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Solheim Cup Fence Mending

EAST LOTHIAN, SCOTLAND | Alison Nicholas has cleared the air with Laura Davies and could not be better prepared for what will be her second crack at the Solheim Cup captaincy when the match takes place at Killeen Castle next month. She will name her 12-strong side on 29 August – in other words, at the beginning of the same week in which the men start bidding for places in Jose Maria Olazábal’s Ryder Cup team for 2012.

While keeping a keen eye on the Aberdeen Ladies Scottish Open at Archerfield, Nicholas gave an admirably honest assessment of why she and Davies fell out at the 2009 match in Chicago.

“It was all to do with communications,” she said. “I let myself down a bit on that front.”

To explain, Nicholas feels she should have done more to keep Davies informed when she kept her on the sidelines for three of the five sessions in Chicago.

The reason Nicholas left her out was because she felt Davies was below her considerable best. Davies, in contrast, did not begin to see things that way. Ever the optimist, this great champion considered that she was only a swing or so away from playing decidedly well.

Such was Davies’s fury that the two did not speak until a uniform fitting in London earlier this year. Then, each spoke her mind, with the result that they are now, to use Nicholas’s words, “getting on like a house on fire.”

“This time around,” said Nicholas, “I’m going to make sure that everyone knows what’s what all the time. I’m going to have lots of chats with all of my players.”

With any luck, there should be no repeat of what happened in Chicago. Though Davies, who secured her Solheim Cup berth for Killeen Castle before the end of last year, is down to 34th on this year’s money-list, she was playing a whole lot better in the recent Irish Open.

“Everything was positive,” said Nicholas, who knows how big a part an in-form and upbeat Davies could play in beating a U.S. side, which is seen as strong at the top but relatively weak further down the order.

Good communications were the big thing with Colin Montgomerie when he captained the winning Ryder Cup side at Celtic Manor, and Monty would have advised Nicholas as much when they met during this year’s Open at Royal St George’s. At the same time, the pair discussed Nicholas’ concerns about the wild-card situation for Killeen Castle.

Nicholas is as tough as they come in a golfing context. Yet still, she goes through the tortures of the damned over how she will be letting people down. “Monty told me not to worry about it. He knows as well as anyone that handing out wildcards is a tough thing to have to do but, as he says, it’s all part of the captain’s role.”

She accepts that she might shatter several golfers’ dreams but, on the other hand, she has been rightly reminded that the experience can serve to make people stronger. “Next time,” she suggests, “they will be doubly keen to get in via the rankings.”

There are two more LPGA events that could have a bearing on the quartet set to make the team via the Rolex World Rankings. Caroline Hedwall, Karen Stupples, Diana Luna, Becky Brewerton and Virginie Lagoutte-Clement are among those hoping against hope that they will be the captain’s picks. For the record, the four in the team from the European points’ list are as follows: Melissa Reid, Davies, Suzann Pettersen and Cristel Boeljon.

Meanwhile, the Ryder Cup chat of the moment has less to do with the start of the 2012 campaign than what would seem to be confirmation from Darren Clarke that he wants to put back his captaincy aspirations to 2016 or 2018.

Though word had it that Clarke would be competing at this week’s Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles, he is not now featuring in the line-up. And not exactly best placed to make amends for his recent criticisms of what is the 2014 Ryder Cup course.

“Gleneagles,” he said, on the morning after he had won his major, “is an unbelievable resort and a sensational place but the Ryder Cup is going to be played on the wrong layout.” He suggested that either the King’s Course or the Queen’s at Gleneagles would have been preferable.

Thus, the captain for 2014 will most likely be Thomas Bjorn or Paul McGinley, both of whom are playing this week and both of whom have the stature and the passion to follow on from Olazabal.

Mind you, no one in his right mind would rule out the possibility of Montgomerie trying to return to the mix. The Scot is bound to have been brooding on how much it will hurt if he is anything less than the key figure in a Ryder Cup being staged on his own doorstep.


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