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Europeans the underdogs at Solheim Cup

Europe will be banking on their array of big hitters in pursuit of their first victory on American soil when they take on holders the United States at this week’s Solheim Cup.

The par-73 Rich Harvest Farms course, at 6,670 yards, is the longest layout to stage the biennial team competition and could well play into the hands of the visitors.

Heavy rain saturated the Illinois venue over the weekend, resulting in minimal roll on the fairways during the first two days of official practice.

“If it stays wet, it’s going to play long which I think is good for us,” Norway’s Suzann Pettersen, 28, told reporters on Tuesday.

“We have a lot of good ball-strikers on our team. We can hit the ball high and soft and kind of shape it both ways.

“We’re the true underdogs but I still think we have the best team,” added the Norwegian, who won her first major title at the 2007 LPGA Championship.

“A lot of people over here don’t really know all of our players which I think could be a good thing.”

American Juli Inkster, who has played in seven Solheim Cups, described the European line-up as the strongest she had encountered.

“They’ve got a great team, one of the best they’ve had,” the 49-year-old said. “Most of them hit the ball extremely long so it would probably favour them on the par-fives.

“But we’ve got a few girls that can bomb it, too. Basically in match play it comes down to who makes the most putts.”

American world number four Paula Creamer, playing on her third Solheim Cup team this week, felt accurate ball-striking would be at a premium.

“It’s a pretty wide open golf course but if you miss the fairways, you’re in very thick rough,” the 23-year-old said.

“It’s all going to come down to who gives themselves more chances for birdies; somebody that can drive the ball (well) is going to be able to put themselves in position the most.”

Europe, beaten 16-12 in Sweden in 2007, will be looking for their first win on U.S. soil in the Cup’s 11th edition while the Americans will aim to make the most of their home course advantage.

“(The fans) are our sixth man out there this week,” Inkster said. “We need them out there.”

Creamer agreed: “Solheim Cup for me is all about the fans. It’s unbelievable the interaction you can have as team players.

“When you’re standing on the tee box and in the fairway, you can motivate everybody so much by just hands in the air. We need the fans. It’s all about that camaraderie and that patriotism we’re going out there and playing for.”

Asked how the Europeans would handle the partisan crowd support, Swede Helen Alfredsson replied: “We know that the Americans like to shout and scream.

“Of course, it’s a little bit of an advantage but I think it helps if you have been around it. We try to tell the young ones that’s just how it’s going to be. You just have to focus hard on what you’re trying to do.”

The Solheim Cup gets under way on Friday (1300 GMT) with the opening fourball matches.



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