No one wants to be the favorite of this year’s Solheim Cup. Not out loud anyway.
Betting odds overseas and in Vegas put Team USA ahead. European captain Catriona Matthew says that according to the stats, there’s no doubt that the Americans are favorites with 10 players ranked inside the top 50. (Europe has six.)
Even though team USA has won the last two meetings, Juli Inkster says the edge has to go to Europe given that they’re playing on Scottish soil. Team USA has never won in Scotland, taking memorable losses in 1992 and 2000.
“On paper you’d have to say the Americans are going in as favorites,” said Matthew.
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Paper, of course, doesn’t consider the intangibles. Like the fact that Jodi Ewart Shadoff is finally pain-free after a minor procedure on her back. Or that Suzann Pettersen, ranked 635th in the world, is the most intimidating player on the home side. Or that Caroline Hedwall was made for this competition and the English players could easily serve as the backbone of Matthew’s team.
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With so many rookies (five) on Inkster’s squad and so few with experience playing overseas, the crowd will play a significant role in the outcome at Gleneagles Sept. 13-15. And the weather will to, of course.
Inkster is confident that her unseasoned players will adapt quickly.
“We got a lot of players that just like to play golf and like to compete,” said America’s blue-collar captain. “They’re not really there for the fluff.”
Still, most who follow the game closely feel that Europe has the slightest edge. It should be a chilly yet hotly-contested affair.
Another bonus for Matthew’s squad: Everyone on her team is an LPGA member.
Usually there’s at least one wide-eyed Ladies European Tour player who has only seen America’s best from afar or on television.
Annika Sorenstam had that feeling in 1994 as a Solheim rookie, meeting many of Team USA’s stars for the first time at the Greenbrier.
“I was totally new to these faces that talked we about,” she said, calling it a huge week for her.
Matthew said the familiarity with the opposition this year makes it easier for her team.
The wild cards could be of particular importance in Scotland as their results could go in wildly different directions for both teams.
Team USA leads the series, 10-5, and it feels like Europe needs to snatch one back to keep the critics at bay and drum up interest.
One thing that’s always a favorite: Solheim drama.
The Solheim Cup
When: Sept. 13-15
Where: Gleneagles’ PGA Centenary Course, Perth, Scotland
Team USA captain: Juli Inkster
Team Europe captain: Catriona Matthew
Team USA: Marina Alex, Brittany Altomare, Danielle Kang, Megan Khang, Jessica Korda, Nelly Korda, Ally McDonald, Annie Park, Morgan Pressel, Lizette Salas, Lexi Thompson, Angel Yin
Team Europe: Celine Boutier, Carlota Ciganda, Anne van Dam, Georgia Hall, Caroline Hedwall, Charley Hull, Bronte Law, Carline Masson, Azahara Munoz, Anna Nordqvist, Suzann Pettersen, Jodi Ewart-Shadoff
Solheim Cup on TV
Friday, 3 a.m. – 1:30 p.m., Golf Channel
Saturday, 3 a.m. – 1:30 p.m., Golf Channel
Sunday, 6:30 a.m. – 1 p.m., Golf Channel
All times ET