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Solheim Cup: Europe Face US In Spain Eyeing Record Third Consecutive Victory

  • Europe face US in Spain eyeing record third consecutive win.

Suzann Pettersen will “take the best” from previous captains as she tries to guide Europe to a record third consecutive Solheim Cup victory over the United States.

The three-day matchplay event begins on Friday at Finca Cortesin in Andalucia, southern Spain.

Norwegian Pettersen, 42, appeared nine times for Europe as a player and twice as a vice-captain before taking over as skipper for this 18th instalment of the biennial match.

“I take a little bit from everything,” she said.

“We’ve all played under a lot of different captains. I think each one has their own story and their own trademark.

“I’ve tried to look back and take the best from each and every one. Beany [Catriona Matthew, who guided Europe to the past two victories] was a great captain. It’s pretty hard shoes to fill.

“What I’ve emphasised the most is transparency. I want the players to be part of the decisions that we make. The more we can do it as a team, the stronger we stand together. That’s always what I appreciated the most as a player.”

Pettersen holed the winning putt at Gleneagles in Scotland in 2019 before announcing her retirement as a player.

She returned as a vice-captain for the 2021 victory in Iowa – just Europe’s second triumph on American soil.

She now leads what has been dubbed Europe’s “strongest ever” team as they attempt to claim their third straight title for the first time since the competition began in 1990.

“We’re all ready to go,” Pettersen added.

“I don’t think there’s anything to hide under a chair. If you look on paper, we have the strongest team that I’ve ever been a part of.

“I want the players to come together and stand next to each other shoulder to shoulder.”

Strong US side downplay their chances

Debutant and world number two Lilia Vu is one of the stars of the US team

While a new-look American side have attempted to tag themselves as underdogs, there is plenty to suggest it is merely an exercise to remove any pressure from their five debutants.

On paper they appear as strong as ever, as they look to regain the trophy for the first time since 2017 and add to their 10 triumphs.

The US also have a higher average world ranking, with all 12 of their players inside the top 50.

And then there are the debutants. While the US have five to Europe’s three, the visitors arrive with stellar credentials.

World number two Lilia Vu is a double major winner this year and Allisen Corpuz is the reigning US Open champion, while 20-year-old sensation Rose Zhang triumphed on her professional debut at the Mizuho Americas Open in June.

Europe’s average world ranking is 42.25 compared with 25.08 for the Americans

The other two newcomers, Cheyenne Knight and Andrea Lee, both have LPGA Tour wins to their name in the past year.

“I joke that our rookies aren’t really rookies. You look at them and I think they have all won this year,” said Megan Khang.

US captain Stacy Lewis added: “I think Europe are the favourites. They have won the past two, we’re on their soil, they have a great team that has a ton of experience in this event. So [when] you look at history, you know, it doesn’t bode well for us.

“But I love our chances. I love these rookies. I think they’re going to have a great week and hopefully surprise a lot of people.”

The format
The Solheim Cup is played over five sessions across three days.

Friday’s morning session will see four foursomes matches, where two players hit one ball between them, and an afternoon session of four fourball matches, where each two-player team plays their own ball.

Saturday is a repeat of Friday before Sunday’s 12 singles matches complete the action.

As holders, Europe need 14 of the 28 available points to retain the trophy, while the US need 14½ to regain it.

A visually stunning but strenuous test

England’s Charley Hull is one of three British players in Europe’s team, alongside Georgia Hall and Scotland’s Gemma Dryburgh

A running theme throughout this week has been the physical and mental toll that the rolling terrain of the 6,903-yard course at Finca Cortesin will take on both teams as Spain hosts the transatlantic tussle for the first time.

The first six holes are partially sheltered in a bowl surrounded by multi-million pound properties with the Estepona mountains and Mediterranean Sea providing a stunning backdrop.

The first – a downhill 280-yard par four that wraps around a lake – offers an immediate view of the challenges.

“It’s an interesting first hole because it’s a reachable par four,” Pettersen added.

“I have told the players, let’s talk through this. We had a drivable par four in 2017 in Des Moines (Iowa) which didn’t really turn into the European favour.”

Alongside the pristine fairways and perfectly manicured greens, water also comes into play on the 476-yard par-five fourth and there are more than 100 bunkers scattered across the sprawling property.

There are also holes where players and caddies may travel in buggies between greens and tees because of the distance between them, and to ensure they can safely negotiate steep paths.

The hilly terrain will also likely cause difficulties for some of the expected 85,000 spectators, who have paid around £210 to attend all three days of the tournament.

“The course is a challenge to get around. We’ll make it work,” Pettersen added.

“The players, they obviously get first line in some of those tight passes. There will be a couple of [buggy] rides for the players.”

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