Suzann Pettersen’s Solheim Cup experiences suggest his captaincy is unlikely to prove dull. At Finca Cortesin, Pietersen leads a European team looking to make history by winning the Atlantic three times in a row for the first time. The Norwegian stars and stripes exudes confidence that if the tables are turned, it will come back to bite her. Interestingly, this positive attitude of hosts is largely fueled by the success of their players on the US-based LPGA Tour. There are legitimate questions about the strength of the Ladies’ European Tour, which has recently been quietly boosted by Saudi Arabian riches.
Audiences should prepare for theater. Petersen spent the Sunday evening of the 2015 Solheim Cup crying in his hotel room after suffering a fateful lapse. After four years at Gleneagles, Pietersen immediately headed home to win the tournament for Europe before announcing his retirement from professional golf. She was true to her word; Pietersen assisted Catriona Matthews in 2021, but otherwise kept her distance from the game’s front row. She was in such a position that no one begged her.
“I know everything about these players, probably more than they know themselves,” Peterson said. She thinks it goes without saying that it’s unheard of for 12 golfers to play three times.
“I don’t really have to tell the players what we are for,” added Europe’s captain. “I think the players are really into it. I think it’s always great to have a potential dream to chase. That’s great. But there’s a lot of golf to be played from where we sit here today until the end of Sunday, and it’s not something I’m pushing on the players. We’ll see how each session goes and from there.” Let’s fix it. Actually, the best margins tend to determine Solheim Cup results.
In Stacey Lewis, Peterson has a formidable opponent. Both captains are known for their fierce competitive spirit. Each is a two-time major champion. They are also different in approach; Lewis focuses more on statistics than Peterson. Lewis used the numbers to defend the opening session selection of Lexi Thompson, who is struggling for individual form.
“We started the week and we had a couple people on our team, between the caddies and the assistants, come up to me and say, ‘She’s hitting really well,'” Thompson’s Lewis said. “More and more people are telling me this every day. With the data and analytics that we have, I’ve got their strokes from practice over the last two days, and he’s not ranked right now.
Ludwig Aberg will enjoy the Solheim Cup before the Ryder Cup. The Swede is expected on the first tee here on Friday morning – including close friends Lynn Grant and Maja Stark – to show his support for Team Europe before heading to Rome for the men’s equivalent.
The ground itself will present challenges. Andalucía’s mountains provide a stunning backdrop, but the estimated 10,000 visitors per day can be tricky to navigate on foot. If countless matches are close to 18 holes, there will be a real question about finishing in daylight. Match officials have five-and-a-half hours to guide one stumper and four balls.
Aberg will watch as Grant and Stark lead Europe in a quartet. “They ask for it, so here we go,” Peterson said in a nod to player power. The Swedes face Thompson and Megan Kang. Celine Boutier and Georgia Hall take on Daniel Kang and Andrea Lee. Leona Maguire, who excelled in Ohio two years ago, will partner Anna Nordqvist against Nellie Korda and Alisen Corpus. Charlie Hull and Emily Pedersen will play Allie Ewing and Cheyenne Knight in game four. Hull has struggled with a neck injury but insists he is fit enough to play. “I told the girls the pairings on Monday night so they had a whole week to prepare,” Peterson said. Just like that, Hull announced himself to the task.
In 2023, two-time major winner and world No. 2 Lilia Wu will surprisingly join the first day four for the United States. Likewise, rising star Rose Zhang. “I didn’t see anyone play all five sessions,” Lewis said. America, in an extraordinary position, could do with a flying start.