It's day two at the 2021 Solheim Cup and things are hotting up as my second instalment of Solheim Cup daily coverage I will break down the history and format of this great tournament.
How The Rivalry Was Formed
The Solheim Cup started in 1990 at Lake Nona but you can’t say it was a fair fight. America had players like Nancy Lopez and won 11.5 to 4.5. The European team were inferior in golf, preparation and money.
Fast forward two years to Dalmhoy in Wales, the Europeans embraced the underdog label, prepared better and caught America by surprise. The key figures in the European team were the pairings of Laura Davies/Alison Nicholas and the Swedish team of Helen Alfredsson and Liselotte Neumann.
America won two out of the next nine matches but the Europeans had stronger players now. It was the Ladies European Tour against LPGA but now Europe had world players like Annika Sorenstam and Suzann Pettersen.
There are twelve players on each team, many qualify through a world ranking or tour ranking with the remaining three and in the case of Europe this year six are wildcard selected by the captain. The biggest surprise selection in Solheim Cup history was Pettersen in 2019, she had only played twice in competition in the past 18 months, due to having her baby boy. However the pick was seen as genius when Suzann rolled in the winning putt in front of her team and son Herman.
This year the Solheim Cup starts on a Saturday instead of a Friday due to there being a bank holiday in America on the Monday (Labour day). There are four foursomes pairing on Saturday morning, four fourball matches in the afternoon.
This is replicated on the Sunday. On the Monday all twelve players play singles, each game can either finish in a win, lose or draw. With Europe needing 14 points to retain the Solheim Cup and America needing 14.5 points to win the Cup.
Not every player needs to play first two days, but all play on the final day. The only player to have ever won 5 out of 5 points at a Solheim Cup match is Caroline Hedwall.
The leading points scorer in the history of the matches are Christie Kerr and Dame Laura Davies. There isn’t much I would change about the Solheim Cup, it is an advantage for Europe to begin with foursomes instead of fourballs as we are better at that format. We are not the strongest at singles but if I was to change it I would have the captains selecting the singles matches at the same time rather than in private - more of a head to head selection in front of the cameras.
The 2021 Solheim Cup
The golf course
Inverness Golf club, Toledo, Ohio is the 2021 venue, it opened in 1903 and has hosted many big US amateur championships. Donald Ross is the designer and what a designer he is. His most famous golf courses are Pinehurst 2, Seminole and Oak Hills. Watch out for his natural design and use of the land rather than moving a lot of turf. As well as the turtleback greens which I was call table top (raised with plenty of run offs).
Matthew’s requested six picks which is three more than normal years, she suggested it was needed as there was fewer events on the LET. The European is compromised of two LET order of merit players, four players on the world ranking and then six wild card picks. As it happens the six players who were picked were ranked in world ranking order. So Europe have their strongest team on paper that they could possibly have. Their highest world ranking is Anna Nordqvist (16) and lowest is Emily Pedersen (69)
They have the world number one is their side, which sounds obvious but there has not been an America at the top of the women’s game since 2014. Nelly Korda is the first American world number one to hold that position during a Solheim since official rankings began in 2006. Their lowest ranked player is Mina Harigae who is ranked 61st in the world.
So, what makes a successful Solheim Cup team? A captain who is clear and thoughtful in their decision makings, they need plenty of planning before the event rather than reacting to what happens that week. Pat Hurst is using a pod system. There will be three pods of four players who will play with each other. Matthew’s was a player who could play with anyone and have asked her players to do the same. There are some natural pairings in Mel Reid and Carlotta Ciganda (friends since childhood and similar games) as well as Anna Nordqvist teaming up with her country woman Madelene Sagstrom.
You do not want unhappy players splitting the team up, if they don’t play the still need to feel part of the week. Win and lose as a team, no individuals.
The coverage of the Solheim Cup is wall to wall, from the very first tee shot until the last putt you will be able to watch it love on television. It’s a fantastic spectacle which unfortunately any of us can’t go to due to restrictions in travel so settle in on the sofa or ask your golf club to put it on the TV.
Cheer them on from Europe and I promise they will hear you through the television, I know it...