The 2023 Solheim Cup marked a new era for Team USA as Stacy Lewis helped develop advanced analytics for the first time. The U.S. captain, inspired by the resources utilized by Ryder Cup teams, worked with longtime LPGA partner KPMG to create a new analytics platform for the biennial event.
Tonight, KPMG premieres a new sports documentary entitled “Driven by Data: Stacy Lewis’ 2023 Solheim Cup Captaincy” on Golf Channel at 5 p.m. ET. The 45-minute program will also be available to stream on Peacock and YouTube beginning Jan. 17.
The 2023 Solheim Cup at Finca Cortesin ended in the event’s first 14-14 tie, which meant that Europe retained the trophy. Lewis will get another chance to win back the Cup this September at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Virginia.
Golfweek recently caught up with Lewis to talk about the impact of analytics and what changes we might see in 2024. Here are excerpts from that conversation:
How did advanced stats help you the most in Spain?
The pairings are honestly probably the hardest part, I thought, of everything we had to do. Just because it’s a giant jigsaw puzzle because you kind of put constraints on how many times you want people to play, and who you want to play certain formats. And then you narrow it down from there of who plays together once you put those constraints in.
Megan Khang was making fun of me because she asked – I don’t know, it was probably a month or two out from Solheim – who she would potentially play with and the names I sent her two months out, she didn’t play with anybody. It was constantly evolving right until pairings had to be in every day.
Was that because you were getting more data, or is that a reflection of how people were playing?
I mean, the shifts that we had to make once we were there were more based on how people were playing, attitudes, those kinds of things. There were a couple of pairings that I kind of pushed, and there was one that was really good, statistically, but two of them didn’t want to play together. And so I just I said, OK, that’s fine. I’m not going to push them anymore. There was definitely still a human element to it.
When you have all these stats available, how do you keep from not following your gut enough?
I mean, honestly, the hardest part for me was sticking with what we had figured out from all this data. We basically were able to dive into each player, what makes them who they are, what are their strengths, what are their weaknesses, and then who can we pair them with to either highlight strengths or cover up weaknesses.
After we put those first pairings out there was, I mean, I got second-guessed a lot in the media. So there were times where it’s kind of like, is this the right thing? Are these the right pairings? I just kind of told myself, I’m gonna stick with what we’ve worked on for a long time, and I’ve just got to trust myself. And that, and that was probably the hardest part was to stay with what we were doing and not shift away from it.
I was talking to Morgan (Pressel) about her charity event yesterday and I asked, what will it take for the U.S. to win? Obviously you were so close. You tied. What changes might you make?
I mean, there, we still have some aspects that we have to get better. We learned a lot about alternate shot this time. That was really the focus for me because I wanted us to get off to a good start because we’ve constantly been behind the eight-ball. So that was really a big focus of mine.
I do think we can do better with our pairings in best-ball. But I think, Lilia (Vu), those six rookies, they’re going to be our key next year, they’re going to be our key four years from now. They’re going to be the key going forward for this team.
I’ve never been to this golf course. Tell me what you know about (the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club) and how stats will help you.
I don’t know much about it at all, actually. I haven’t been out on it yet. They were still working through the tee setup last I heard. So hopefully that’s soon.
But once we know that, my main thing will be to get there. I’m going to try to play it; I want my assistants to go play it. Because we’ll get some data on tee shots, what clubs players will be hitting off of tees, length of shots into each hole to help for our stats team put that information into the computer and generate pairings potential pairings off of that, what type of player would play well at that golf course. They’ll start working on those kinds of things for us.
You talked about how you essentially have this greater understanding of each player. What surprised you the most?
I didn’t realize Angel (Yin) was such a good putter. That helped me a lot in just kind of staying in her ear of, you know, saying ‘Stay patient, you’re a great putter, you’re a great putter.’ Knowing their strengths, I feel like I’m able to help them more.
And then it wasn’t really a statistical thing, but Andrea Lee, I was just surprised by how she handled the moment in the pressure situations.
Kid has a lot of heart, which was really cool to see. Same with Allisen Corpuz. I mean, she was rolling puts in like she was in her backyard putting. You know, I guess I was more surprised with how the rookies handled the moment.
Obviously the team will probably, in large part, look the same, but there might be a few changes. Who do you have your eye on besides Alison Lee?
She’s the big one. We just got some data on the fall, kind of events after Solheim, and she just crushed it. I mean, that doesn’t even include the LET event that she won. She was so close last time, I mean, so close to being there.
I was just happy for her to see her come out of that and play good golf, because it easily could have gone the other way in disappointment. So she’s definitely one we’re watching. Outside of that, I don’t think we’re going to change a whole lot.
What was your favorite takeaway? Was there a moment in Spain that kind of sums up the week for you?
My favorite moment was standing on that 18th green when we went 4-0 that Friday morning. I mean, that was just validation of all the work that we had put in for a year and a half. And just the faith that we needed to put into this process, too.
I know I talked about it like crazy there and people were tired of hearing about the stats, but it was like, it took a lot of faith to do what we were doing too. Because it could have gone completely the wrong way. So that 18th green, it was kind of like, OK, now we’ve got to go play again. I kind of had to refocus myself and get everybody else refocused. It was just a lot of validation in what we had worked on.