Caroline Hedwall has developed a perplexing problem over the course of her four years on the LPGA Tour – How can she take the game she shows in match play to stroke play? She doesn’t have an exact answer to a problem that’s invoked frustration. How can she look like the best player on the planet in match play and it not carry over?
Similarly, the Americans have found a problem on their hands from Hedwall’s conundrum: How in the world do you beat her in match play when the Solheim Cup rolls around every two years?
During the last two victorious efforts by the Europeans, there’s been no question of who their secret weapon is. In Hedwall's inaugural campaign, she posted a 2-1-1 effort, with Cristie Kerr and Morgan Pressel as the only Americans in the last four years to squeeze a point from Hedwall’s grasp.
Her seminal moment, though, no question came in Colorado in 2013. It was there where she doled out fist pumps, birdies, and match play domination en route to a historic effort. Needing a win over Michelle Wie to become the first player in Solheim Cup history to post a 5-0-0 record on the week, Hedwall smoothly hit her approach to four feet at the 18th, sinking the putt to seal up the second consecutive victory for the Europeans.
Now, two years later and again a captain’s pick for Team Europe, she’s hoping to find a similar magic in Germany. She remembers a specific putt on the eighth hole in her first match of the week in 2013 that she says sparked her.
“I’m hoping it will be the same,” Hedwall said. “It is different when you’re playing match play. I’m kind of an aggressive putter, I think I can be more aggressive when it is match play compared to stroke play.”
That, she theorizes, is why her results in stroke play haven’t quite matched her ridiculous 7-1-1 record in the Solheim Cup.
Part of her quest for rediscovering the magic has been hiring Fanny Sunesson, the former Swedish looper for Nick Faldo during his brilliant run in the 90’s and later with Henrik Stenson, to become her new coach. Sunesson is working with her on the mental and physical aspects of the game.
“She’s a team leader,” Hedwall said of Sunesson. “I brought her on my team because I think she has a lot of knowledge and experience. For me she’s been a huge help and it’s just been interesting and fun working with her.”
Sunesson arrives just in time for Hedwall, who knows first-hand that everything can change when it comes to the confidence the Solheim Cup can provide going forward. 2013, for instance, was by far her best year ever on the LPGA Tour with a 14th place finish on the money list, seven consecutive top-20’s, and three top-10’s in the weeks following the Solheim Cup.
“For me it was just a confidence boost. The next week I played really well on the LPGA in Canada (T-3), and then it was a good season,” Hedwall said. “And then it was just unfortunate in March last year, I got an injury and that’s kind of – that’s been just bothering me since then. And it’s been tough coming back. But I still think back about that week. I know I can play great golf. I try to get that confidence back.”
As she’s worked back from that injury, she’s found her ball striking has returned but the magic with her flat stick hasn’t. She’s currently the lowest on the money list (92nd) that she’s ever been at this point in the season.
“Last year I’m hitting the ball really well, but I just haven’t putted that well,” Hedwall said. “It kind of was the same situation when I came into Solheim in 2013, I didn’t make many putts and all of a sudden all works. I’m kind of hoping for some magic this week, too.”
If she’s paired with Anna Nordqvist in a match, it’s hard to think she won’t rediscover it. Her and Nordqvist are yet to be beaten together as pros in match play. They posted a 2-0 record together in 2013 and were 2-0-1 as partners at the 2014 International Crown. However, European Captain Carin Koch wasn’t willing to reveal the likely obvious selection when asked to give the chances that Hedwall would be paired again with Nordqvist.
“I’m not going to give away any of my pairings, sorry. But they’ve done well in the past,” Koch stated succinctly.
But will Hedwall’s magic return? The world will know by Sunday afternoon.