Solheim Cup: Will Europe's gamble on Suzann Pettersen pay off?

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Solheim Cup: Will Europe's gamble on Suzann Pettersen pay off?

Golf

Solheim Cup: Will Europe's gamble on Suzann Pettersen pay off?

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Has European Solheim Cup captain Catriona Matthew taken a gamble by picking Suzann Pettersen as a wild card pick for the match against the United States at Gleneagles next month? That’s the question many are asking after the 38-year-old’s surprise selection to the European side.

Celine Boutier, Jodi Ewart-Shadoff and Bronte Law were obvious selections. Not so Pettersen. She might be the wildest of wild cards picks in the match’s history.

No one questions the Norwegian’s passion for the biennial competition, nor her experience. Nor does anyone think she wouldn’t have either made the team automatically or been an automatic captain’s pick in normal circumstances. The Norwegian has a 16-11-6 record from eight matches and has played on four winning teams. Arguably no European has more passion for the competition than she does. Pettersen is to European Solheim teams what Ian Poulter is to European Ryder Cup teams.

The debate is over Pettersen’s suitability at this point in her career. The eight-time Solheim Cup player has spent the last two years away from the game following the birth of her first child. She has played in just two tournaments in that time. She missed the cut in both, the most recent coming in last week’s Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open.

After eight consecutive matches between 2002-2015, she sat on the sidelines last time around as a vice captain. Many expected her to fill that role again this year. Instead, Mel Reid will act as one of Matthew’s vice captains after she lost out on a pick to Pettersen.

“I’ve missed golf over the last half year and very happy to be back in competition,” Pettersen said.

“I’m delighted I got the thumbs up from Beany that she wanted me on the team. Once she told me I should just keep practising, keep playing I thought well maybe I can make the team. It’s a massive honor for me to be here. I can’t wait. This is what I love. I feel like I was born for this.

“At the end of the day it’s just golf.”

It is just golf. However, it’s Solheim Cup golf, maybe the most pressure players from Europe and the United States feel in their careers. Pettersen has felt that pressure since 2002 and handled it well. She’s going to get it again this year, only it will be amped up considering she’s been out of the game for so long.

Her inclusion could be a brilliant decision on Matthew’s part or a colossal mistake. How she handles herself at Gleneagles could play a huge part in whether Europe wins the cup for the first time since 2013.

There could be a parallel with Sergio Garcia’s choice as a wild card pick for last year’s Ryder Cup. Many thought the Spaniard wasn’t deserving of one of Thomas Bjorn’s choices since he seemed to be out of form. Bjorn got it right on that occasion when Garcia contributed three points out of four to help Europe to victory.

European golf fans will be hoping Pettersen follows in Garcia’s footsteps.

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