Europe face uphill battle
Liselotte Neumann’s European Solheim Cup team are the defending champions, but they face a daunting task this week when they tackle the United States in their own backyard.
Why so? It’s mainly because the United States have traditionally been the dominant force in the Solheim Cup, the prestigious women’s equivalent of the Ryder Cup, having won eight of their 12 clashes with Europe to date and having never lost on home soil.
And this year’s venue, the Colorado Golf Club in Parker, Colorado, south east of Denver, is very much on home soil, its designers, Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, having built a strategic but natural layout utilizing the best features of a Colorado landscape much more rugged than anything you’ll find in the British Isles or Europe.
On top of this, Meg Mallon’s US team looks stronger on paper, partly because it consists entirely of members of the LPGA Tour, womens golf’s premier golf circuit, and partly because, starting with World No 2 Stacy Lewis, it includes more hardened international campaigners and less first-time Solheim Cup rookies than the 12-strong European squad.
Along with Lewis, coming into the event fresh from her triumph in the Women’s British Open, the US team can boast some strong and experienced Solheim Cup campaigners such as Paula Creamer, Christie Kerr, Angela Stanford, Brittany Lincicome, Morgan Pressel and Michelle Wie.
And it might be an advantage for them that along with this impressive group they’ll be fielding only four new ‘caps’ in Lexi Thompson, Jessica Korda, Lizette Salas and Gerina Piller as against Europe’s six – Carlota Ciganda, Caroline Masson, Beatriz Recari, Jodi Ewart Shadoff, Guilia Sergas and Charley Hull.
In Neumann and her vice-captain’s Annika Sorenstam and Caren Koch, Europe can boast a strong and inspiring leadership team – and the team they lead is certainly not without some stellar golfers.
At Nos 2 and 8 respectively on the World Rankings list, Norway’s Suzann Pettersen and Scotland’s Catriona Matthew are topped only by Lewis. but after that the US’s Creamer, Kerr, Stanford and Salas all outrank Europe’s next highest-ranked womens professional golfer, Recari, the World No 20.
Add to the above the fact that the US team can expect to get the largest slice of patriotic spectator support and it’s no wonder then that Sky Bet have the USA as their overwhelming favourite at 3/10 with Europe at 10/3 and a tie at 11/1.
But then, in golf and especially in Solheim and Ryder Cup golf, you can never be sure of anything.
All the talent in the world does not necessarily add up to a winning combination when so many other factors like team spirit and clever management come into play.
In an event, starting on Friday, in which four morning foursomes matches (two players from each side play alternative shots until the ball is holed) and two afternoon Fourball betterball matches are played on each of the first two days and 12 head-to-head singles matches are played on Sunday, working together for the cause is of high importance and leaves no room for selfish individualism.
Each and every member of the two teams will be drawn to play in the Sunday singles, but the captains and their assistant must decide who to leave out and which four players to pick for each of the two foursomes and two Fourball matches.
They must also decide on what order to field their players on all three days when 28 points in all will be up for grabs and 14.5 points will be enough to raise the Solheim Cup in triumph, so team-tactics can also have a significant effect performances, so get ready for some intriguing cat and mouse fireworks in Colorado this coming weekend.
And better not underestimate those 10, first-time rookies in the contest. They might well be getting ready to start changing the guard.
Captain: Liselotte Neumann
Suzann Pettersen (Nor)
Carlota Ciganda (Spa)
Catriona Matthew (Sco)
Caroline Masson (Ger)
Beatriz Recari (Spa)
Anna Nordqvist (Swe)
Karine Icher (Fra)
Azahara Munoz (Spa)
Charley Hull (Eng)
Jodi Ewart Shadoff (Eng)
Caroline Hedwall (Swe)
Giulia Sergas (Ita)
Captain: Meg Mallon
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