MIAOW! It's Another Cat Fight at the Solheim Cup; THE WORLD OF GOLF
Byline: DEREK LAWRENSON
TRASH-TALKIN' has been a feature of the Solheim Cup since American Dottie Pepper told the Europeans they would be packing groceries in Safeway if it wasn't for the U.S. women's tour.
That was in 1994, and a contest that had been wittily dubbed the Ryder Cup with lipstick in 1990 had begun its transformation into the Ryder Cup with stilettos.
This year's match, which begins at Crooked Stick in Indiana on Friday, looks like it might also be played between the shoulder blades, judging by American Paula Creamer's comments last week.
Not so much pepper as tabasco, Creamer came up with a charming welcome speech. 'Get ready to lose,' she told the visitors.
Mind you, the 18-year-old still has a way to go to match the salty Pepper, the blonde who dyed her hair red on the eve of the 1994 contest to match the mist that coloured her judgment.
'Yes!' she exalted when Laura Davies missed a short putt on one occasion, later compounding the felony by refusing to concede a 12-inch tap-in. There's nothing like a bit of red blood to attract a crowd, of course, and every Solheim Cup since has been a sellout. The 100,000 tickets on offer for the three days of this match sold out almost as fast as the Indy 500.
Let's hope the trashy behaviour stays this side of acceptable, and with the fragrant Nancy Lopez as American captain there is every hope. Certainly it is hard to see her repeating the disgraceful actions of fellow legend Pat Bradley, when captain at Loch Lomond in 2000.
Here we saw the greatness of Annika Sorenstam, as she played a tricky chip to perfection to rescue a losing situation against Kelly Robbins and Pat Hurst at the 13th. The two Americans stayed silent and then, after she had holed, shamefully wondered if she had played out of turn.
The referee was called and agreed that, as Annika was a matter of inches closer to the hole, she had. What now? The Americans were within their rights to tell her to play the shot again but who among us who play golf would want to do that? It was decided to leave the decision to Bradley.
Just 12 months after the shame of Brookline - where the American team charged across the 17th green to celebrate when Jose Maria Olazabal still had a putt to prolong his Ryder Cup match - the situation cried out for a captain like Jack Nicklaus, who would have told them all to walk to the 14th tee.
Instead, we got another Ben Crenshaw, another captain for whom winning is everything and to hell with the spirit of the game.
Bradley told Sorenstam she must replay the shot, and the Swede later confessed that she played it through a veil of tears.
Two years later, it was the Europeans' turn to trash-talk, as assistant captain Catrin Nilsmark, analysing the American team on a Swedish website, described Christie Kerr as a 'little brat', Michele Redman as having 'absolutely no talent,' and Wendy Ward as 'too nice for matchplay'.
Just to set the scene deliciously for Friday, Nilsmark is now the European captain, while the brat Kerr and the talentless Redman have both qualified for the American team. As for Wendy too-nice, she was named as a wild card.
Stilettos at the ready, ladies . . .