Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Solheim Cup Preview

The tenth Solheim Cup competition will get underway Friday in Halmstad, Sweden. The U.S. team won in 2005 at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Indiana by a score of 15.5 to 12.5. The event will be televised in the U.S. by The Golf Channel, beginning Friday at 2am EDT (Sweden is six hours ahead of EDT). In case you miss the early morning coverage, there will be a three-hour highlights show each night on TGC.

The first two days of competition consist of eight foursome matches and eight four-ball matches - four of each type on each day. In foursomes, two players from each team alternate shots playing the same ball. In four-ball, both players play their own ball the entire hole and the best score of the two stands as the score for the team. On the final day only, all twelve players on both teams play singles matches. In all match formats, the team is trying to win the most holes and earn the team a point towards the championship. If any match is tied after 18 holes, each team earns a half-point. There are no extra holes or sudden-death. Being the holders of the Cup, the U.S. only needs to earn 14 points to retain it while Team Europe must earn 14.5 points to win it.

Halmsted Golf Club is a par-72, 6615-yard layout. That kind of length would figure to favor the longer hitters – which Team Europe has in spades with Pettersen, Davies, Hjorth and Gustafson all in the Top 10 in driving distance. Of the U.S. players, only Lincicome, Hurst and Stanford rank in the Top 30 in that stat. #8 Christina Kim might have helped in that department. The last time the Cup was contested in Europe was also in Sweden (in Malmo) back in 2003, and that resulted in the Europeans winning by their largest margin ever – 17.5 to 10.5.

Even though the U.S. team looks stronger on paper, just about every indicator points to Team Europe winning. The 1996 U.S. team is the only one to win the Cup playing on the road. The Americans have made a couple of visits in recent months to scout out the course but they have certainly seen it less than the Swedes have. Of course the crowds will be heavily in favor of Annika’s bunch. Playing with home-field advantage two years ago, the U.S. had to make a big rally on Sunday to win by three - the final result was still in doubt with only two matches left on the course. At least the U.S. players had plenty of time to recover from their jet-lag – the LPGA took care of that last Saturday night in Arkansas. I’ll predict Europe 15, USA 13.

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