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Dublin: 5 °C Friday 19 December, 2014

USA favourites as Solheim Cup tees off in Meath

“On paper in the world rankings, we are the underdogs slightly,” European captain Alison Nicholas admits.

America's Christina Kim during yesterday's practice round.
America's Christina Kim during yesterday's practice round.
Image: AP Photo/Peter Morrison

ACCORDING TO THE world rankings, this year’s Solheim Cup should be another rout for the Americans.

While the United States has seven players ranked in the top 20 compared to one for Europe — second-ranked Suzann Pettersen — there is another statistic that could speak in the hosts’ favour. The European players have won 12 tournaments this year, while the Americans only have three victories.

That gives European captain Alison Nicholas hope that her team can prevent a fourth straight victory for the US.

“We’ve got great strength in depth and it’s a very strong European team,” said Nicholas, who also captained Europe in its 2009 loss in Sugar Grove.

But I would never underestimate the Americans, because on paper in the world rankings, we are the underdogs slightly.

The US won the last two events by four-point margins, but captain Rosie Jones expects a much closer contest at the Jack Nicklaus-designed Killeen Castle, County Meath.

“We haven’t come here looking at rankings on paper,” Jones said. “We definitely know this is going to be a hard fight. Europe has probably one of the strongest teams they’ve had in a long time. We have a lot of respect for that.

I have a lot of respect for Ali, and how she can captain the team, and expect our players to fight very hard to get another win.

Form

And the Europeans are in better form. Eight members of the team have won tournaments this year, and four of the victories came on the LPGA Tour, where Norway’s Pettersen has two titles and Germany’s Sandra Gal and Sweden’s Maria Hjorth have one each.

Only two Americans have won a trophy this year. Brittany Lincicome has two wins on the LPGA Tour and Stacy Lewis captured her first major title at the Kraft Nabisco Championship in April.

Nicholas has five rookies on her team, but she is more experienced after learning valuable lessons during her captaincy two years ago.

“The five rookies all have LPGA experience, and I think it helps that this is my second time as captain,” Nicholas said. “I’ve got last time in the bank and there are a few small things that I can change.

It was very close two years ago, we just didn’t hole enough putts. If we can play the same this week and get a little bit of luck, then we can definitely win.

The teams will play for 28 points over three days, with eight foursomes and fourballs today and tomorrow and 12 singles matches on Sunday.

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