American rookie Alison Lee has made no secret of her Solheim Cup aspirations and Captain Juli Inkster has made no secret of the fact that she’s scouting Lee for one of her wild card picks for the 2015 US Solheim Cup team. But despite Lee’s standout performance this year, it’s not a done deal. There are additional names on Inkster’s short list: Paula Creamer and Brittany Lang, proven Solheim Cup commodities, and Austin Ernst, another young up and coming player who notched her first pro victory this year, among others.
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Lee, a UCLA Bruins standout and winner of the 2013-2014 ANNIKA Award, turned pro last December when she earned her 2015 Tour card at Q-School. She’d already competed in five LPGA events as an amateur, with her best finish coming at the 2009 US Women’s Open (T26). So with a teary good-by to her Bruins teammates, Allison Lee stepped away from a promising collegiate golf career and stepped onto golf’s big stage.
She’s played 14 events this year and played the weekend 11 times. With a 4th place finish at the Kia Classic and a 3rd place at the Kingsmill Championship, 49th ranked Lee has had some strong showings but is still looking for her first pro victory. (I’m among those who are predicting that she won’t have long to wait.)
Her game’s maturing and she’s a persistent, indefatigable competitor. She drives the ball about 250+ yards and she’s hitting better than 77% of the fairways. She’s been averaging just under 30 putts per round. Those are the stats Lee needs to give her plenty of chances to turn in rounds in the 60s, and that’s what it takes to compete on the Tour.
“I’ve definitely had my eye on [the Solheim Cup] since the beginning of the year.”
But does Alison Lee also have what it takes to be a member of a winning Solheim Cup team? That’s what Juli Inkster is assessing. Although Lee would bring team play experience from her year at UCLA and as a member of the winning2014 Curtis Cup
team, she’d be going up against some European players with deep Solheim Cup experience.
One of those will be Azahara Munoz, who’s also playing in the Marathon Classic this week. Were Inkster to pick Lee for the 2015 US team, Munoz would be a likely competitor when the teams take to the field at St Leon-Rot, Germany in September and battle to regain possession of the Cup.
Let’s see how Alison Lee would measure up against Azahara Munoz if they had been playing their third round at the Marathon Classic as a Solheim Cup singles match. Competing in stroke play, Munoz’s 68 would have beat Lee’s 71. But what about match play, which is scored hole-by-hole? The scores cards tell the tale.
Alison Lee, 3rd Round, Marathon Classic
Azahara Munoz, 3rd Round, Marathon Classic
Alison Lee would have taken the first hole, they would have halved the 2nd and 3rd holes and Lee would have taken the 5th hole. Starting the 6th hole Lee would have been 2 up, but when Munoz fired off three consecutive birdies on 6, 7 and 8, Lee would have lost her lead and been down 1. With her bogey on the 9th, they would make the turn with Munoz up 2 with 9 holes to play (2 and 9).
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Munoz would have gone 3 up when Lee bogeyed the 10th, but then dropped back to 2 up with her bogey on the 11th. They would have halved 12, 13 and 14 and Lee’s birdie on 15 would have reduced Munoz’s lead to 1 up with 3 to play (1 and 3). Lee’s bogey on 16 would have increased Munoz’s lead to 2 up and 2.
At that point Lee would be dormie. If this is a new term for you and you’re going to follow the Solheim Cup this year, get comfortable with it. It means that Lee must win all remaining holes in order to take the match to a tie and force a playoff.
As you can see, Munoz answered with a birdie on 17 and, because she would have then been 3 up with only one hole — the 18th — remaining in the round, the match would have ended with Azahara Munoz the winner.
Could Alison Lee have saved the match? Certainly. She lost three holes on bogeys. To be clear, Munoz did not win those holes by superior play. Lee lost them with those bogeys and that’s the kind of detail Inkster’s watching.
How often is Lee able to dig deep, get control of a hole and save par? If that had been the case, the match would have gone to the 18th hole with Lee and Munoz all square, the kind of situation that sharpens competitive skills to a rapier-like edge. Has Alison Lee achieved that level of blood lust yet? Or does Juli Inkster need to look closer at more experienced players for her captain’s picks, players who can save par in the clutch?