Pettersen eyeing Solheim Cup glory as European captain

golf21 September 2023 03:24| © AFP
Suzann Pettersen © Gallo Images

Suzann Pettersen, one of the Solheim Cup's greatest players, believes her European team are more than capable of beating the United States this week and giving her victory as captain.

Europe are aiming for an unprecedented third straight win and go into the event in Spain as marginal favourites.

"We are all very ready to go," said Norwegian Pettersen who retired from playing after holing the winning putt in 2019 at Gleneagles.

"We have the strongest team that I've ever been part of, and that's based on great performances over the last few years.

"But with good results, there's also expectations. But these girls are up for it and we can't wait."

Europe have three rookies – Linn Grant, Maja Stark and Gemma Dryburgh – while the USA have five, albeit world No 2 Lilia Vu is a double major winner this year and Allisen Corpus is the reigning US Open champion.

The other three newcomers are Cheyenne Knight, Andrea Lee and the charismatic Rose Zhang.

The most experienced European is Anna Nordqvist, with the three-time major winner combining her eighth appearance with a role as vice-captain.

"It's been really cool being involved behind the scenes," said the Swede.

"I am getting the chance to see the process. It makes you appreciate the experience of playing inside the ropes even more."

Stacy Lewis is the USA captain aiming to regain the Cup for the first time since the Americans' win in Ohio six years ago.

"We've hit the ground running," she said. "As a player, the early part of the week seems to go on forever but, as captain, the days have flown past. Everybody has had great practice rounds."

Zhang, a record-breaking amateur, won her first event on the LPGA Tour in May and has had a string of top-10 finishes in majors.

Back in April, she did not expect to be in Spain.

"One hundred per cent not," she admitted.

"When I played in my first event I just hoped to make the cut. Making the Solheim Cup was never one of the goals for the season.

"But I'm very grateful for all the experiences I've been granted so far."

Vu, who was playing on the second-tier Epson Tour just two years ago, has enjoyed a meteoric rise this season, lifting the Chevron Championship and Women's British Open titles.

"I was almost done with golf a couple of years back, so it is almost unbelievable," she said.

"But this has always been a dream of mine."

The player under perhaps the greatest pressure is home favourite Carlota Ciganda who will be playing in her sixth Solheim Cup.

"It's a dream come true to play at home," said the 33-year-old. "The course is tricky with the wind. More than pressure, it's excitement."

Both Pettersen and Lewis will be in charge again next year when the Solheim Cup takes place in Florida, with one of the pair going for back-to-back wins.