Solheim Cup 2013: Europe target historic win in United States

 

Two years ago, Azahara Munoz and Caroline Hedwall were making Solheim Cup debuts and match-winning contributions.

As Europe won the trophy for the first time since 2003, the Spaniard and the Swede were at the heart of Europe's victory on a tumultuous, thunderstruck final day at Killeen Castle in County Meath.

It was a match the continent had to win. The biennial contest between Europe and the USA was in danger of losing its lustre in an era dominated by Asian players.

Solheim legends like skipper Alison Nicholas were bridling at the suggestion that Europe were no longer worthy of competing in the showpiece event of the women's game.

To say they had a point to prove was an understatement. And once the clouds shifted that famous Sunday afternoon the home side's top player Suzann Pettersen rammed home the message.

European team

European team
  • Suzann Pettersen (Nor)
  • Carlota Ciganda (Spa)
  • Catriona Matthew (Sco)
  • Caroline Masson (Ger)
  • Beatriz Recari (Spa)
  • Anna Nordqvist (Swe)
  • Karine Icher (Fra)
  • Azahara Munoz (Spa)
  • Charley Hull (Eng)
  • Jodi Ewart Shadoff (Eng)
  • Caroline Hedwall (Swe)
  • Giulia Sergas (Ita)
  • Captain: Liselotte Neumann (Swe)

Riding on a buggy to the resumption in play the Norwegian implored her rookie team-mates sitting alongside to play the golf of their life. Munoz and Hedwall had to find a way to secure the points their team so badly needed.

None of the trio could lose or the trophy would remain in American hands. Pettersen had to see off Michelle Wie, Monuz was in a tight clash with Angela Stanford and Hedwall was in the same situation against Ryann O'Toole.

Pettersen provided the example, matching everything Wie could throw at her. Meanwhile, Munoz's approach play belied her tender years and Hedwall was indomitable.

The Swede battled from two down with two holes to play to earn a critical half point for Europe. Soon after, Munoz was guaranteed at least a half as she walked up the 18th. The job was done.

And the rookies had more than done their bit as sensationally Europe turned their losing position into victory. It was one of the greatest golf matches ever played.

This week at the Colorado Golf Club just outside Denver, Hedwall and Munoz provide the experience in a team that shows six debutants including 17-year-old wildcard Charley Hull.

They may be the holders but Europe, who have never won an away Solheim Cup, are serious underdogs when the match begins on Friday.

"We always are when we are in America," 2013 captain Liselotte Neumann told BBC Sport. "That's part of the fun and part of the challenge. We want to prove to them that we can win here."

Along with Hull another English player, Jodi Ewart Shadoff, makes her debut for Europe. Spaniards Carlota Ciganda and Beatriz Recari, Germany's Caroline Masson and Italian Giulia Sergas are the other rookies.

Frenchwoman Karine Icher will also feel something of a newcomer as she plays for Europe for the first time since her debut in 2002.

Michelle Wie

Michelle Wie is one of US captain Meg Mallon's wildcard picks at Colorado Golf Club

"When you look at their accomplishments in golf they are not really rookies," Neumann insisted. "Quite a few of the players play in the US and several have won twice this year on the LPGA so I feel comfortable with the team."

If experience is needed it will surely come from Scotland's Catriona Matthew. The 43-year-old is playing her seventh Solheim Cup and has lost only seven of 25 matches.

Neumann agrees the Scot is the female equivalent of the ever dependable Bernhard Langer in Ryder Cups. "She's so cool. She's a little bit quiet but she has a lot of respect from the other players.

"She is so steady. You feel she is the player you can send out with anybody. Nothing really seems to rattle her and she's a great player for our team."

Europe's captain is also convinced Hull can be a hit despite her tender teenage years. "I like her energy and I like the way she has played this year," Neumann said.

United States team

US team
  • Stacy Lewis
  • Paula Creamer
  • Cristie Kerr
  • Angela Stanford
  • Brittany Lincicome
  • Lexi Thompson
  • Jessica Korda
  • Brittany Lang
  • Lizette Salas
  • Morgan Pressel
  • Michelle Wie
  • Gerina Piller
  • Captain: Meg Mallon

"I think this golf course will fit good for her and I think she will be good in matchplay. She's been around for a while even though she is only 17.

"She's played in the Curtis Cup and played in the junior Solheim and has played as a professional this year and did really well. She has performed under pressure. She can play fearless golf."

Meg Mallon's American side contains four rookies - Lexi Thompson, Jessica Korda, Lizette Salas and Gerina Piller, who was one of two wildcard picks along with Wie.

Mallon's side are undoubted favourites to regain the trophy. As Paula Creamer put it: "We've been waiting for two years to get our cup back.

"We've never lost on home soil and we're all very aware of that. It's little bit of added pressure but I still think we can use our crowds to be great motivators for us and I think we'll all feed off of that."

The captain, meanwhile, wants to guard against complacency.

"The thing I've got to remind my team of - the underdog is very scary. The player that doesn't know anything is very scary," Mallon said.

"That's going to be my job, the next couple of days, to make sure that we take care of business and know that Europe have a really young team and they have nothing to lose."

Except, of course, the trophy. They are the holders, largely thanks to the deeds of debutants Munoz and Hedwall two years ago.

Europe may be inexperienced but Mallon is right to beware.

Comprehensive radio and online coverage of the Solheim Cup will be provided by BBC Sport. Friday: 5 live sports extra and website from 19:40 BST; Saturday: website from 19:40 and 5 live sports extra from 22:00; Sunday: 5 live from 19:30.