With the USA largely in control of the Solheim Cup since its inauguration in 1990, there have been calls to expand the European team to include other countries. Annika Sorenstam is having none of it
Up until 10 years ago the Solheim Cup was a one-sided affair.
Even having the greatest female player of all time couldn’t prevent the European team from falling 8-3 behind in the first 11 editions played.
And with Asian players, particularly those from South Korea, starting to show their dominance in the women’s game, there were calls for the European team to be opened up to the rest of the world.
Perhaps buoyed by the talk, Europe edged to glory at Killeen Castle in Ireland before heading to Colorado where they put on a remarkable display to win on American soil for the first time. Suddenly things were looking up.
And although the USA won the next two before Europe regained the title with that famous victory last time out at Gleneagles, the 2010s the first decade that Europe have won more Solheim Cups than their rivals from across the Atlantic.
And that, says Annika Sorenstam, is enough to wipe out any talk of extending the European team to other countries.
If anything, she seems quite annoyed by the question.
“I like it the way it is,” she tells NCG, rather matter of factly. “It’s really good. If you look at the way that the players are ranked on each team, it’s quite similar now.
“You could argue that the most represented country now in terms of rankings would be Korea. They do already have the UL International Crown, which is a team event, but that tournament is so different to the Solheim Cup.
“One day we will have dominant players from Europe and then this question won’t be asked again.
“We should keep the tradition. It takes time to build tradition. It’s exciting, and the support is there so I wouldn’t change anything right now.”
At the time of writing, there are 11 Americans and just six Europeans in the world’s top 50. So does the Solheim Cup have the same relevance as when Sorenstam was at the height of her powers?
“Well, it’s a very good question,” she says. “The global game is different. I do feel like we have lots of interest, and I feel we’re competitive.
“The Solheim Cup is still a good thing and it starts at the home. Each country’s federations have a responsibility to inspire the next generation to play the game and provide the opportunity so that we can start to build a European force in golf.”
Between 1994 and 2007, Sorenstam represented Europe in every edition of the Solheim Cup.
In those eight appearances, she contested 37 matches over the three formats, winning 22 and halving four more.
Ten years on from her last playing appearance she captained Europe and, although it ended in a 16½–11½ defeat, she says she “absolutely loved it”.
“I’d been the vice-captain three times and I enjoyed that but the captaincy gave me a lot more,” she adds. “The preparation, getting involved with the players, getting to know the LET staff and building that team that we needed for the week along with the strategies and logistics. I loved that stuff, it was fun and we had a great atmosphere.
“The result was not what we wanted, but I thought the players played exceptional golf. It was actually quite close, and I loved every minute of it.
“Looking back, that was one of my career highlights. Although playing was more fun, now I’m not playing this was second to best.
“We had a lot of tough decisions with injuries to Suzann Pettersen and Charley Hull. But one of the best decisions was the team that I picked. We picked a great team and there were a lot of last-minute adjustments that we needed to make.
“I wanted the players to be part of it from the beginning, giving their input about what they wanted to do and who they wanted to play with. It wasn’t about me. It was about them.
“I’m sure I made a lot of mistakes, but I try not to look at the negatives. It was a difficult week with the players changing but overall, I don’t look back and think this was good and that was bad, it was just a great week.”
Solheim Cup record: Annika Sorenstam
Appearances: 8 (1994, ’96, ’98, 2000, ’02, ’03, ’05, ’07)
Win percentage: 65
All formats (W-L-H): 22-11-4
Fourballs: 7-5-2 (8 points)
Foursomes: 11-3-1 (11½ points)
Singles: 4-3-1 (4½ points)