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Last chance for US Solheim Cup players

Players on the fringe of making the U.S. Solheim Cup team have been put on notice. Pat Bradley will be watching as she plays in this weekend's Safeway Championship.

It's the final event for players hoping to earn enough points to qualify for the team, which is to the LPGA what the Ryder Cup is for the men.

The top 10 in the points standings automatically qualify, but Bradley, the team captain, will select the final two on Sunday night.

``I'm playing this week with the thought that if I get paired with a couple players on the bubble, all right, you've got center stage, you've got me for 18 holes, 4 hours. Let's see it,'' Bradley said.

The 54-hole tournament begins Friday at the Columbia-Edgewater County Club.

Juli Inkster, who entered the LPGA Tour Hall of Fame last year with her six-stroke victory at Safeway, returns to defend.

Annika Sorenstam, who is on the European Solheim Cup team, is playing. So is Dottie Pepper, who hasn't played a tournament since withdrawing from the U.S. Women's Open in July with back problems.

But the tournament will be without the tour's hottest player, Karrie Webb, who has won six tournaments and more than $1.6 million this year. Webb decided to go home to Australia to watch the Olympics.

The Americans and Europeans will compete for the Solheim Cup on Oct. 6-8 in Scotland.

Bradley said she assumes the current top seven players in the Solheim Cup standings are secure: Inkster, Meg Mallon, Rosie Jones, Pepper, Sherri Steinhauer, Pat Hurst and Kelly Robbins.

The players contending for the last spots include Nancy Scranton, Becky Iverson, Cristie Kerr, Kelli Kuehne, Beth Daniel, Betsy King, Tina Barrett and No. 16 Brandie Burton, who must win the tournament to break the top 10.

Burton, who missed all of last year with shoulder problems, helped the United States beat Europe in the 1998 Solheim Cup.

``This is pretty much my only goal of the year was to try to make the team,'' she said. ``There's something about representing your country and all the camaraderie you have among the other 11 players who are playing on a team rather than playing against them. You come together like a family that week.''

Meg Mallon is a certainty for the US Solheim Cup team. Allsport

Michele Redman, who moved up six spots in the Solheim Cup standings to No. 8 after her victory this month at the Betsy King Classic, said she thinks the quest to make the team brings another element to the Safeway event.

``I think it adds a lot of pressure to this event. I can see it among the people who are around where I am. I can definitely feel it,'' she said.

As for Bradley, she refuses to be pinned down on whether she'll be looking for experience, like a King or Daniel, or youth, like a Kerr or Kuehne, when she makes her two choices to round out the team.

``I have to admit I do have a number of different scenarios written down and in my head of different players,'' she said. ``It's still so very, very close that I want to keep an open mind for a number of players who can really show some stuff and, hopefully, this week they'll dig deep and make a statement out there.''



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