It was hers whenever she wanted it. This time she wanted it.
Annika Sörenstam could have been the European Solheim Cup captain last year, or three years ago, or at any point in the past dozen years. All she had to do was nod or wink or give any hint that she was ready. The most respected European in the women’s game and arguably the greatest player in LPGA Tour history, Sörenstam was a shoo-in for the captaincy the moment she gave the word.
Now is that time.
On Wednesday before the start of the ANA Inspiration, one of the worst-kept secrets on the LPGA Tour became official as Sörenstam was named to lead the 2017 European Solheim squad in Des Moines, Iowa.
The last time the 10-time major champion faced Juli Inkster, who will captain the Americans for the second time, was the 2000 Solheim Cup at Loch Lomond where they were paired against each other in the singles matches. Inkster won, 5 and 4, but Europe won the cup on the heroics of Carin Koch, who captained Team Europe last year in Germany.
“If I look back on my career, the Solheim Cup has always been an important part of it,” Sorenstam said. “We play as individuals 99 percent of the time, but when we do get together it’s something special.
“Getting a chance to be a vice captain was really eye opening. But I thought one day when I’m ready I would love to get this opportunity. I felt like 2017 I would be ready. I got the support from the Tour, so this is really going to be a lot of fun.”
Sörenstam was a vice captain three times, 2011 in Ireland, 2013 in Colorado and 2015 in Germany. In the past two of those outings, she was the center of controversy. At Colorado Golf Club, Sörenstam told one of the European caddies to concede a putt of Paula Creamer’s that would have shown her partner, Lexi Thompson, the line.
Vice captains were not allowed to dispense advance. Rules officials and captains were called into a meeting but no penalty was assessed.
Then in 2015, Inkster got into a heated discussion with Sörenstam and Koch when the American captain believed that the European vice captain had, once again, dispensed advice in violation of the agreed-upon rules.
Again, nothing became of the row.
All that has been forgotten now as Sörenstam, as captain, can run her team the way she sees fit.
“Being the vice captain I saw the hard work (captains) put in,” Sörenstam said. “The two years of preparation, and it’s so much more than just thinking about who is going to play with whom, et cetera.
“I really respect the captains. I really respect what they did. I think that’s when I realized I wasn’t ready for the job. You need to fully commit. You need to get involved and get to know the players. So I saw it from the sideline. But then also I was intrigued by the opportunity, and I said I would love to do this when I’m ready.”
She’s clearly ready now.
“I know we’ll put a good plan together,” Sörenstam said. “Of course we’ve got to execute. That’s the most important.”