The 16th Solheim Cup begins tomorrow [Friday] at Gleneagles in Scotland, with Europe bidding to avoid a third consecutive defeat in the biannual matchplay event.
The American team has won 10 of the previous 15 renewals and is attempting to claim a third on the trot after winning four years ago in Germany, then defending the title on home soil in Iowa in 2017.
On the plus side for Europe, Scotland has proved a lucky host venue, with the home side having won on both occasions the matches have been held here, with victories at Dalmahoy in 1992 and Loch Lomond in 2000.
Play is scheduled to start at 8.10am on Friday with the morning foursomes, followed by the afternoon fourballs from 12.45pm. The format is repeated on Saturday, while Sunday will see all 12 players take to the PGA National Course for the deciding singles matches, with play starting from 11.40pm. The first team to reach 14.5 points will win the trophy, but should the competition finish 14-14, USA will retain the trophy as the current holders.
Scotland’s Catriona Matthew leads a European team that is heavily outgunned by Juli Inkster’s squad when it comes to world rankings, but history has showed that rankings don’t always equate to points on the board.
Europe’s team contains four Englishwomen – Charley Hull, Georgia Hall, Jodi Ewart Shadoff and Bronte Law. Hull, who has contributed seven-and-a-half points from 11 matches across her three appearances, is one of only three players in the team inside the world’s top 30, alongside Law (26th), Hull at 29th and Spain’s Carlota Ciganda, who is the highest-ranked European at 12.
Law, 24, is one of three rookies in the European team, with France’s Celine Boutier, 25, and 23-year-old Anne van Dam of the Netherlands. Law picked up her first LPGA Tour victory earlier this season and was one of Matthew’s four wildcard picks, along with Boutier, Ewart Shadoff and Suzann Pettersen.
Norway’s Pettersen, who has won 19 points in eight Solheim Cups, was a surprise inclusion having missed the 2017 event through injury and then taken time off to have a baby. The 38-year-old had initially been selected as a vice-captain, but despite missing the cut in her first two events back this year, Matthew picked her to play.
“There’s a great feeling in the squad, we’ve got a great team and a real mix of personalities,” said Matthew. “They’re all good players and they’ve played in big events. I’m sure they’ll cope with it. If you don’t enjoy this you’re doing the wrong thing. Once they’re on the golf course there’s really not much we can do. We are just cheerleaders on the side hoping they hole the putts.”
American captain Juli Inkster is leading a relatively inexperienced side for a record third time. Five of the American dozen are in the world’s top 20, but half of her squad are making their first Solheim Cup appearances. In fact, they have played in just 14 Solheim Cups between them, with three players making their second appearances.
Ally McDonald, drafted in as a late replacement for the injured Stacy Lewis, joins Marina Alex, Brittany Altomare, Megan Khang, Nelly Korda and Annie Park in making their debuts. But Inkster thinks making your Solheim Cup bow away from home can actually help. “If you’re a rookie, it’s easier to play away because you’re not expected to win and you can play a little looser,” she said. “It’s easier to bond and you don’t have a lot of outside distractions.”
Of those, only 21-year-old Nelly Korda at 10th is in the world’s top 30. Korda’s elder sister Jessica, 26, is also in the team, making them the first siblings to play for the US at the Solheim Cup.
The American team also features world no.3 Lexi Thompson, who has lost only two of her 11 Solheim Cup matches, picking up seven points in three appearances. Morgan Pressel is the most experienced of the US players and is making her sixth appearance. The 31-year-old has won 10 and lost seven of her 19 matches.
The Solheim Cup is live on Sky Sports Golf throughout the week, with a one-hour highlights package being shown on BBC2 at 7pm on Friday, 00.05am on Sunday morning, and 7pm on Sunday evening.