Forget what the bookies might be telling us, Europe have the team and the skills to win back the Solheim Cup. Mark Townsend lays out the reasons why
Given the depth and weight of talent of the Americans it’s unlikely that Europe will ever go into a Solheim Cup as the favourites – the bookies have the visitors as 4/6 chances – but there is much to like about Catriona Matthew’s side’s hopes in Scotland.
Both captains have passed the tag of favourites around like a hot potato in recent weeks but, with Juli Inkster’s side going for a third successive victory, they are the ones fancied to pick up the trophy on Sunday night.
But if you’re a European fan then there are plenty of reasons to be cheerful…
1. The Americans have got six rookies
This is always an odd one as, when it comes to a team event, people always seem to want to label any rookie as a proper novice rather than what they are – stellar players who have likely played their way on to the team. All six Americans have made the team on merit and, interestingly, Marina Alex (29), Brittany Altomare (28) and Ally McDonald (26) are closer to 30 than 20.
Then again, there’s nothing like a bit of experience in these types of weeks which is why Morgan Pressel has been added to the ranks.
In contrast Matthew had four picks and used half of them to include a couple of novices – former Amateur Championship winner Celine Boutier and Bronte Law. The other is Anne van Dam whose swing has already, and will this week continue, to capture plenty of adoring headlines.
Winter work started!! pic.twitter.com/CsfOvFLPPg
— Anne van Dam (@Annevandam) November 30, 2018
Maybe we make far too much of the rookie thing but, at the start of the week, the balance of Europe’s side looks more appealing and lends itself to reuniting some tried-and-tested partnerships.
2. Where are all the winners?
The world of women’s golf has long since moved on from a clutch of Americans winning week in, week out on the LPGA Tour. But even given the number of injuries, baby arrivals and players losing their form, this has been a quiet year for the Americans.
Only Nelly Korda and Lexi Thompson have won on the LPGA this term, a stat that is matched by the Europeans – rookies Boutier won the Vic Open while Law took the Pure Silk.
Another interesting, if tenuous, stat is that of the Americans’ last seven major winners since 2014 only two of them – Lexi and Danielle Kang – are in this side.
Angela Stanford, Brittany Lang, Brittany Lincicome, Michelle Wie and Mo Martin are all missing for a collection of reasons.
3. No longer the poor relations
Much like the rookie thing a lot is made of the LPGA intimidation factor. Well, if that is a thing, which it isn’t, then all the European players now have membership of it and will be very familiar with the players that they come up against.
4. The ghost of 2013
If this was the men everyone would still be going on about it. To win any team event on foreign soil, look at last week’s Walker Cup, takes a lot of doing but to do it for the first time since the competition began and by a margin of 18-10 is out of this world.
Seven of that team will be playing in Scotland – Caroline Masson, Anna Nordqvist, Aza Munoz, Caroline Hedwall, Jodi Ewart Shadoff, Suzann Pettersen and the then 17-year-old Charley Hull. Remember that 5&4 hammering of Paula Creamer?
And the even better news is that Ewart Shadoff is fit and healthy after a minor back procedure, Munoz is back to her rock-solid best and we still have Hedwall who went 5-0-0 in Colorado.
Some players just look made for these types of occasion and Hedwall tops that list – think Ian Poulter but Swedish and without the post box.
5. What do the stats say?
Experience is one thing but when those experiences are full of defeats they don’t count for much.
Of the seven Americans who have played in the Solheim before only two, Kang (75.0) and Morgan Pressel (57.89), have a winning percentage better than 50 – as in, they’ve won more than they’ve lost.
Five of Europe’s nine old hands can boast a postitive record and all of them have played at least three times whereas Kang, as brilliant as she was in 2017, has only featured in one match.
Interestingly Hull comes out top with a 68.18 percentage.
6. We’re back in Scotland
If you’re looking for good omens then the cup is back in Scotland and the two times the home of golf has staged the matches before Europe have come out on top. At Dalmahoy in 1992, after getting stuffed in the inaugural matches, Europe somehow turned it around before getting over the line at Loch Lomond eight years later.
There’s no rain forecast, a bit of a chill in the air might be nice though.
7. Pettersen; the great imponderable
The Norwegian, who missed the last matches with a back injury on the eve of the competition, was due to be an assistant. Instead she is now part of the line-up with Mel Reid taking her place in the backroom team having had a son and played in just two tournaments in almost two years.
This is the greatest leap of faith in the history of the competition but then this is Pettersen, Europe’s go-to player in many of her previous eight appearances. This is a player who all our youngsters will want to see alongside them in the team room or during the anthems or on the course and this is the player who, even as lightly raced as she has been, none of the Americans will want to come up against.
There’s plenty of depth in this European team so this is a risk worth taking.