09/16/2015

Of the top 20 players in women’s golf according to world rankings, 13 are from countries outside the United States and Europe. Nine hail from South Korea, one each from China (Shanshan Feng), Canada (Brooke Henderson), Australia (Minjee Lee), and of course New Zealand (Lydia Ko).

The disparity in rankings is part of the reason the LPGA instituted the International Crown, an eight-nation, 32-player match-play competition, a year ago. (An aside: New Zealand wasn’t included, nor was Canada or China. And four players is not enough for South Korea).

In other words, assuming that event takes flight when it returns in 2016, the International Crown will soon rightfully take over the Solheim Cup as women’s golf’s premier match-play tournament.

That hasn’t happened yet, though. The Solheim Cup was first held in 1990 as a female version of the Ryder Cup. It remains that way to this day down to Europe’s dominance over the last two events. The Americans haven’t taken home the trophy since 2009.

They hope to change that this year with a new serious attitude. Gone are the tattoos and face paint, signs of patriotism and pageantry that made the cup fun. In is a group mixed with youngsters and veterans, who hope to end Europe’s grasp on team golf.

Here’s a look at what to expect when the cup kicks off this Friday.

Venue: Golf Club St. Leon-Rot, Heidelberg, Germany

The Golf Club St. Leon-Rot is a relatively modern venue for a nation with a growing golf reputation. It was built in 1997 and hosted the now defunct Deutsche Bank – SAP Open TPC of Europe four times. A golfer by the name of Tiger Woods took three of the four at the German course.

The Solheim Cup marks the first big event at St. Leon-Rot since 2004. The track measures nearly 6600 yards for the female and is a par 72. The Par-5 16th hole, over 600 yards in length, could be a do-or-die point for that match play.

Team Outlooks

USA

Only one rookie debuts for the Americans, 20-year-old Alison Lee, as captain Juli Inkster brings an experienced lineup to Germany. Chief among the veterans is match-play star, Paula Creamer. Creamer, 29, was a captain’s selection after failing to automatically qualify. Form matters little for her, though. She holds a remarkable 12-6-5 record over the last five Solheim Cups.

Similarly, Inkster’s other captain’s choice, Brittany Lang, comes with prior success. She’s posted a 5-4-2 mark in three previous appearances.

Other roster notes: Lexi Thompson hopes to improve on her disappointing debut (1-2 in 2013) as a 20-year-old. Eleven of the thirteen players competed two years ago.

Full team

Europe

Unlike the Americans, all 13 Europeans carry Solheim Cup experience. The youngest of the bunch is Charley Hull, a 19-year-old Englishwoman who debuted two years ago. The oldest is 46-year-old Scot Catriona Matthew, who has compiled a 12-9-8 record over seven events. She’s a captain’s pick.

The Europeans will be underdogs again—only two players inside the world’s top-25—but that hasn’t stopped them before. For whatever reason, the continent’s representatives develop a camaraderie that the Americans can’t match. If team Europe hopes to pull the upset again, they’ll need the Scandinavian duo of Norway’s Suzann Pettersen, 8th in the world, and Swede Anna Nordqvist. Pettersen, with 17 career points, is the most prolific Solheim Cup player in the competition. Nordvist, on the other hand, holds a respectable 6-5-1 mark punctuated by a match-winning ace in 2013.

Full team

Prediction

It’s hard to look at those world rankings and not go with the Americans. 2013 rookies Lizette Salas, Thmpson, and Gerina Piller combined for a 1-5-3 record.

That won’t happen again.