Tournament Preview


22-24 September, Finca Cortesin, Spain. Brendan Barratt

Europe plays host to a double whammy of team golf this month. First, the Solheim Cup makes a debut appearance in Spain from 22-24 September and then, just one week later, the Ryder Cup tees off down the proverbial road, in Italy. Golf lovers around the globe will be bracing themselves for a fortnight of riveting matches between the best golfers that the US and Europe has to offer.

With no prize money on offer, these biennial matches are fuelled by a combination of passion and patriotism that no individual strokeplay championship can produce, occasionally boiling over into heated moments or petty feuds.

For the Solheim Cup, an event that has since its inception in 1990 tried desperately – and reasonably successfully – to climb out from the shadows of the Ryder Cup, it seems a curious time to schedule the matches. Are they hoping to soak up some of the glare from the bright spotlight that blazes over the Ryder Cup, and men’s golf in general? Sure. Do they need to? Certainly not. Will it translate into two glorious weeks of team golf? You betcha.

Unfortunately, for some the Solheim Cup will be viewed as little more than a curtain-raiser to the main event. Yet, to label it that would be disingenuous and, I’m afraid, rather ignorant. You see, the Solheim Cup has comfortably eclipsed its male counterpart for drama, action and controversies over the best part of the past decade.

In the last four events, the total winning margin between the two sides has been just nine meagre points. For the Ryder Cup, that number stretches to 28, highlighting how disappointingly one-sided the men’s matches have been lately.

Tight matches have the habit of stripping away the bravado of our golfing heroes and exposing their nerves. They are also the spark for iconic moments, such as Suzann Pettersen’s winning putt to seal the 2019 Solheim Cup at Gleneagles (above). As the last player on the course and faced with a seven-footer that would determine the destination of the Cup, the Norwegian calmly rolled it in for arguably the most dramatic finish to any team golf event.

Now the captain of a European Team that will be considered favourites on home soil, Pettersen should have little trouble rallying her troops. Seeking a third straight Solheim Cup victory for the first time since the tournament began, she has assembled a team that may be short on superstars but is big on heart and experience.

Both teams are chock-full of LPGA Tour winners and Major champions, and while the Americans edge their counterparts in both counts – as well as World Ranking spots – history shows that winning on foreign soil is not easily accomplished. The mighty US team has only achieved this a total of three times, with the last occasion being in 2015.

WATCH now!

Team Europe’s Matilda Castren reacts to holing the winning putt at the 2021 Solheim Cup.

Captained by double Major winner Stacy Lewis, the American team features three of the world’s top 10 players, including two who have held the No 1 ranking in 2023 – Lilia Vu and Nelly Korda. Vu is the reigning Chevron Championship and AIG Women’s Open champion, but despite being the world’s No 2-ranked player, is one of five Solheim Cup rookies on the American team (the Europeans have three) – including former No 1-ranked amateur Rose Zhang.

“They’re rookies, but they’re so experienced just as far as the amount of golf that they’ve been able to play,” said Lewis. “I’m not worried about the rookies at all, to be honest. We’re going to rely on the veterans quite a bit, just for kind of behind-the-scenes and leading the way there. They’ve won a couple of these things.”

In a format that relies heavily on team chemistry, much will depend on the pairings that the captains select for the foursomes and fourball matches and how these players handle their nerves with so much on the line.

Whoever comes out on top, it will make for captivating viewing. Just, please, don’t see it as a curtain-raiser when there’s a good chance this is the main event.