Americans are making big Solheim Cup moves at Carnoustie. Can Mina Harigae nab first win and clinch spot?

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Last week, American Ryann O’Toole won for the first time in her 228th start on tour. Now, a winless Mina Harigae co-leads with Georgia Hall at the AIG Women’s British Open in her 243rd LPGA start.

Could either of them make the U.S. Solheim Cup team?

Harigae currently ranks 13th on the U.S. Solheim Cup points list and a victory this week could bump her into the top seven, which automatically qualifies. O’Toole would need something special over the weekend to get into the conversation. She opened with a 1-under 71.

The AIG is the final qualifying event before picks are made for the Sept. 4-6 event at the Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio.

“I’m a much better golfer the last 12 months,” said Harigae. “I’ve been playing well. So I just feel like I’m in a good place.”

Harigae won several events on the Cactus Tour in 2020 during the LPGA’s 166-day break during the pandemic and rediscovered something crucial in her time on the Arizona-based mini tour: the joy of competing.

The change in mindset came in part thanks to Spain’s Carlota Ciganda, who practices at the same club as Harigae – Superstition Mountain – and shares the same fitness instructor.

“She said she honestly just loves to compete,” Harigae told Golfweek last year. “She loves the competition. She doesn’t care whether it’s for $1,000, $2,000, $5 or $1 million. All she wants to do is compete with people.

“That’s when I realized my mindset the last few years – I haven’t even been thinking about that. It was more of, I need to be out here to make money or I need to keep my card.”

Harigae carried the momentum over to the LPGA when the tour resumed last July.

Rookie Yealimi Noh currently sits in a share of fifth, two shots back, at 5 under. After recently contending at the Amundi Evian Championship and posting a top 10 at the Trust Golf Women’s Scottish Open, Noh, No. 29 in the world, should be on the short list when it comes to who U.S. captain Pat Hurst is watching.

Noh said she’s been successful at keeping the Solheim Cup out of her mind on the course in recent weeks.

“Of course it’s a goal of mine to be on the Solheim Cup,” said Noh, “and it has since I turned pro, and especially the beginning of this year and just always keeping it there but not focusing too much on it, because it’s better to just focus on the golf.

“Actually, I don’t think about it like when I’m playing. You would think like every – especially towards the end of the week, you’d be like, ‘Oh, one more birdie or whatever and I’m closer,’ but you really don’t.”

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Yealimi Noh lines up her second putt shot on the 18th green during round two on the second day of the 45th AIG Women’s Open at Carnoustie, Scotland on August 20, 2021. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Lizette Salas, who finished runner-up to Nelly Korda at the KPMG Women’s PGA, currently holds one of two spots off the Rolex Rankings list for Solheim. She’s currently 25th in the world.

Salas said she put a new putter into play this week and is using a greens book.

“It’s a Ping putter and honestly I went into the truck this week and I just needed to look at something different,” said Salas. “I’ve been out here for six weeks and I needed a change. It’s a different hosel. It’s more toe-hang putter and sets up really well and I’m obviously making a few putts out there. So yeah, that’s the new toy.”

Salas opened up at the KPMG last June about her recent mental health struggles when she contemplated retiring from the tour. Since the KPMG, Salas’ best finish has been a T-25 at the Evian.

“You know, a lot happened that week, a lot of good things,” said Salas. “I think it also changed my expectations of myself … honestly I have not been performing or putting as well as I did that week which has really been frustrating. So it’s been a lot of mixed emotions. My swing, my ball-striking’s been on point. It’s just the putts haven’t been dropping.

“So for me that’s kind of been like it hurts a little bit to know that I could still hit the shots but I can’t finish the job. Honestly, I probably should have taken a break after KPMG. I kind of pushed myself a little too much physically and mentally to continue competing, but you know, this is all a learning experience. Now I know like what my body and my mind can take or my mental game can take. You know, we are just trying to have some fun and finish on a good note this week.”

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