Annika: Euros need Solheim win to quiet critics
DUNSANY, Ireland - Annika Sorenstam has a simple way that Europe can quiet critics who want to change the Solheim Cup format: just win.
The United States leads the series 8-3 and will be seeking its fourth successive victory when the biennial competition starts Friday at the Jack Nicklaus-designed Killeen Castle course, 25 miles northwest of Dublin.
“It would mean a lot,” Sorenstam said Wednesday of her hopes for a first European triumph since 2003. “Otherwise, you’d go 10 years without winning, then people start thinking about should we change the format and everything.”
With the emergence of so many strong players from Asia, Australia and Latin America, some observers have suggested that the U.S. should play an international team that includes players from outside Europe instead of the current format. But Sorenstam, the the Swedish Hall of Famer who is a non-playing assistant to Europe captain Alison Nicholas this year, said she wants to see tradition maintained.
“I just want to continue and have the Solheim Cup for 30 or 40 years,” she said. “We have a great competition; let's keep it.”
Players from both sides said previous contests have been tight despite the Americans’ dominance.
“I’ve played six, and we won once of my six,” said No. 2-ranked Suzann Pettersen of Norway. “But I must say, every year it feels like it’s so close. It really comes down to Sunday’s singles matches. Even though the final numbers might look like it was a walk in the park for the Americans, it usually comes down to certain matches, and once the final putt has dropped, the points keep counting.”
American vice captain Juli Inkster, who makes her ninth appearance, also said the event is still competitive.
“I think we need to leave it the way it is,” she said. “You look at the past three Solheim Cups, it was close. It was close until the last day. We were behind a couple of those times. I don’t think we need to change it at all.”
Inkster, who at 51 will become the oldest player in the event’s history, predicted a close match despite two successive four-point victories for the U.S. side.
“I think this is the deepest European team there has ever been. I think the rookies that they have on their team are playing very well,” Inkster said. “I don’t know how you guys keep thinking we’re favorites. We’re going out there and playing like we’re underdogs.”
The teams will play foursomes and four-balls on Friday and Saturday, before moving to singles matches on Sunday.