Two years have passed since Europe won the Solheim Cup thanks to an astonishing putt by the captain’s pick, Suzann Pettersen. Now, Saturday in Inverness, Toledo, Ohio, the United States is trying to get the trophy back on its own turf.
“With everything going on, there was always the uncertainty of not playing. So, we’re here,” said U.S. captain Pat Hurst. “We’re going to do it, and it’s going to be great.”
After a two-year performance period, Hurst and Europe captain Catriona Matthews are strengthening their teams to the AIG Women’s Open. Along with some familiar faces – no Nelly Korda, Danielle Kang, Anna Nordqvist and Carlota Ciganda – this year’s roster will also contain a total of seven newcomers.
Here’s what to look for this weekend at Inverness:
It’s Korda time
Nelly Korda is experiencing quite the year. She has won three LPGA events, including her first major at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. She won a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics. And she reached number one on the world rankings, only the third American to do so.
While the 23-year-old is getting ready for her second Solheim Cup experience, she wants to make it clear that there may be extra pressure on her to perform well, but she is focusing on the bigger picture.
“I try not to think about it,” said Korda, who will be joining the team through her older sister, Jessica. “There’s definitely a lot of people trying to put it in my head, but I’m pretty comfortable. I’m just trying to fly under the radar and do my thing, be prepared as best I can and enjoy it. Put up some points, enjoy it with my pod and my teammates. “
In 2019, the Kordas dominated and scored a 6-0-2 combination to contribute seven of the U.S. team’s 13.5 points.
“We’re here for the team,” Jessica Korda said. “However we can contribute, we will of course contribute our best. It’s a completely different golf course, a different team, a different year, so we will do our best to see what we have and around it. to enjoy while we do so. “
Using the pod system, a formula used by Paul Azinger during the 2008 Ryder Cup, which split a team of 12 players into three four-person units, Hurst tied the Korda sisters together with Megan Khang and Ally Ewing.
“We’re on our own soil and the crowd is looking for you, so there are more eyes on Team USA, but we’re embracing it all,” Nelly said. ‘I feel like we’re the underdogs, because [the European team] are those who defend. We’re ready for Saturday. ”
Home course benefit
It is no surprise that the home court advantage in the Solheim Cup comes into play. The host won 12 of 16. won. Not only does the home advantage benefit for the Solheim Cup, but also for the USA, there is something to be said for playing in the Midwest. This is the sixth time a Midwest state has hosted the Solheim Cup – and the second time it has been played in Ohio. When they participated in the Midwest, the Americans won by at least three points each time.
Europe does have one road victory in this event. In 2013 at the Colorado Golf Club, Europeans ignored and dominated the conversation about home court advantage on American soil. The eight-point victory in Colorado remains the largest margin of victory since the event began in 1990.
Europe will also be dealing with noisy crowds; The organizers of the event expect about 150,000 fans during the event. There will not be many going to Europe.
“I feel most of the time that we are on American soil, at least our families here, maybe good friends, maybe supporters from Europe, but it will be different this year,” Nordqvist said. “I think we just have to accept this year the fact that we do not know if there will be other supporters than significant others for us. But we have each other, and I think that is most important.”
Veteran faces, new roles
Hurst and Matthew will rely heavily on their assistant captains at Inverness. Hurst has veteran help on her side to make difficult decisions. Angela Stanford, Michelle Wie West and Stacy Lewis will act as the assistant captains under Hurst and will be responsible for their own pods. For all three assistants, this will be their first time playing in this role instead of playing.
“It was amazing to see all the players play,” Wie West said. “Also, just behind the scenes, just to learn how much is invested in building this event and all the helpers and everyone. As a player you naturally appreciate all the work that everyone has done, but definitely on the other hand. more from the operational side, I’m just as grateful for all that it has accomplished. “
Europe will also have some familiar faces. Matthew returns as captain with Kathryn Imrie, Laura Davies and Pettersen by her side.
In 2019, when Pettersen dropped an eight-foot stroke in the final game of the final day to win the Solheim Cup, she quickly surpassed her own moment of excitement when she announced her immediate retirement on live television. As Pettersen begins a new chapter as vice-captain, it’s hard not to think back to 2019.
Pettersen was not supposed to play in Gleneagles. She was supposed to start her vice-captain career in 2019 after complications with her pregnancy extended her maternity leave. But Matthew appealed to her to play as captain’s choice – which at the time was considered risky. Matthew wanted a veteran leader in the team in 2019. And this year, Pettersen remains the leader, only in a different role.
“I’m glad to be back,” Pettersen said. “It’s a little weird to walk to the driving range for the first time and you don’t have to pull out your clubs, but I really enjoy it.”
The newcomers are here
The US has three newcomers; Europe arrives with four. For these newcomers, they may be new at this point, but they have definitely made a name for themselves on and off the LPGA Tour for years.
Europe’s newcomer Leona Maguire know what it takes to play in a team. She has appeared as an amateur for the Curtis Cup, Junior Solheim Cup, Espirito Santo Trophy, Junio Ryder Cup and Vagliao Trophy. In her last seven starts on Tour, she did not finish outside the top-15.
“It’s something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time,” Maguire said. “Hopefully it inspires more young girls in Ireland to tackle the game, realizing that if they believe in themselves and work hard that anything is possible. Hopefully we will still have many, many Irish girls in the team.”
For American newcomer Jennifer Kupcho, she is no stranger to big stages. In 2019, Kupcho won the first Augusta National Women’s Amateur during her senior season at Wake Forest and subsequently qualified for the LPGA.
“The whole experience was very special,” Kupcho said. ‘These girls also made me feel very comfortable [assistant captain] Angela [Stanford], just to get me comfortable and ready for what’s coming. I know it’s going to get more overwhelming, so I just need to remind myself to slow down and relax. “
Although many of these newcomers have only been on tour for a year or two, newcomers like 31-year-old Mina Harigae have been waiting for this Solheim Cup moment since their newcomer LPGA season in 2010.
The newcomers in the US team consist of Kupcho, Harigae and Yealimi Noh. Groups in Team Europe will consist of Maguire, Matilda Castren, Nanna Koerstz Madsen, Sophia Popov.