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War of words starts at Solheim Cup

The Solheim Cup war of words began on Wednesday when the U.S. and Europe quibbled over which side had the better team spirit going into the matches at Crooked Stick.

Laura Davies, who has played in all eight previous Solheim Cups, told reporters that "they (the U.S.) don't seem to have quite the fun we have.

"On paper, they're always a better team but I think we have a better spirit and I think that's why we tend to do better in the foursomes and fourballs.

"I'm sure the American team is good fun but I don't think they generate the same atmosphere as we do."

But U.S. veterans Rosie Jones and Meg Mallon refuted her claims as they prepared for the opening-day matches on Friday.

"Laura has never been in our team room, on our bus or at our dinners so I don't know how she can say that," said Jones, who will be playing in her seventh Solheim and is due to retire at the end of the season.

"It seems like this subject comes up at every Solheim and I don't know where it comes from. Some teams mesh better than others but we always feel we're together and we're a family.

"This year I think it is even more so and that's partly down to (captain) Nancy Lopez," added Jones.

"We've had team dinners, parties and several practice rounds at Crooked Stick and she's really pulled us together."

Mallon, making her eighth Solheim appearance, said: "I've always had a great time and this one is no different.

"When you are playing for your country and come together for the Solheim, it is a tremendous bonding experience."

For Europe captain Catrin Nilsmark, the goal is to lead her side to victory on U.S. soil for the first time.

"I think it would be wonderful for European women's golf, for our girls and for the Ladies European Tour," she said.

The Americans though are aiming to wipe out the memory of their record 17.5-10.5 defeat at the hands of Nilsmark's team at Barseback in Sweden two years ago.

"My first Solheim was when we lost at Dalmahoy (in Scotland) in 1992," said Mallon.

"Unfortunately, it was my defeat in the singles to Catrin Nilsmark that lost the Cup and to have then (the Europeans) dance all around me was quite an experience.

"We were favourites but got absolutely killed that year and it left a lingering pain," added Mallon.

"It was the same two years ago. The Solheim is always a great experience but it's much more fun when you win."

Davies said home advantage made the U.S. the favourites but the big-hitting Englishwoman was determined to silence the crowd.

"We have never won over here but I know it is going to happen sometime and I just want to be part of it," said the 41-year-old.

"On paper the Americans must be favourites but I'm sure it will all come down to Sunday's singles.

"The Americans will have almost everybody cheering for them but if we can keep the crowd quiet, keep them under control, then I am sure we have a great chance."

Davies predicted that Europe's team of longer hitters could have a huge advantage on a course made famous as the one where John Daly won the 1991 U.S. PGA Championship.

"We can all reach the par-fives and I think that is a great help," she said.

U.S. player Natalie Gulbis disagreed, however.

"We've got some pretty long players and I actually don't think length will make all that much difference," said Gulbis.

"I think our team is full of great ball strikers and we make an awful lot of birdies. That's what counts."


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