This afternoon – or right now, depending on when you’re reading this – one of the world’s most prestigious golf tournaments begins, pitting the strongest European female golfers against their American counterparts in a three day battle to secure the treasured Solheim Cup. Despite having only commenced 23 years ago, the trophy has swiftly become a high profile counterpoint to the equivalent competition in the men’s game, the Ryder Cup, and has offered as many moments of drama, intrigue, heartbreak and ecstasy as any other tournament in the sport.
Despite entering the tournament as champions, the European team led by captain Lisette Neumann begin as distinct underdogs, facing an 8-4 deficit and the reality of never having won the cup on US soil. Meg Mallon’s home team, meanwhile, contains five players in the current top-20 and boasts a formidable record of never having seen the trophy wrested from their grasp for longer than a single cycle.
Europe enter the tournament with six debutants amongst their ranks, including 17-year old English starlet Charley Hull who earned a wildcard pick on the back of scintillating form in her rookie season. She is joined by fellow Brits Catriona Matthew (the Scottish world number eight) and Jodi Ewart Shadoff, while Norway’s Suzann Pettersen is Europe’s highest ranked player at number 3. Record Solheim Cup point-scorer Laura Davies, meanwhile, misses her first ever tournament after she missed out on a captain’s pick, the veteran having been well off the pace and missing the cut in the recent British Open.
The tournament commences with Four Foursome and Four Four-Ball matches today and tomorrow, before Sunday’s 12 singles matches, the round in which Europe eventually pulled away from the US in 2011 to win the trophy for the first time in 4 attempts.
With the cup having become increasingly evenly matched in recent years, this year’s tournament promises to stretch the nerves and capabilities of all 24 golfers who will enter the fray. And while the big tournament experience that floods the US team will surely come in handy, it may yet be fearless rookie exploits from the European contingent that make history come Sunday’s final round.
Image from ladieseuropeantour.com – Thanks!