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SOLHEIM CUP MEDIA CONFERENCE
July 20, 2017
Des Moines, Iowa, USA
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Hello, everybody, this is Annika Sorenstam.
Q. I want to talk to you about the thought process for your selections that are coming up soon. Can you walk us through what you're thinking and kind of what the criteria is that you're using for looking at the various picks you are?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Yes, that's a good question. Obviously we're coming down the stretch. It's less than 30 days, and you know, I have four picks, as you know.
I think really, first of all, I look at who is kind of qualifying from the LET Solheim Cup points. I look at who is qualifying from the Rolex Rankings, and I just kind of look at those eight people and I look at the makeup, I look at the experience, I look at the type of players and I look at the individuals in general. And then I want to complement with four players that can make it a great team.
One of the things that I think is the most important is current form. Since I've played in the past, I know what it's like, and one of the things I really find it hard is if you don't play well -- (audio interference).
Q. Is there anybody that you've gotten to know for the first time this year, whether it be during a practice session or just going out and watching them play in person for the first time?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Yeah, I mean, let's just start with the players that mostly play on the Ladies European Tour. It starts with Georgia Hall, who, you know, she's younger, so I never competed against her. She is one of the most -- one of the top players on the LET. She's gotten a few invites recently on the LPGA and also qualified for the Open.
I spent some time with her this last year just to get to know her, because she is literally in the team from a qualification standpoint. I'm very, very impressed with her, and just very technically sound. I just like her attitude. Here is a player that I really never met and spent some time during a practice session in May, but also when I was in Spain and this past week at the Open.
She's one of them, and Florentyna Parker is another one, also young, that I just never competed against. Same thing there. Got to spend some time with her. It's more just getting to know their personality. I mean, golf-wise, I can look at their results and the way they play and their swings and so forth. But just to hang out, dinner, kind of get to know them, the kind of people they are.
I think being a good captain is to know your team, and I know that sounds very obvious, but how do they react and how do they want to be approached, what makes them tick, and how can I, together with a leadership team, how can we inspire these players just by knowing them.
So Georgia; Florentyna is one of them. You know, then most of the other ones, they are kind of in the team, like Anna I've known for a long time. Suzann I've known for a long time. Carlota I've known for a long time. Charley Hull, I've been part of two teams with her.
Then we go down the list, and we're probably looking at 16 different players overall, and there are a few other rookies and younger players that I've spent a little time this year; they are upcoming.
So it will be interesting to see how the next, well, three more weeks, this week, but then obviously the tournament in Scotland where they get quite a few points on the standings, and then the British Open.
I feel like things can still change, and a few good finishes here can move some people up and vice versa.
Q. Looking back a couple years to the incident -- I hate to be the guy to bring it up, but the incident with Suzann and Charley and Alison and Brittany, I think it was, how important is it for you to see that that doesn't happen again or a similar incident doesn't happen, and what kind of steps will you be taking? Will you be speaking to your players that there's to doubt as to what they should and shouldn't do to that respect?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Yeah, well, first of all, I'd like to say that I think every player and every captain or everybody that was involved in Germany, you know, they felt it, and nobody wants something like that to happen again for different reasons.
So I think we're all on the same mind-set that we're going to avoid controversies moving forward. We want to showcase the best of women's golf, and the golf was terrific on Sunday. I just think it was overshadowed by, you know, the incident like that.
I think it's in everybody's best interests to just move on, keep sportsmanship, and kind of be courteous, etc., in mind. So I really don't feel like I have to say much. I think it's just an understatement. I will address it at one point early on in the week and then we're going to move on. But I would say that everybody has moved on, and you know, I think Suzann, if somebody that wants to move on, that's Suzann. I think we'll all keep this in mind.
Everybody learns from mistakes or incidents, I think we all learn from those. It just shows you that when you get together, how passionate, how when the adrenaline is pumping and just the competitiveness is so high, it's just amazing how some of these situations happen that we all, looking back at it, goes, how can this happen. It was not intentional of anybody.
I think we are ready to move on and focus on the good parts, and just let the golf showcase itself.
Q. Picking up on that, Juli mentioned earlier this morning how she always perceived that the European side had about anywhere between 40, 50 percent more fire going on the road to a U.S. site. When you combine the circumstances of what happened on Sunday two years ago with that perception that she says is out there, I mean, what kind of motivation or fire have you already noticed from your potential group of women who will be coming over here to the States in a couple weeks? Have you already noticed the vibes and energy kind of flowing through them?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: You know, I would say that every year, or every other year, but every time there's a Solheim Cup year, I think we are all just really excited. Whether you're a player or a vice captain or a captain, it's an honor to be part of it, and something that you look forward for 24 months.
You know, just to be able to somehow earn your way on it, whether you're playing or elected or whatever, you're so excited. To me personally, I think every time, you know the elevation and the excitement is as high as it gets.
You know, it seems like when you leave the trophy behind, so to speak, it's like, of course you want to get it back, whether it's in Germany or Sweden, or anywhere in the US. I think being competitive as we are, we all want to do our best, and trying to bring it back.
I don't feel anything different this year compared to other years. It is so much fun to be a part of it, and you know, I'm sure both teams will be as ready and loaded and excited as they can be, and that's what makes it so great. These are feelings that you can't make up these feelings. These feelings, they are organic. I mean, this is what people feel, and that's just the greatest thing of an event like this in sports when pride and honor is really taking over everything.
Q. You talk about the emotion and the pride and all of the things associated with this event. One of your jobs as captain is going to be to kind of throttle that back a little bit so that they are not so nervous, they can't put a tee in the ground. How do you go about doing that, and how do you draw on your experiences as a player to get them to that point?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Well, I think the benefit of having been there and done that, I mean, I know what it feels like. So I'm just trying to be as personal as I can be. I mean, I'm not going to sugarcoat it. I want to be honest with them and share my experiences. That's the beauty, when you have 12 players, we all play a role in this, and to help each other, support them, go through it, but most of all, it's the memories that we create together is what I'm going to try and share with them.
But you know, some of the feelings, I can't change them other than I'm trying to just empower them as much as I can and inspire them and encourage them. When we get there earlier in the week, you know, prepare them as much as we can on site. But this process, from my perspective, started 18 months ago. I'm not going to, it's like you have a test. You can't just study the night before and think you're ready. I'd like to say that I've kind of prepared them the last 18 months for what it's going to be like and expectations and so forth.
So I'm hoping that when they get there, it's more like, okay, this is what we talked about, now I'm going to do it. So this is not a last-minute, you know, trying to calm them down and hold their hands and guide them through it. This is something I feel like we've talked about for 18 months.
Q. As you can probably tell by my accent, I'm Scottish. I wonder if you can maybe speak to the involvement of Catriona Matthew so far and what you've seen of her as an assistant. Have you seen anything that says to you that she has the makings of being a good captain in her own right when the time comes?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Yeah, I've known Catriona for a long time. We have been teammates in previous Solheim Cups, and she was my first pick as a vice captain. I picked her for a lot of reasons. I picked her for her experience. She's very calm, cool, collected and she knows a lot of the players.
But another reason was also to prepare her for future Solheims and most likely will be 2019. I think it's important to be in a role like she is now to see what happens behind the scenes or behind the curtain so that she's ready. There's no doubt in my mind that she has the qualities it takes to be a captain. Experience is certainly one of them, but she's just very level headed and she gets along with the players.
You know, it's been interesting, because in this case, she might be a player as well as a vice captain. So we've kept the communication very open. Of course, there's always times when we talk about players, you know, and she sits in a different -- then she wears a different hat. But we've been able to keep that separate, and we've been able to talk openly about it and I think that's also taught her a lot from, you know, maybe what she needs in a few years.
But she's mature enough and she certainly knows how to handle it. She represents Europe very well, and certainly think she will have a chance in the future.
Q. With what you've heard about ticket sales in Des Moines, you've seen some pretty lively Solheim Cup crowds, but what do you anticipate the atmosphere to be like in Des Moines?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Well, I've been there twice. One was 12 months before the event and one was this past May. Just to see the community, and to see the club and the engagement and the branding and the enthusiasm, it's incredible.
So I'm expecting it to be sold out. I'm expecting it to be probably the most-attended Solheim Cup ever. I just feel like the Midwest loves their sport. My husband, Mike, is from there, and I know how crazy they get in sport. I just visualize something really, really big, and it's exciting. We'll see what happens.
I think the venue is a great venue for women's golf, and I think it's going to set up great. I certainly look forward to representing Europe, and then we've got Juli Inkster on the other side, who is obviously a legend on her own. It's setting up to be a fun week I think.
Q. Given what the atmosphere might be like, I wonder if you've talked to Suzann ahead of the event, of maybe blocking out some things. No telling what some folks in the crowd might say or how it will be for her. Very different, I'm sure. Have you talked about that, and how to sort of compartmentalize what's going on right now and not think about two years ago?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Yeah, you're making a good point, and it will be addressed. Just at this time, I want them to play their own game and focus on whether it's U.S. Open or the British Open. I don't want them to worry about things that's going to happen the week in August.
When that week is there, you know, I will -- like I said, I will address it with the team. I've always been open and connected with Suzann. So we will have that conversation with her if she feels like we need to have it, but I'm not going to bring things up there if it's not an issue to her. I think if somebody can move on, it's Suzann. You know, she's very tough mentally.
It will be interesting to see how the crowd reacts, and hopefully we all can move on, even the spectators, and just look at this year as this event, and nothing else.
Q. Wanted to know about strategy and your strategy going into this particularly since you'll be playing on American turf?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Yeah, in the end, it's just golf. It's match play, and I would say that even though we represent Europe, a lot of the players are very familiar with the LPGA players and the U.S. courses and U.S. fans.
I don't think that will change much in that aspect, but it is match play, and there are some -- the rules are a little different. The strategy is a little different. But you know, I think just looking over all of our strategies, every player obviously matters. Every point matters. The goal is the players to find the partner that they can play with; that they think they can play well with, and also can have a lot of fun with.
I mean, my plan as the captain is to get everybody on board, leadership team and players and caddies, and that we go there and that we're ready to play. I like to be as prepared as possible. I feel like the team around me is prepared, and you know, go there and be able to enjoy it. In the past, I've always felt like there was so many things that needed to be decided the last minute and so forth.
Of course, things, changes will have to be made. It's not always perfect; but that we are very flexible and that we are agile and we can move around. But we want to enjoy this special week, and so a lot of things, you know, our ideas, we'll have everything in place when we get there.
Q. I was just curious if you reached out to anyone for any guidance or advice in this process, obviously Juli having done it once before. Has there been anyone helping you or given you any words of wisdom?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Well, early on, when I was asked to be the captain, I reached out to a few past Solheim Cup captains, but then also a few Ryder Cup captains, just to kind of get their insights, or what was important to them or things that maybe you don't think of, unless you're in that situation.
You know, I got some great advice. I mean, Darren Clarke and Paul McGinley, Liselotte Neumann I spoke to, and Alison Nicholas I've spoken to. Obviously being the vice captain, I've seen different captain styles throughout the years.
As a player, too, I've had probably seven different captains. You always pick a little here, pick a little there and then you have to add in personal flavor. I think it's important to be yourself. Just like I approached my golf game, I mean, I would say it's very similar. I'm very strategic. Some people think I'm very analytic. I use that a lot. As a matter of fact, we are using a stats program for the first time that keeps track of every player's performances, and we compare them to each other, of course. But then also gives you recommendation of pairings. I've always been an analytic person like that, and of course, I commit myself to the task.
So again, a little personal flavor with some advice from other people that have been there, and I think the best part is that, you know, got some vice captains, and I picked some captains who are excellent and that certainly complement me in a lot of ways in my weaknesses that I'm not that good at. I want to help them build up the team so we don't fall through the cracks because of my weaknesses.
It's great to have them and I rely quite a bit on them. It's been fun. I've enjoyed the journey. We spend, maybe not weekly, but now we spend weekly just talking and going through stuff. It's nice that they are right there with me and supporting me, and I'm certainly going to do the best for the European Team.
Q. I want to go back to the captain's pick process for the next couple of weeks. You said you wanted to look at recent form as much as you could to help with some of these selections. How much do you have to weigh that against the idea that especially the last two weeks on the qualification schedule, are going to be at venues that are so unlike what is going to be encountered in Des Moines? On the one hand, if you're playing well, you're playing well, but on the other hand, do you have to temper what happens a little bit just because of the different circumstances that will be over in the U.K. here for those last couple of weeks? Does that matter?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Well, I mean, of course it does. You think of the Scottish and then British Open, links courses, beautiful links courses. It's certainly a different game than what we're playing in Des Moines.
You look at that a little bit, but I'm trying to just -- I'm going to be at the British. I'll be out walking and just seeing how they play, and I think also talking to players. You'd be amazed when you have lunch with them and talk about their games, you hear about their attitudes and their approaches. I'm all about listening to that and as well as looking at the stats.
Like I said, it's so many different pieces. I think one piece that I forgot to say is instinct. I think that Liselotte Neumann, when she was the captain in Colorado, she had a very good instinct. Sometimes it pays off and sometimes it doesn't. But in her case, it was her instinct to pick -- you know, we had six rookies at that time, and I remember going into the event, a lot of people are like, whoa, how can you have six rookies. But she felt it and it was in her heart, and I think you have to go with your gut, as well.
I don't really know what the percentage of form plays right now. You have five aspects to put in and form, I would say is -- well, maybe not 50 percent but it's more than 25. And then you look at all the other parts. It's a comparison thing, and then eventually you've just got to go with your gut feeling, and then give it all that you've got.
Once you pick a team, you pick a team. I would say that this is the most important task as a captain you have I think, because we've been watching them for quite some time now, and it's probably the hardest; the most important and the hardest.
One thing I want to add that's been talked a little bit about, is obviously with the European ladies tournament, they haven't had that many tournaments. It's been hard for some of the players to get some points. And I think this year is a little different than other years, when they literally have only had four or five events coming into the Solheim Cup to earn points; so I feel it's unfortunate, for the players that's played full-time on the European Tour, to earn points and also be competitive-ready. So it's a little different makeup this year.
Q. How has that challenged you as a captain in trying to evaluate all of that? What have you had to wrap your head around?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Well, I mean, first of all, you know, the way the list is, there's not a lot of moving parts until here in the end. The last time they played -- well, they played in Thailand I guess, but before that was Spain in April. So you go two, three months, and the points standings are not changing.
So it certainly puts a lot of emphasis on the World Rankings, and we have tried to get some of these LET players to get playing opportunities, whether it's Symetra Tour or whether it's getting invites to LPGA events. Because I mean, there's some of these players, that's not a secret, you look at Georgia Hall and Florentyna Parker, they are leading in the LET points, but if they wouldn't have played on the LPGA, they wouldn't have had no tournament experience coming in August. And that's just the reality of it and luckily they have. That's why Florentyna has been flying around the world, you know, Korea, Thailand, just trying to get playing opportunities, and Georgia has obviously played in the US a few times.
But that's something we've had to address, to make sure that you're ready to play.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports