WEST DES MOINES, Iowa – Experience will lead the way at the Solheim Cup on Friday with Cristie Kerr and Lexi Thompson out first for Team USA in foursomes at 8:10 a.m. local (Central) time. They’ll take on the English pair of Charley Hull and Mel Reid, who were among the European players who asked captain Annika Sorenstam to go off first.
“I didn’t have anybody raise their hand,” said U.S. captain Juli Inkster of wanting the lead-off position. “As Annika said, I wanted to get a veteran team out there first and see what happens.”
Record crowds are expected for the three-day event at Des Moines Golf and Country Club. Music will be blaring on the first tee and players will walk through a smoke-filled tunnel to tackle the most nerve-racking shot in golf. The first hole is a drivable par 4 at 306 yards, making for an interesting risk/reward proposition out the gate.
“I didn’t come here to lay up,” quipped American Gerina Piller.
Kerr and Thompson went 2-0-1 together in Germany, winning both their foursomes matches. Meanwhile Hull paired with Reid for opening foursomes in 2015 and took down Michelle Wie and Brittany Lincicome.
Thompson has battled a virus throughout the week and kept practice light, but said she’s on the mend.
“One more good night’s sleep and I’ll be good to start up tomorrow,” she said.
Sorenstam chose to sit three of her four rookies in the opening session while Inkster put in two of her rookies early. Sitting for Team USA: Michelle Wie, Angel Yin, Brittany Lang and Brittany Lincicome.
“We decided that we wanted to have one rookie in the morning, which is Georgia (Hall),” said Sorenstam. “So we decided to go out with some more veteran players early on that have been around. And we shared our philosophy early on and they’re going with our plan.”
American rookie Danielle Kang will pair with good friend Lizette Salas at 8:22 a.m. against Carlota Ciganda and Caroline Masson. These are first-time pairings for both sides.
Hall, 21, of England will partner with Anna Nordqvist to take on Paula Creamer, who came in as an alternate, and rookie Austin Ernst in the 8:34 a.m. match. Creamer has an overall foursomes record of 6-3-3, making her an obvious choice for the morning format.
Stacy Lewis and Gerina Piller will look to keep their undefeated foursomes record (1-0) alive in the fourth and final match against Karine Icher and alternate Catriona Matthew, who is filling in for an injured Suzann Pettersen. Matthew came into the week as a vice captain for Sorenstam but has given her ear piece to Pettersen.
Matthew, a frequent partner of Sorenstam’s over the years, went undefeated in team play (3-0-0) two years ago in Germany, pairing with Icher to win a point in four-balls.
Inkster confirmed that she planned to play everyone on her team the first day, but Sorenstam refrained from giving comment.
“I don’t know about Annika,” said Inkster, “but we’re just ready to get it going.”
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FRIDAY FOURSOMES TEE TIMES
- 8:10 a.m.: Mel Reid/Charley Hull (EUR) vs. Cristie Kerr/Lexi Thompson (U.S.)
- 8:22 a.m.: Carlota Ciganda/Caroline Masson (EUR) vs. Danielle Kang/Lizette Salas (U.S.)
- 8:34 a.m.: Anna Nordvqist/Georgia Hall (EUR) vs. Paula Creamer/Austin Ernst (U.S.)
- 8:46 a.m.: Karine Icher/Catriona Matthew (EUR) vs. Stacy Lewis/Gerina Piller (U.S.)
* all times are Central