Stacy Lewis is now in the middle of reading Shane Ryan’s book, “The Cup They Couldn’t Lose: America, the Ryder Cup and the Long Road to Whistling Straits,” a second time. After she was named Solheim Cup captain, the former No. 1 found Ryan’s book to be a good place to begin her research. Now, she’s re-reading it and taking notes.
While the situation for Lewis’ team doesn’t feel as urgent as it did for Steve Stricker’s U.S. squad last year, the Americans have lost the last two Solheim Cups.
Lewis, at 37 the youngest U.S. captain in Solheim Cup in history, isn’t afraid to shake things up. And after reading about the stats systems both Ryder Cup teams (and Presidents Cup teams) have relied upon in recent years, Lewis was on a mission to get something similar for her team.
“In the past, we’ve made pairings based on being friends or who gets along,” said Lewis, “there’s really been no rhyme or reason. Juli did the personality test and things like that because we’ve never had stats to put to it.”
Ally Ewing of Team USA and Nelly Korda of Team USA react on the 16th green during the Foursomes Match on day one of the Solheim Cup at the Inverness Club on September 04, 2021, in Toledo, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Lewis met with the stats groups that work with the U.S. men (Scouts Consulting Group) and Europe (Twenty First Group). She knew she’d have to find a creative way to fund the program outside of the Solheim Cup budget. That’s when KPMG stepped up to help, creating an extension to the already existing KPMG Performance Insights with the continued help of the Twenty First Group.
By the time the Solheim Cup is staged in Spain for the first time on September 22-24, there will be two years worth of data to analyze.
“It’s going to help project who’s going to make the team and then from that,” said Lewis, “making your picks based on pairings and who will pair well together.”
The data will be specific to the golf course as well, looking at details like what kinds of shots will be hit from the tees and how many of the par 5s are reachable.
“KPMG Performance Insights has been a game changer in terms of helping LPGA players maximize their performance,” said Shawn Quill, KPMG National Sports Industry Leader, “informing the way they practice and play, while also enhancing storytelling, broadcast media coverage and more.”
Now, Lewis believes those insights will be a game changer for the Solheim Cup, too.
At the 2017 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, PGA of America Chief Commercial Officer Jeff Price was asked how analytics became part of U.S. Ryder Cup preparations. Price said the PGA of America recognized coming out of a loss at Gleneagles, where Europe won for a third consecutive time, that a program was needed.
“We had to make sure that from Ryder Cup to Ryder Cup, the PGA of America was going to provide the Ryder Cup captains, and really the Ryder Cup family, with every opportunity to succeed and every bit of resources that they needed,” said Price. “And clearly as players on the team were using analytics and the competition was using analytics, we needed to be in a position that we could provide our captains and vice captains with the information that would help them make better picks … and then overall how were pairings from four-balls to foursomes going to work. How would the team really gel together?”
This week at the Presidents Cup in Charlotte, International captain Trevor Immelman was asked at a pre-tournament press conference to talk about some of the specifics they’ve looked into from an analytics standpoint to gain any kind of edge as the underdogs.
“You actually think I’m going to answer that question?” Immelman replied.
Every little advantage helps.
Early on, Lewis texted Stricker to let him know that she’d like to chat. At that point, Lewis wasn’t sure what she’d want to ask. Now that she’s further along in the process, however, she’s eager to catch up with him this fall.
Notebook in hand.