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Nancy Lopez to avoid previous mistakes

Nancy Lopez is keen to avoid the mistakes of former American Ryder Cup captain Hal Sutton when the United States begin their bid to regain the Solheim Cup from Europe on Friday.

In both competitions, the U.S. line-up has often lacked the team spirit of their European counterparts.

Last September, Sutton's so called dream pairing of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson turned into a nightmare and paved the way for a heavy U.S. defeat in the biennial men's event. Woods was widely criticised in the American media for not caring enough about the tournament.

Lopez, who exuded a special aura in her playing days, has worked hard on bonding her side together and is adamant the women's team will not follow in the footsteps of their male compatriots at Crooked Stick, Carmel, Indiana.

"I definitely think there is a great chemistry within our team this year," said American number one Cristie Kerr, who is playing in her third successive Solheim.

"Patty Sheehan was captain for my first two Solheims but Nancy has had a lot more get-togethers and team meetings.

"We've been twice to Crooked Stick for practice matches and had several team dinners. It feels as though we're one big group of sisters."

Two rookies -- Natalie Gulbis and Christina Kim - have also appreciated Lopez's way of doing things.

"Every time you do well in a tournament you get a phone call from Nancy," said Gulbis, the 22-year-old glamour girl of women's golf. "You looked forward to hearing from her.

"Already you can feel the great camaraderie in our team. We've all been pulling for each other over recent weeks. You watch the scoreboards to see how your team mates are doing."

Kim, a colourful character and hugely popular among the American galleries, added: "Nancy has made us feel like one big happy family. She has an aura about her and she envelops you."

The Americans have a blend of youthful exuberance and wily experience, with the age range in the team spanning from the oldest ever Solheim player in 48-year-old Beth Daniel to the first teenager in 19-year-old Paula Creamer.

The side headed for Crooked Stick at the end of the State Farm Classic in Springfield, Illinois, on Sunday, and the mood could not have been better after team member Pat Hurst claimed victory. Kerr and Gulbis finished second and third.

Lopez's only appearance in the Solheim was in the inaugural meeting at Lake Nona in Florida in 1990 when America justified their status as overwhelming favourites with an 11.5-4.5 win.

Europe scored a shock victory at Dalmahoy in Scotland in the second contest in 1992 and, since then, it has become a closely-fought contest.

The U.S. lead 5-3 in the overall score.

Europe triumphed by a record 17.5-10.5 margin in Sweden two years ago but has never won on American soil.

 

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