ST LEON-ROT, Germany (Reuters) - The innovative pod system employed by Paul Azinger to great effect at the 2008 Ryder Cup also did the trick for Juli Inkster at the weekend as she engineered a stunning United States comeback at the Solheim Cup in southwest Germany.
The Americans went into the final-day singles on Sunday trailing 10-6 but manufactured a thrilling 14 1/2 points to 13 1/2 victory in front of 29,000 fans at the St Leon-Rot Club.
Azinger plotted Europe’s downfall seven years ago by separating his 12 players into three pods of four at Valhalla in the Ryder Cup, the biennial men’s competition between European and American teams.
U.S. skipper Inkster said she had employed the same strategy for the 14th edition of the women’s equivalent in a bid to get her team to gel in a short period of time.
“I felt like it was really hard to get 12 women to really mesh in a week, even though they all know each other and they all get along,” the 55-year-old told reporters.
“I had them each take a personality profile test ... and it’s worked out amazing as far as the camaraderie in each little pod. They love it.
“They eat together, they sit on the bus in a group. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Stacy Lewis, Lizette Salas, Brittany Lang and Gerina Piller were in one pod, Paula Creamer, Morgan Pressel, Cristie Kerr and Lexi Thompson another, and Michelle Wie, Angela Stanford, Alison Lee and Brittany Lincicome were in a third.
“I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to win more in my life than for this time and for Juli,” said Kerr after ending 19-year-old Charley Hull’s 100 percent record by winning their singles match 3 and 2.
“It’s been a great journey, amazing how she brought us together.”
Creamer, who delivered the winning point on Sunday, was similarly effusive about the job done by Inkster.
“We came out of that locker room with one goal and that was to dominate and to play strong and we did that because of Juli,” said Creamer.
“All of us might hit the ball, the putts and everything like that but Juli definitely gave us the words and we did it all for her.”
Inkster, a veteran of nine Solheim Cups as a player, said she would love to captain the side again for the next edition in Iowa in 2017.
“I’ve never seen a team bond so much, get along so much, hug each other and tell each other stories,” added the seven-times major winner.
“It was great to be able to share that with them.”
Editing by Peter Rutherford