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Columnist
Wie and friends must build on Solheim momentum
By Barry Rozner | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 8/25/2009 12:01 AM

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So now what?

That's the question facing the LPGA Tour.

At one of the most difficult times in the history of women's professional golf, the Solheim Cup has put the sport back on the map.

The ladies have proven not only that they can put on a spectacular show, but that they also can play spectacular golf.

More important, they showed America they could draw and draw big.

More than 120,000 came out to see the U.S. vs. Europe.

But will anyone be there in North Plains, Ore., in a few days when they play in the Safeway Classic?

Will the women play with the kind of intensity as they did in Sugar Grove, or even half that much?

Will they strike the ball with the same passion they did at Rich Harvest Farms?

Tiger Woods gives his all in team play, but when he returns to individual events, he also returns to a mind-set of wanting to thump every one of those teammates. He is back to being Tiger Woods again, as focused as ever on one thing: winning.

The women will have to find that formula, and get some American names back at the top of their leaderboard, if they want to attract more fans and more attention.

"I just think if more people could come out and actually watch us play," said Juli Inkster, a 26-year Tour veteran. "I mean, I've been out here, as you guys know, a long time, and I've never seen the golf that these women play now.

"That's not only our team, but the European team. You have Lorena (Ochoa) and all the other ethnic groups out there.

"We have the best golf right now ever. We've got a lot of diversity out there, too."

If ever there were a time to get casual golf fans interested, this would be it. After a stirring Solheim Cup that introduced many Americans to the players on both teams, and with the emergence of Michelle Wie, the ladies need to capitalize.

"They can all play golf," Inkster said. "But everybody writes about the negativity of the LPGA. We have a great product, and the more people see that and write about it, you know it'll be great for us.

"I'm trying to say we've got some great golf, and if people would write about the golf and not about all the other stuff, we're going to be great."

Rich Harvest

As brilliant a course as Rich Harvest Farms is, and with the job they did as host, you'd have to think something else big will come down Dugan Road, like a major tournament for the women or men, or perhaps another match-play event.

"Honestly, it's a perfect course for a match-play type tournament, but as far as another tournament, I can tell you that in the prime of my career I would not have wanted to spend a day counting every shot I hit out there," laughed U.S. captain Beth Daniel. "With the amount of trouble you can get into out there, you can spend a very long time out there on that course.

"And that's great for the format we just played."

Still, Daniel would encourage both tours to try to get back to Sugar Grove as soon as possible.

"You know, it's really up to Jerry Rich and what he wants to do," Daniel said. "It's such a beautiful track and great facility, and everything is extraordinary here."

Cristie Kerr, who went 2-1-1, would love to return to Sugar Grove.

"I think Rich Harvest Farms is a great course," Kerr said. "It's certainly set up great for the Solheim Cup. I think it would be a great course for another tournament."

Added Brittany Lincicome, "It was nice and long. We can come back any time."

Wie vs. Pettersen

While the U.S. got 31/2 points from Michelle Wie (3-0-1), or about 3 more than they could have reasonably expected from a captain's choice who'd proven so little, the Europeans got only 1 point from their best player, Suzann Pettersen (1-4-0), in a whopping five matches.

If Pettersen goes 4-1-0, as she did in 2003, the Euros win in a romp.

Solheim symmetry

With all the posters, programs and info sheets carrying the images of Paula Creamer and Suzann Pettersen, it was fitting that the two faced off in the first and most important singles match Sunday morning.

The underdogs

Give credit to the Europeans, who took the lead a few times late Sunday, fought the Americans to the bitter end and showed tremendous class in defeat, as did the Euro fans who traveled so far to be here.

The chills

The Young Naperville Singers performed the national anthem of every participating country at the closing ceremonies, and brought tears to the eyes of many players.

The quote

Cristie Kerr, on going the distance in all four of her matches: "I played all 72 holes, thank you very much. It was my curse for playing nine-hole practice rounds."

Best line

Juli Inkster on being a future captain of the U.S. Solheim team: "I would love to do it. I'd love to be able to pick out the uniforms and hair ribbons and stuff like that. That's my forte."

And finally -

Paula Creamer, while in tears Sunday night: "I've always said this has been the best week of my life. It's better than winning any tournament on my own. Whenever you can wear red, white and blue, hold those flags and play with 11 Americans that want the same thing as you, it's pretty special."

brozner@dailyherald.com