Team Europe chase a historic third consecutive victory over Team USA in the Solheim Cup; Watch the opening ceremony live on Thursday from 5pm on Sky Sports Golf, ahead of live coverage of day one on Friday from 6.30am
Last Updated: 19/09/23 6:06am
Team Europe chase Solheim Cup history this week in Spain, with the way they select their pairings likely to play a key role in whether they enjoy a third consecutive win over Team USA.
Catriona Matthew guided Europe to back-to-back victories in the biennial contest, following a dramatic 14.5-13.5 success at Gleneagles in 2019 – where Suzann Pettersen secured the winning point – by prevailing 15-13 on American soil in 2021.
Pettersen now has the task of extending the winning streak this week at Finca Cortesin, live from Friday on Sky Sports, with the Norwegian having arguably the strongest and most experienced European team in history at her disposal.
Europe have five of the world’s top 20 in their line-up, including Evian Championship winner Celine Boutier and Charley Hull – a two-time runner-up in majors this year – with Pettersen and her vice-captains having a tough task now in setting up the team to give them the best chance of victory.
What does history tell us about selection?
The expectation would be for all players to feature on the opening day, regardless of form and experience, with no American ever sitting out both the first two sessions of a Solheim Cup and Kitrina Douglas the last to do so for Team Europe back in 1992.
Team Europe have had at least one player feature in every session during each of the past five Solheim Cups, most recently when Leona Maguire produced an unbeaten debut in the 2021 success, with the 2011 victory in Ireland the last time there was no European playing five matches.
That 15-13 win at Killeen Castle coincidently was the last time Team USA used a player in all five sessions, when Paula Creamer went unbeaten over the first two days before Matthew thrashed her in the Sunday singles.
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When you factor in the physical test of a playing undulating Finca Cortesin to the challenge of trying to compete across 36 holes a day in a team environment, it would take some exceptional golf from someone for them to be considered to play in all five sessions this week.
Do players lean towards a certain format?
Carlota Ciganda has featured in every fourballs session in her previous five Solheim Cups, while Caroline Hedwall was ever-present in her fourballs during her first three appearances until a joint-record defeat on the opening day in 2019 saw her sit out of Saturday’s session in that format.
Ciganda and Hedwall have both only played in four foursomes matches each during the same period, whereas Georgia Hall has played in every foursomes session in her three appearances and Anna Nordqvist has only missed one of a possible 14 in her seven Solheim Cup starts.
Charley Hull has a more balanced record, playing seven out of a possible 10 sessions in both formats, while Madelene Sagstrom remains without a point in four matches with a partner but holds a 100 per cent record in the final-day singles.
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Could familiar pairings return for Team Europe?
Europe could stick with some successful partnerships when selecting their pairings in this year’s contest, with Hall and Boutier winning all three of their matches together in the 2019 success and extending their unbeaten run when paired together for one session two years later.
The pair need two more points to become the most successful European partnership in Solheim Cup history, overtaking Dame Laura Davies and Alison Nicholas’ total of five, although Hall did also win alongside Leona Maguire in a victory during the 2021 contest.
Nordqvist – serving as a playing vice-captain this year – has partnered Hedwall in three separate Solheim Cups and could do so again, while Hull won two her three matches alongside Emily Kristine Pedersen in Europe’s successful title defence in Ohio.
Another obvious partnership would be rookie duo Linn Grant and Maja Stark, with the Swedes enjoying plenty of past success when competing alongside one another.
Will experience benefit Team Europe?
Five of Stacy Lewis’ team are making their debuts for Team USA, with only three of the 12 players in her line-up ever involved in a victorious Solheim Cup and Lexi Thompson the only person to do so on European soil.
Thompson, Danielle Kang and Angel Yin are the only America players involved from their last victory in 2017, while half of the team are experiencing an away Solheim Cup for the first time.
Eight of Europe’s team are returning members from their historic win on away soil from two years ago, with the hosts’ squad having made over double the number of Solheim Cup appearances combined than their American counterparts.
Team golf experience certainly doesn’t guarantee success, as Europe’s Ryder Cup team found out at Whistling Straits in 2021 when Steve Stricker’s Team USA prevailed by a record-breaking 19-9 margin, although it could prove to be an advantage.
Who will win the 2023 Solheim Cup? Watch exclusively live this September on Sky Sports! Live coverage from the opening ceremony begins at 5pm on Thursday September 21, with the opening day’s play live on the Friday from 6.30am. Stream the Solheim Cup and more with NOW.