SOLHEIM CUP GOLF: Europe hope to make it three in a row
GLENEAGLES, United Kingdom: The USA have dominated the Solheim Cup, and will be aiming for a third successive victory when the 16th meeting with Europe starts on Friday at the PGA Centenary Golf Course at Gleneagles.
But a number of arrows point in favour of Europe, and the home team captain Catriona Matthew is hoping to mastermind her own memorable three in a row.
This is the third time the biennial contest has been staged in Scotland, and Europe pulled off a massive shock at Dalmahoy in 1992 and then won again at a very wet Loch Lomond in 2000.
“I think home advantage does play a big part,” suggested Matthew, a Scot who has played in nine Solheims. “A victory for Europe this week would go right to the top of my list of achievements. It would even top my British Open win (in 2009).
“I have always loved the Solheim Cup. It has always been my favourite week. As captain, I have been busier than I imagined — there is an awful lot to do — but I have thoroughly enjoyed the whole process.”
USA skipper Juli Inkster steered her side to victory in Germany in 2015 and again on home soil two years ago. But she has an inexperienced line-up and suffered a blow early in the week when former world number one Stacy Lewis — a two-time major winner — pulled out with a back injury.
Ally McDonald stepped in as reserve, but it means half of the visiting side are Solheim rookies. “Six rookies, but six great rookies,” was how 59-year-old Inkster summed up the situation. “They may be new to this event, but they are all experienced players.
“I also think that when we are playing away from home there can be advantages. There is not quite so much expectation, so the team can play a little looser. Ally has fitted in very well and Stacy will be staying around to help from the sidelines.”
Europe has three rookies in the side attempting to reduce the overall deficit that currently stands 10-5 in favour of the USA.
But none is feistier than England’s Bronte Law. “Apparently, the USA are favourites, but I don’t know where that comes from,” said the 24-year-old. “I love matchplay and was in the winning Curtis Cup side at Nairn so have good memories of playing in Scotland.”
The form of the most experienced player from either team — Suzann Pettersen — will be firmly in focus. The 38-year-old Norwegian has had many moments of controversy in her eight appearances. She swore live on American TV on her debut in 2002 and was embroiled in a row over whether or not a putt was conceded to Alison Lee in 2015.
Two years ago, she had to pull out with a back injury. A year after giving birth to a son, and with only a couple of playing appearances over the last 18 months, she was handed a shock wildcard by Matthew.