Solheim Cup: Juli Inkster announces Team USA pods, distributes hard hats

Juli Inkster, Team USA Captain for The Solheim Cup at the Des Moines Country Club on August 15, 2017 in West Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
Juli Inkster, Team USA Captain for The Solheim Cup at the Des Moines Country Club on August 15, 2017 in West Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images) /

Today’s Solheim Cup countdown: Inkster announced her pod groupings and gave the team hard hats that symbolize Team USA at Work.

Solheim Cup Team USA Captain Juli Inkster has announced her pod groupings:

  • Austin Ernst, Paula Creamer, Lexi Thompson, Cristie Kerr
  • Gerina Piller, Stacy Lewis, Brittany Lang and Brittany Lincicome
  • Lizette Salas, Danielle Kang, Michelle Wie and Angel Yin

Inkster is again using the teams-within-a-team system Paul Azinger pioneered at the 2008 Ryder Cup. (And you may recall that this is also the system Tom Watson declined to use for the 2014 Ryder Cup, a controversial decision Phil Mickelson and others disputed and took into the public arena.)

The pod system worked for Team USA at St. Leon-Rot and there’s every reason to assume that it will again result in strong. cohesive pairings for the foursome and fourball matches, giving Inkster flexibility to switch things up and capitalize on the hot hands that are bound to emerge. It’s also a way to guard against two players in a pairing going cold simultaneously.

Pods play their practice rounds together, conduct joint press conferences, and will be paired among themselves for all foursome and fourball matches. The Cristie Kerr-Lexi Thompson pairing looks ready to pick up where they left off two years ago in Germany.

The advantages are obvious. The players need to calibrate to three teammates rather than 11.

Inkster gives the team hard hats

Captain Inkster excels in team motivation. Forming the pods is only one part of the process. She also provided at least one material reminder of why they’re in Des Moines this week.

More from Solheim Cup

In 2015 Inkster passed out metal lunch boxes to her team with their names and the team motto – Team USA at Work – on the side. She was determined to get Team USA back on track after their demoralizing 2013 loss at Colorado Golf Club, the only time the Americans have lost the Solheim Cup on home ground.

I don’t know if the lunch boxes turned the tide, but Inkster isn’t taking any chances. This year Team USA got hard hats from their captain.

Paula Creamer, who’s stepped in to fill the spot Jessica Korda vacated when she withdrew, explained:

"It’s special. It’s something that we all have as a team. We had our lunch boxes last time and we have hard hats this time. And it’s all about doing work. That’s what we’re here for. And all of our things have little Juli touches on them. I mean, who gives out hard hats to a team? I’ve never gotten a hard hat before. So this is pretty good."

Next: First tee jitters

We’re monitoring Lexi Thompson, who’s battling a sore throat and viral infection, and Suzann Pettersen, whose back injury has flared up, and keep you advised on these developments and any additional substitutions to Team USA and Team Europe that Captains Inkster and Sörenstam may make before the Thursday deadline for team changes.