How Stacy Lewis Got It Right With Bold Solheim Cup Strategy

Stacy Lewis might be the youngest skipper in Solheim history but she's already showing maturity beyond her years

Stacy Lewis
US skipper Stacy Lewis
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Much is made of the Friday morning pairings when it comes to a Solheim or Ryder Cup, too much if we're being honest. We've had a two-year build-up, weeks of guessing games as to who might lead both teams out and the anticipation tends to get the better of most of us.

Then we're into the matches, various partnerships pass us by and, before we know it, we're trying to second-guess who the singles will play out.

What will likely stand the test of time is Stacy Lewis' decision to lead off with Lexi Thompson whose record coming into the matches was abysmal. In 11 starts this year, which tells you enough on its own, the 28-year-old has missed eight cuts.

Come lunchtime in Spain the Americans had amassed a 4-0 lead, only the second time the Europeans had been whitewashed in Solheim history, and the first in the opening exchanges.

Suzann Pettersen’s team, billed as favourites and the ‘strongest’ ever European side, never led any match at any point.

The tone was set by Thompson and Lewis' faith in her most experienced player. Looking in from the outside Thompson would be best left until the fourballs, or even the Saturday. Her chipping is suspect, the course is pretty funky and her putting from short range has historically been on a par with her short game.

But, whatever's been going on behind the scenes, has worked for Thompson a treat. She'd previously switched to a claw grip with the putter that looked to be working beautifully but it was the last-minute nature of bringing Thompson and Megan Khang together that speaks volumes of the captain.

There were only a handful of holes left of Thursday's practice left when Lewis asked the duo to find a ball that suited them and, come the opening ceremony a few hours later, they were being announced in the lead match.

Thompson would take the opening tee shot, Khang would be left with far shorter shots in and they managed to withstand a European fightback by Maja Stark and Linn Grant.

"Lexi said, play hard, play to win, and we kept on. It was awesome out there. Lexi crushed her drive and that was it. I had some numbers that I didn't even have in the book. I was like, wow, this is different," explained Khang.

Stacy Lewis and Lexi Thompson

(Image credit: Getty Images)

For Lewis she was able to leave Lilia Vu and Rose Zhang on the sidelines for the foursomes, you would imagine that one of those would have partnered Khang before the late change of heart. Come the afternoon she could then rest Nelly Korda as she announced another wave of big names to the fourballs line-up.

It's all too easy to suggest a captain's genius when things go as spectacularly well as this, and vice versa, but there's already a lot to like about Lewis' leadership in Spain,

She's done away with the pod system so there's one big team and not three smaller ones and, as her players have all revealed, she's poured her heart and soul into this week. There has been more than a nod to the American players of the past as well as previous victories by her side.

Lewis might well be the youngest Solheim captain at the age of 38 but she's got a very sound appreciation of what's gone before her.

Her thoughts on making more of the scheduling with next week's Ryder Cup were as forthright as they were laced in common sense and her knowledge of her players' stats is supposedly something else.

As she revealed when she admitted that her team had recorded the team's Strokes Gained numbers from the practice days.

"It's just been the vibe we've had all week. Just letting these girls be themselves. Thankfully they have trusted in all my crazy talk of stats and just all my ideas, and they believed in me. That's why I just told them when they got done. Thank you for believing in me," said Lewis after helping to create a slice of Solheim history.

As for Thompson she's gone from something of a liability on paper to an enormous plus and a lot of the credit goes to her skipper.

"I've been working really hard on (my ball striking), nothing in particular. I've been working on the right things. It means a lot to me, first off, to just be able to hit the first tee shot. I kind of live through this tournament. It's my favourite one of all time. I love representing my country and to be alongside my partner and my team and playing under Stacy, it's incredible."

Mark Townsend
Contributing editor

Mark has worked in golf for over 20 years having started off his journalistic life at the Press Association and BBC Sport before moving to Sky Sports where he became their golf editor on He then worked at National Club Golfer and Lady Golfer where he was the deputy editor and he has interviewed many of the leading names in the game, both male and female, ghosted columns for the likes of Robert Rock, Charley Hull and Dame Laura Davies, as well as playing the vast majority of our Top 100 GB&I courses. He loves links golf with a particular love of Royal Dornoch and Kingsbarns. He is now a freelance, also working for the PGA and Robert Rock. Loves tour golf, both men and women and he remains the long-standing owner of an horrific short game. He plays at Moortown with a handicap of 6.