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Solheim Cup opener pits US vets against Swedish rookies

golf21 September 2023 18:01| ยฉ Reuters
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Solheim Cup ยฉ Gallo Images

United States captain Stacy Lewis has five rookies on her team this week, but she went with experience to kick off the 2023 Solheim Cup in Spain on Friday.

The US will hit the first tee shots of the event in Foursomes, and Lewis went with Solheim Cup veterans Lexi Thompson and Megan Khang as her first pairing.

Thompson was an automatic qualifier despite slipping to 26th in the Rolex Rankings and missing seven of her past 11 cuts, but Lewis said she likes what she has seen out of the former major champion ahead of her sixth Solheim Cup. Khang, who won the Portland Classic earlier this month, is in her third Solheim Cup.

"I wanted to get off to a good start. I wanted to get out four really good pairings and that's kind of been my focus this whole time," Lewis said. "Lexi has looked unbelievable this week and that was part of reason that she's in there. I think she's got the most experience on our team, and I wanted her to go out there and have that first tee shot.

"I think she's earned it."

European captain Suzann Pettersen took a distinctly different approach, as the Europeans will open with the Swedish duo of Linn Grant and Maja Start, two of the team's three rookies.

"I think I've almost had 'em set first out for a year now, literally, since they both played in Europe," Pettersen said. "I just thought it would be so โ€“ such a cool experience for them to lead off here in Spain.

"They're two great friends. They've obviously played a lot together through the juniors, so know each other really well, and they had a big desire to play, so I'm just going to let them."

Lewis will get three of her rookies involved in the first session, with Andrea Lee, Allisen Corpuz and Cheyenne Knight each paired with a Solheim Cup veteran. Europe's third rookie, Gemma Dryburgh, is not slated to play in the morning.

FRIDAY FOURSOMES

(All times local in Spain)

8:10 am: Lexi Thompson/Megan Khang v Linn Grant/Maja Stark

8:22 am: Danielle Kang/Andrea Lee v Celine Boutier/Georgia Hall

8:34 am: Nelly Korda/Allisen Corpuz v Leona Maguire/Anna Nordqvist

8:46 am: Ally Ewing/Cheyenne Knight v Charley Hull/Emily Kristine Pedersen

While Lewis said each of her 12 players will see action Friday, Pettersen is taking a wait-and-see approach before committing to her Fourball pairings.

"We don't quite know yet what the Friday afternoon looks like. We'll see how the morning goes and kind of we'll take it from there. We have a plan A, B, C and D," Pettersen said laughing. "But I mean, as a player, you would love to get out there and play, for sure."

One of the surprises from the opening session was the absence of Lilia Vu from Lewis' pairings. The top-ranked player on either side at No 2 in the Rolex Rankings, Vu has a pair of majors among her three wins this year.

"I don't see anybody playing all five sessions. So they all needed some rest at some point and just wanted to give her the morning to just kind of regroup and get herself together," Lewis said.

"She somewhat asked for it a little bit, somewhat didn't. It was kind of my idea. You're going to see her a lot, other than that first session. You don't win two majors and sit on the sideline for very long."

COMPETITION SCHEDULE

(All times local in Spain)

Friday:

Foursomes - 8:10-8:46 am (Four matches, 12-minute tee-off intervals)

Fourball - 1:40-2:25 pm (Four matches, 15-minute tee-off intervals)

Saturday:

Foursomes - 8:10-8:46 a.m. (Four matches, 12-minute tee-off intervals)

Fourball - 1:40-2:25 p.m. (Four matches, 15-minute tee-off intervals

Sunday:

Singles - 11:10 a.m.-1:22 p.m. (12 matches, 12-minute tee-off intervals)

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