - played collegiate golf and played quite well. It's not like they will be completely green. But the Solheim Cup is a different beast and I think players in the nine Solheim Cups I've been a part of, it's actually ruined their career because they were not ready for that stage. And that's what Dottie and Laura will be looking for for players in the next six events that do step up and are comfortable on a big stage, because it's important to have that under you playing in the Solheim Cup.
MODERATOR: Follow up to that would be if the team were announced right now, to Steve's point, you would have players that might be first timers but also are playing as well as anybody that would be on your team with the likes of Korda and Salas, and maybe even a Jennifer Johnson; is that a comfort for you or do you wipe that out?
MEG MALLON: Well, what's a comfort for me is that I have that solid five players that I'm looking at as leadership and to be leaders for these players, these young players that are coming up and they are already doing that. Last night I saw it at the dinner; they want to bring these players in to have them be successful in Solheim Cups. And American golf going forward looks fantastic with these young players. So it's exciting for me to watch the dynamic of the veterans and the young players working together.
Q. Talking about whether a young player is ready or not, and the danger of not being ready, how do you no one that or does it ultimately come down to an instinctive feel for you?
MEG MALLON: A lot of it is instinct. You can tell, a player knows whether a player can handle that stage for the most part. Sometimes it surprises you, the player that can. On the other side of it, there's a player that once they get on that stage shines more than they do in a regular event. So it's actually good for me that we have these three Majors coming in and we have these tough events because it's going to show who can come in and stand that kind of pressure.
Q. What is more important to you, current form or Solheim Cup experience?
MEG MALLON: I look at it as kind of a pieces of the pie. My greatest scenario would be a player that's played in multiple Solheim Cups that's playing really well going into it, and is ready to play in the Stanley Cup. If I don't have that scenario, it would be a player that's playing really well, that's played well and on a major stage or has a lot of match play experience in other international competition.
MODERATOR: Most general managers of professional sports teams have a file folder in their drawer of the replacement of the next coach that gets fired so they have players that they are ready to call in a moment's notice. Do you have two or three that I understand that may not be on this list, that are your go toes?
MEG MALLON: Only if they are playing really well.
MODERATOR: So it's all about form.
MEG MALLON: It really is. Golf is a fine line and confidence is a really big thing. If a player is playing well, and they have had that experience behind them, then they are definitely at the top of my list.
Q. Players, when you seek players' input, they usually know who they are comfortable playing with but they don't always know who they are best playing with. Are you going to sort of be a Joe Torre or a Billy Martin?
MEG MALLON: It's a combination of both, because I've learned from all the captains I've been with. Judy Rankin put me in the most uncomfortable position but she had faith in me that I could handle that. I didn't necessarily have that but that's what she saw in me and she put me out last as the anchor and it turned out I was actually comfortable and good in that position but I didn't know that she knew that in me. I think that's Dottie and Laura's and my job is to figure out those players, where they are the best, where she shine the most and where they are the most comfortable being successful, or they don't realize how good they can be in that position. Sometimes a player, you know, they just think too much, and think that they know where they are going to go and if you shock them and put them in a place where they are not comfortable, they really rise and shine.
Q. So there will be a time where there will be two players that maybe are not thinking they are the perfect match but you may look at it and say, these guys can bring out the best in each other and?
MEG MALLON: And it's my job to convince them of that and that's what the practice sessions are about and what the dinners are all about. They may not know that person as well. I learned that from Beth's team in 2009. She had some pretty young players with some veterans, and just throwing them together in social situations, they really started to like each other. They didn't know each other. And I don't know how much of that I'm going to have on my team. For the most part, these players know each other pretty well but there could be a couple players thrown in there that are either shy or not comfortable in that position, and that's where I rely on my veteran players to come in and welcome them into the fold and make them feel comfortable.
MODERATOR: Dottie and Laura, are they Billy Martin or Joe Torre.
MEG MALLON: I'm not going to answer that question (laughing).
Q. How much off the course stuff have you got through as far as the uniforms and the food, all the minutia?
MEG MALLON: We have the base of it done, I can't say it's all done but the majority of it is. It's just tightening everything up now and it's amazing how much goes into this event, it really is. I knew about it but when you're actually at the point of it, it's quite an event.
Q. What's the one thing that has been the thing you're going, gosh, can you just get this thing solved?
MEG MALLON: Yeah, we have a conference call today. You know, it's difficult, because you don't know who your whole team is going to be, so the menus are tough. Back when I played, we had a toaster and peanut butter and jelly, and now you have gluten free, dairy free, pasta free. It's unbelievable, the issues, but you want your team to be as comfortable as they can be and ready to play, so those things are important. Clothing is important. We used to wear sweaters that would, you know, in the rain, would go down to our knees. Now we have four or five seamstresses that are on site that make sure the seams are in the right place. So a lot more detail goes on now than what it used to be, but also it makes the players feel good and feel like performing well, and that's how I want them to feel.
Q. Can you remember back as a player going into like the last two months of a Stanley Cup year where you are were on the bubble and do you remember what that was like and how it affected you?
MEG MALLON: It was a really good bonding experience, thinking about the Stanley Cup and I just told them last night, I said, don't worry about getting points. Keep concentrating on winning golf tournaments. If you think about it - I qualified for every team and that's why I kind of have the mentality that this team, if you don't make the team, you don't make the team. If you're not in the top eight and you're not in the top two qualifiers on the Rolex World Rankings, then you shouldn't expect to be on the team and that's how I felt when I played. I made sure I made the team. I've seen players be on the bubble and it's hard.
MODERATOR: Solheim Cup points this week and you have a stretch of three major championships in a short period of time and I know the players are thinking about it. You mentioned the top five that you feel like are locks so far: Lewis, Kerr, Creamer, Stanford and Lincicome, one to five. There are obviously a lot of name players outside of that, as well. How much conversation have you had with your top 5 that are locks, what are you speaking to them about at this point?
MEG MALLON: Yeah, definitely as far as getting to know the golf course. We have a practice session next week and we have some players coming in to play the golf course. It's the weekend of the men's Open. I think that's very important for that core group to know the course as well as they can, and just talking to them about pairings, players that they are comfortable playing with in the past, because this group are veterans of the Stanley Cup. They play with these players week in and week out and I rely a bit on their opinions and it's been very helpful. We had a wonderful dinner last night with eight of the players and - it's hard, those last few events, all you're thinking about is getting into the Solheim Cup. That's what I said to the team last night, think about winning a tournament. Don't think about finishing 20th because you're just going to kill yourself out there doing that. So I'm not going to have much sympathy for those that are not inside of it. My job is to make the 11th and 12th players make our team better.
Q. How much do you scout out the competition and maybe share with us your thoughts on The European Team as it's shaping up right now?
MEG MALLON: I don't scout the competition. I just keep an eye on what they are doing. Lotta and I are very good friends, and so I'm more interested in what the makeup of her team is going to be, and I actually talked to Suzann Pettersen yesterday about it, and she was saying the same thing. I think we have five or six players on the Ireland team that are not qualified for this team and they had the same situation going on on their side where they have quite a few veterans that are not quite qualified. Now, Lotta has four picks and I don't think I would like to have that situation; I only have two, and I think it would be tough to have four.
It's going to be interesting to see what direction she goes, because you have players like a Charlie Hull, who I knew on the Junior Solheim Cup, when I was captain of the Junior Solheim Cup, she was one of the top players, a great player over there, and she's finished second five weeks in a row out on The European Tour. She could obviously be a pick, easily, for Lotta. So it's just going to be interesting to see how she shapes her team as well. But as far as scouting, not necessarily. I know the core group of players and I know pretty much how they play, but it's not like the Presidents Cup where you match players. We are throwing our pairings out there randomly so you don't know who you're playing necessarily.
MODERATOR: So you have not gone to the Golf Channel and you're not exchanging game film of her team versus your team.
MEG MALLON: Not yet. She's actually over in Germany right now.
MODERATOR: Morgan Pressel is 15th right now. Is there any way that you can see going completely off the map right now with a player who is outside the Top 50, let's fast forward to the Ricoh Women's British Open when this is all going to get settled and the dust is settled. Could you go outside of that? Would there be a complete wild card that might shock people.
MEG MALLON: I don't know. It would be hard to say; if they were playing well, outside the top 20 - the way the points are now, what Jennifer Johnson did a couple weeks ago, leapfrogged a bunch of people winning a golf tournament and that could happen at 30th now. I'm still sending e mails to the top 30, because even outside of that, someone could qualify with all the points that are out there. I could go outside, only if someone comes up and is just playing really well but they are going to make points anyway. So I would doubt that it would be anybody outside of the top 20, probably, at that time.
MODERATOR: As far as qualifying for the United States Team, and this will go into effect in 2015, to qualify for the United States Team, you would now have to be one of four things: Born in the United States, born to parents who are U.S. citizens, become a naturalized citizen before 18 years of age, or adopted by U.S. parents by the age of 13. So those are some fairly substantial changes that while they don't affect your team could affect things going forward, and perhaps help or maybe confuse; what's your take on that as a captain and somebody who has been in the mix in these team competitions?
MEG MALLON: I was all for it when Mike Whan shared all the information with us and talked about the players that would have been involved this year. I'm all for it. We are on board with all the other international competitions. I think what we are concerned about is I think the Olympics are a little bit too loose with that, with players jumping countries, so we just wanted to make sure that they were a player that was serious about playing for the United States. I think, and correct me, but I think you also have to play in all U.S. competitions. So you can't jump and play for the fill pines and Ireland or someone else if you're a kid, you wouldn't qualify for the Solheim Cup. I like that, you're going to make a choice to play for one country and I'm glad that they changed the rules.
Q. You're one of the players who won a major after the age of 40; what does it take to still be in competition, to win tournaments when you get into your late 30s and early 40s and maybe if you can talk about how she's been able to do that?
MEG MALLON: When Karrie was in her 20s, I said, I feel like every player, male, female, doesn't play their best golf until their 30s. Karrie described it today in her press conference about finding different ways to win and the maturity of her game and how great she is. Karrie is in my top 5 of greatest players that have ever played on the LPGA Tour and I think there's also one of the most underrated that have ever played, and overshadowed, because of her skills. What it takes, she's young, she's 38 years old, and is keeping yourself fit, but really the desire, the desire, the heart in your gut wanting to be there and winning golf tournaments. I was a late bloomer and I felt at 41, I've got the question at 41, did you ever think you would win a U.S. Open at 41, and I thought, well, that's all I've been thinking about at 41. So I think Karrie's kind of carrot and goal out there is to play the Olympics for Australia. I hope she continues after that but I feel like that's kind of her motivation.
Q. You were very complimentary to American women's golf before, and I know it goes in cycles, talking about the men's tour, when are Americans going to win majors and then they swept them. What makes you so bullish on the future of American women's golf?
MEG MALLON: I think they are a highly motivated group. They are developing better at a younger age, the American players. There's more access and ability for them to play, more training and coaching and that has helped a lot. I think the success of Paula Creamer and Morgan Pressel have generated a young group of players to come up and play really well. It does come in cycles. We had the domination of the Swedes for a while and then the Koreans have dominated for a while but it's a cyclical thing. It's nice to see this young group of Americans, and they are highly motivated. They want to win golf tournaments. They don't want to play just to play out here. They want to win. It's fun to see, for sure.
Q. How many times as Juli told you she doesn't want to be considered?
MEG MALLON: You know, she hasn't. I read that she said that. And it is Juli speak, because I said in an article earlier, Sweden, 2002 when we were in Sweden, that was the first time Juli was going to retire, right. I've always said, as long as Juli is playing, she's not a ceremonial golfer; she's out here to play to win. She's out here to perform well and I fully expect her to have a great summer, so I'm not counting Juli out by any means.
Q. I've written she's played her last Solheim Cup story three times.
MEG MALLON: At least.
MODERATOR: How big could she be if she was player No. 12 is a bunch of first timers?
MEG MALLON: You know, a Juli Inkster playing well is as good as anybody in the world, especially in match play. It lights a fire under her, and she sets a great example for the young players and works harder than anybody out there. She's a valuable person to have around.
Q. What about having her in the team room?
MEG MALLON: Oh, yeah, Juli will always be welcome, absolutely.
Q. You played here for a number of years and you won here. Wonder if you can speculate on a potential of Rochester for a Solheim Cup in the future?
MEG MALLON: Terrific. We have amazing fans here and people love golf here and we are going to host the PGA Championship in August at Oak Hill which will be a great event for the town. With the Solheim Cup, there would be some great crowd here, it would be fun.
MODERATOR: Ticket sales have been going phenomenal well in Denver, corporate hospitality very well, it's going to be sold out. And from what I've heard the last number of days, a very large number of tickets being old outside the United States, more than 50 percent from overseas. That tees me up to ask you about the importance of playing on home soil and trying to get that Cup back.
MEG MALLON: This event sells itself. If Suzann Pettersen wasn't there, I think we would sell out more, actually. Yeah, the Europeans, they are very well represented in their fan base, and it's great to have that environment. It's great to have them scheming on both sides and singing on both sides. I know our fans will be there in full force and hopefully screaming and yelling as loud as they can, it will be fun.
MODERATOR: Exciting times ahead. Thank you very much for being here.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.