Solheim Cup 2017: Richard Kaufman assesses Team Europe’s chances

Richard Kaufman looks ahead to the opening day of the 2017 Solheim Cup and explains how Europe can impress in Iowa.
Richard Kaufman looks ahead to the opening day of the 2017 Solheim Cup and explains how Europe can impress in Iowa.
Richard Kaufman looks ahead to the opening day of the 2017 Solheim Cup and explains how Europe can impress in Iowa.

Richard Kaufman looks ahead to the opening day of the 2017 Solheim Cup and explains how Europe can impress in Iowa.

Europe’s on-course leader is out injured. Their highest-ranked player has been suffering with glandular fever. The Ladies European Tour has parted with its CEO. Bruised and battered, there is no doubt Annika Sorenstam’s team is the clear underdog.

However, I still believe they can cause an upset at Des Moines in front of the biggest crowds in ladies’ golf.

Are Europe stronger for Suzann Pettersen’s absence? In the spotlight in 2015 for the wrong reasons, Suzann would have been the crowd villain.

Pettersen was a late withdrawal from the event due to injury
Pettersen was a late withdrawal from the event due to injury

Does her withdrawal take the sting out of the crowd? Has the theatre and drama of the event been made weaker? Inkster called for respect, but given what happened at “Gimmegate” in 2015, I would have been surprised if the record partisan crowd would have stayed mute.

Would she have been heckled on the 1st tee? We will never know and we won’t know how Pettersen would have handled the situation. I, for one, will miss her being on the course. Her replacement – Catriona Matthew – is similar in Solheim Cup scoring records, but is so different as a personality on the course.

 Matthew will make a ninth Solheim Cup appearance this week
Matthew will make a ninth Solheim Cup appearance this week

I am not surprised in the least that it’s the two English stars of Charley Hull and Mel Reid out first, as both performed superbly two years ago.

Remember, Charley asked on her debut as a 17-year-old: “When am I supposed to get nervous?” I don’t know if she will hit the first shot, but she would be the ideal fit.

Reid won 3.5 points in 2015 and Hull won four of her five matches
Reid won 3.5 points in 2015 and Hull won four of her five matches

They have played foursomes together once before and won their match in Germany against Michelle Wie and Brittany Lincicome. They were scoring low in practice yesterday and will need to do the same on Friday as they face a formidable pair.

The No 1 American foursomes partnership in Cristie Kerr and Lexi Thompson was a pairing that bloomed at St Leon Rot, winning two and halving one of their 3 matches.

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I look down the line-up and see a European lead going into the fourballs, where given their length advantage I can see the Americans fighting back.

While Juli Inkster said everyone in her twelve player team would tee it up on Friday, Annika wouldn’t commit. That suggests not everyone in Team Europe will get a 2017 Solheim Cup experience on day one, but points on the board are what matters.

Team USA narrowly won 14.5-13.5 in 2015
Team USA narrowly won 14.5-13.5 in 2015

Europe may have fewer major winners, worse world rankings and a number of other stats I could throw at you. They will face a loud American crowd and not many will be giving them a chance.

They are rightly underdogs, but sometimes it’s the adversity and the setbacks that bring you closer together as a team. Just a shame Pettersen won’t be anything but an onlooker when the drama unfolds over the next three days.

Watch the Solheim Cup throughout the week live on Sky Sports Golf. Live coverage begins on Friday from 2pm.

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