Matt Cooper takes an in-depth look at the Solheim Cup, including a player-by-player guide, their records in the event, and his best bets.
Golf betting tips: Solheim Cup
4pts Europe to win the Solheim Cup at 21/20 (Unibet)
1pt e.w. Charley Hull to be top European points scorer at 6/1 (General 1/4 1,2,3)
1pt e.w. Lilia Vu to be top USA points scorer at 6/1 (General 1/4 1,2,3)
Sky Bet odds | Paddy Power | Betfair Sportsbook
The Solheim Cup is different.
Because, let’s face it, normal tournament golf is weird. A stroll, a stretch, a chat to the dogsbody, a bit of a think, another think, a waft, another waft, a hit (or a flick or a tap), and all that faffing about is then repeated for another five and a half, maybe six, hours.
There was never much in the way of animation amid all this nonsense, but the advent of psychological insight has limited it almost entirely. The result? Good shot – little smile. Bad shot – nothing. Gallery applause – flap of the hand.
That’s why the Solheim is different – because there is snarling and roaring, fist-pumping and chest-bumping, laughter and tears, commotion and controversy.
Emotion kept in check? Sod that. This is golf with the brakes off and the faces reveal it. In a normal week, these golfers adopt the look of teenagers in church. This week it’s like they’re at their first festival.
There is a very real echo of Ryder Cup history this week. For one thing, both Cups were originally dominated by the United States before Europe fought back. But it is distinct too. In 2009 Europe nearly won the Solheim away from home, in 2011 they did win in Ireland, they then defended the trophy when winning in America for the first time – the very same pattern as the Ryder Cup in 1983/85/87.
And now the Solheim goes to Spain for the first time and Europe has lifted the trophy in four of the last six matches – exactly what happened before the Ryder Cup first went to Spain in 1997.
Finca Cortesin hosted three editions of the Volvo World Match Play just over a decade ago. It’s a Cabell Robinson design that has made the most of a dramatic and scenic plot of land. It’s a sweeping layout that will test the fitness of the players. Buggies will be used to ferry them around the more hilly stretches, but you suspect only the fittest will contemplate five matches.
There are five par-threes on the course and four of them are in the first 14 holes. So are three of the par-fives and five par-fours that play to less than 370 yards. Of the latter, only two are likely to be drivable unless tees are moved up, but the first (which was the fourth) is definitely in play from the tee.
It will be a dramatic starting point. The tee is perched high on rocky ground, the green is in the distance, protected by a lake short and left, with the fairway to the right. From that spot, among the din of the grandstand, there is a sense of skiers waiting to descend the mountain or a rollercoaster about to hurtle down the track.
Captain – Suzann Pettersen
Fiery and sensational as a player, Pettersen insists she will be more Catriona Matthew than Seve Ballesteros as a captain. As an on-course leader she was instrumental in the 2011 and 2019 victories, landing the winning blow in the latter, weeks after ending maternity leave – and then she promptly announced her retirement.
The Frenchwoman won the Evian Championship (her first major) and the Scottish Open back-to-back this summer, results that have vaulted her to top spot in the LPGA’s Race to CME. She shared European top scorer honours at Gleneagles in 2019, has played well with Georgia Hall (three wins, one half) and won both her singles.
The only Spanish golfer in the match, she’ll be the focus of much media attention as she seeks to revive memories of her 2013 debut when she went 3-0-0. She’s not topped 50% in four starts since and has a reputation for being slow which probably limits who she can be paired with.
The 30-year-old Scot finished top 10 in her first-ever pro event back in 2016 but added only six more on any tour or tier until she made a sensational breakthrough in the LPGA’s Japan Classic last November. Just two more have followed but she did make the last eight of the 2022 Bank of Hope Matchplay.
Captain Pettersen will hope the 24-year-old Swede maintains her trend of getting to grips with new levels quickly. She was the 2022 LET Rookie of the Year, she won her first start up against the men (by nine shots) and this year she won on the LPGA in her first full year on the circuit. She was also third in the Bank of Hope Matchplay.
It’s not been her best summer but she does arrive off a timely trio of top-20 finishes and we know she can rise to the occasion in the majors (2018 Women’s Open winner) and in this event. She is 1-2-0 in singles, 2-2-0 in fourballs (won her last two) and a standout 4-1-1 in foursomes (2-0-1 with Boutier, 2-0-0 with Nordqvist).
The Swede has just two top-10s this year and a split match record. In 2013/2015 she went 7-1-1, but in 2015/2019 1-5-0. However did she hint at the former in this year’s International Crown? It was somewhat overlooked by many that she and Nordqvist won three of four fourballs they contested in that event in May.
Ten years ago, aged 17, she became the youngest-ever competitor in this event and, having defeated Paula Creamer 5&4 in the singles, straightforwardly asked the US star to sign her ball for a friend. She is 2-2-1 in singles, an excellent 4-2-1 in fourballs and a wonderful 5-1-1 in foursomes. She is also 6-1-2 on European soil.
There’s something about European team golf and twins at the moment. There’s the Højgaards, the Pauls and the Maguires. Lisa is now a manager but Leona was something of a star on debut two years ago when both undefeated and Europe’s top scorer. She paired with Hall for one win in that event but with no Mel Reid might be on the lookout for a new partner, which shouldn’t present much of a problem.
A playing vice-captain this year, she has a particularly fine record in fourballs (5-2-0) which might be down to her ability to hit greens in regulation (she ranks second this year) because the stats people will tell you that having two birdie putts per hole is a big advantage. With that in mind, it’s odd she’s played nearly twice as many foursomes.
The European wildcards were far from clear cut and therefore prompted chatter. Pedersen’s selection got the tittlers tattling owing to the fact the Dane has one top 10 for the year. Her captain ignored that and her Solheim debut (0-3-0), instead calling to mind 2021 when she went 3-1-0, winning twice with Hull.
The Swede is another wildcard with just the one top 10 for the year but she doesn’t really have Pedersen’s Solheim promise. True, she’s won both her singles matches but she lost her only foursomes and all three fourballs she’s been involved in (admittedly all four of those matches reached 17).
A good friend of Grant and as prolific as her too (they both have six wins in two years). Also like her compatriot, Stark went to a sports school in Helsingborg with Ludvig Åberg – quite some fortnight for that school, then. Stark was unbeaten in the 2020 Palmer Cup, twice with Åberg, once with Grant and she halved her singles.
Quieter than the Norwegian Pettersen, but every bit as competitive. There is a steel-eyed nature about her, perhaps a consequence of her early teenage years when back problems necessitated a fusion of her spine. She withstood the pain and recuperation to become a fine amateur and ultimately a two-time major winner.
A childhood friend of Sahith Theegala, she has been a breath of fresh air in 2023 following on from a solid rookie campaign. She was especially strong in the majors: 54-hole leader in the Chevron Championship, winner of the US Open and sixth in the Women’s Open. She was defeated by Linn Grant in the 2020 Palmer Cup singles.
The second of her three LPGA wins came in the 2021 Bank of Hope Matchplay but she is 0-2-0 in Solheim singles and 0-2-1 in foursomes. 2-1-0 in fourball is better and could have been much more so. She won with 7&5 with Angel Yin in 2019 and they were 3-up with five to play in their second game yet contrived to lose 2-down.
The Californian had a fine debut in the American 2017 victory (3-1-0) but the last two matches have been much more hard work. In fact, she has gone 1-3-0 both times. Injury has disrupted her career in recent years and the course could test that fitness. She also lost three of five fourballs in this year’s International Crown.
The 25-year-old ticked off three major championship top-10s this year and also claimed a first LPGA title in August so her confidence should be sky high. She’s been solid in Solheim singles (one win, one half) but has recorded only half a point from four matches played with a partner.
In 2019 she picked up her first LPGA title a month too late to prompt a first Solheim start but her second title this July – in the pairs event at the Great Lakes – might be a hint that she can tally well. That said, she hasn’t finished in the top 40 in five starts since.
Superb in her match debut in 2019 (3-0-1), she was a little more subdued two years ago when going 2-2-0, but she has a 100% record in the singles. Multiple injury concerns (blood clot last year, back this) are a worry but she’ll be encouraged that she and Lilia Vu won two fourballs and halved a third in May’s International Crown.
A three-time winner in 2022, including the Chevron Championship and Great Lakes pairs event, she has only two top-10s this year but her threat is revealed in her total of 12 eagles for the year – three clear of next best. In the Curtis and Palmer Cups of 2018 and the Solheim Cup of 2021 she was undefeated in six fourballs (five points).
From the last start of 2022 through to the last week of July the 25-year-old had a best of T20. Since then she’s reeled off five straight finishes of T13 or better. In six Junior Ryder, Junior Solheim, Curtis and Palmer Cups she has never finished on the losing side. In the latter two she was 0-4-0 in foursomes and 3-0-0 in singles.
The 15-time LPGA winner has played very little this year and missed five straight cuts ahead of T19 last time out. It’s all a bit mysterious but the split in her Solheim record isn’t. Her first three matches: five wins, two defeats, four halves. Here last two: one win, four defeats, three halves.
A star of 2023 with victory in two majors – April’s Chevron Championship and then when up against Hull in the final round of the Women’s Open. And while the 25-year-old is a Solheim rookie she is not new to team golf. In the 2018 Curtis and Palmer Cup plus this year’s International Crown she was 11-2-1.
How much do we make of the AON Risk Reward Challenge? Lord knows, but for what it’s worth, Yin leads the rankings and there are attackable par-fives and short par-fours to consider at Finca Cortesin. Oddball fact: she’s never been picked for the foursomes in her two previous Solheim starts.
She started the year as the world number amateur and much was expected when she turned pro. Moreover, she delivered with victory in her first start. The 20-year-old also finished top 10 in three of her four major starts for the year. She was undefeated in the 2021 Curtis Cup, when winning both fourballs alongside Corpuz.
Remember the course. If anyone is playing a fourth match on Saturday afternoon respect her fitness or consider it a potential problem (either then or on Sunday). There is another aspect to this: it will test the depth of the two squads.
Rookies have thrived in the Ryder Cup but they can also really thrive in the Solheim Cup. In the last two matches, for example, Leona Maguire top scored for Europe in 2021 and Celine Boutier co-top scored in 2019 while American first-timers (Jennifer Kupcho and Nelly Korda) co-top scored for the Americans. And six of the eight European veterans in this match won at least two matches on debut.
We’ve discussed some possible pairings in the profiles but does the interview schedule drop more clues? In recent times the US Solheim Cup team has utilised pods (groups of four which always play together). There’s a glitch in this because those quartets interviewed as fours and this year they are entering in threes but, for what it’s worth, those trios are: Ewing, Kang, Thompson / Lee, Vu, Zhang / Corpuz, Knight, Yin / Khang, Korda, Kupcho.
In the 21st century, there have been 12 Solheim Cups and Europe has led at the end of day one in eight of them – the continent has also led at that point in five of the last six matches.
Foursomes have kicked off the last six matches – Europe has won four of those sessions and the other two were tied. The United States has led after the first session just twice in those dozen 21st century matches.
If that British and Irish backbone (Hull, Hall, Maguire) and Scandinavian promise (Grant, Stark, Nordqvist) fires, with some help from elsewhere, EUROPE can retain the Cup. At first glance, the Americans have the greater depth but it might be deceptive. Because while the rookies look good, the veterans are less intimidating.
It’s entirely possible that Zhang, Vu and Corpuz will continue to ride the wave they’ve been on in 2023. But Thompson and Kang have struggled recently (with form and in the format), both have injury concerns and so, too, might Korda. Ewing and Khang are good players but won’t frighten the Europeans, nor will Knight.
Ultimately, at the prices and with history onside, Europe appeals best of all.
CHARLEY HULL thrived in this match on debut as a teenager and it might have been in her genes because her grandmother fought for the Polish resistance in the Second World War as a 15-year-old and later escaped a Siberian POW camp.
Ten years on from her match debut she’s twice finished second in the majors, was also second last time out and she’s excited about playing this contest in Spain. Only Kupcho has made more eagles than her this year and she’s been excellent in home Solheim Cups.
It’s easy to see Grant having a great time on debut but Hull is the pick.
Zhang was the initial thought for American top scorer but LILIA VU’s team pedigree is persuasive.
The record is marvellous and it’s not just that excellent 11-2-1 in those three mentioned in the profiles. In fourballs she was flawless with seven wins. She’s gone 3-for-3 with Korda and 2-for-3 with Kupcho. Two major wins already, but her year might not be done yet.
Posted at 1340 BST on 18/09/23
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