Suzann Pettersen’s captaincy of the European Solheim Cup team is unlikely to be dull. As she leads her team in their quest for a historic third consecutive victory, the Norwegian exudes confidence. However, this bullish approach may come back to bite her if the American team turns the tables.
One interesting factor fueling Europe’s confidence is the success of their players on the US-based LPGA Tour. This raises questions about the strength of the Ladies European Tour, which has recently received a boost from Saudi Arabian riches.
Pettersen’s previous Solheim Cup experiences have been filled with drama. In 2015, she spent the evening crying in her hotel room after being involved in a rules debacle. Four years later, she slammed home the winning putt before declaring her retirement from professional golf. Her status in the sport is such that nobody begrudged her that decision.
As captain, Pettersen knows her players inside out and believes they are fully capable of achieving a historic three-peat. She doesn’t feel the need to put extra pressure on them by emphasizing the significance of the achievement. Instead, she will assess each session and make adjustments accordingly.
In Stacy Lewis, Pettersen faces a formidable opponent. Both captains are fiercely competitive and have won multiple major championships. However, they differ in their approach. Lewis relies heavily on statistics to inform her decisions and defended her selection of Lexi Thompson, who has been struggling individually, based on strong practice data.
The Solheim Cup venue, Finca Cortesin, presents its own challenges. The stunning backdrop of the Andalucían mountains may distract the estimated 10,000 spectators per day, and the course is difficult to navigate on foot. Additionally, if matches run close to 18 holes, there may be concerns about finishing before darkness descends.
Ludvig Åberg, a rising Swedish golfer, will experience a Solheim Cup before a Ryder Cup. He is expected to show his support for Team Europe before heading to Rome for the men’s equivalent.
The opening day foursomes pairings have been announced, with Grant and Stark leading off for Europe against Thompson and Khang. Boutier and Hall will face Kang and Lee, Maguire and Nordqvist will play Korda and Corpuz, and Hull and Pedersen will take on Ewing and Knight. Pettersen revealed the pairings early in the week, giving her players ample time to prepare.
In a surprising move, Lilia Vu, a world number two and two-time major winner in 2023, will sit out the opening day foursomes for the US team, as will rising star Rose Zhang. Lewis doesn’t anticipate any player competing in all five sessions and acknowledges the underdog position of the US team, emphasizing the importance of a strong start.
As the Solheim Cup gets underway, fans can expect a thrilling and dramatic tournament. With Pettersen’s assertive captaincy, Europe’s quest for history, and both teams’ competitive spirit, the stage is set for an exciting weekend of golf.