Solheim Cup preview and best bets

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Solheim Cup

Before next week’s Ryder Cup, the ladies get their turn with this week’s Solheim Cup.

 

The Solheim Cup is a biennial golf tournament for professional women golfers contested by teams representing Europe and the United States. It is named after the Norwegian-American golf club manufacturer and founder of Ping, Karsten Solheim, who was a driving force behind its creation.

The inaugural Cup was held in 1990, and the event was first staged in even-numbered years until 2002, alternating years with the Ryder Cup (the equivalent men’s event). As part of the general reshuffling of team golf events after the one-year postponement of the 2001 Ryder Cup following the September 11 attacks, the Solheim Cup switched to odd-numbered years beginning in 2003. Another reshuffle of team golf events took place in 2020 because the COVID-19 pandemic and the Solheim Cup will return to even-numbered years from 2024 onward.

The United States teams have won the cup 10 times, compared with seven for Europe. The current holder is Europe, which won at the Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio, in 2021, and has won the last two Cups.

Team Europe is a small favorite at -120 vs. a +100 price for Team USA and the draw is priced at 12-1 for this week’s event at Finca Cortesin in Malaga, Spain.

Format and schedule

Over the course of the three days, the opposing teams will compete against one another in a series of 28 match-play matches for points (1 for a win and 1/2 for a tie). All with the aim of earning 14 1/2 points to win the contest; 14 points is enough for the defending champions to to retain the trophy.

The schedule:

Friday morning: Foursomes (Alternate Shot) — 4 matches

Friday afternoon: Fourballs (Better Ball) — 4 matches

Saturday morning: Foursomes — 4 matches

Saturday afternoon: Fourballs — 4 matches

Sunday: singles — 12 matches

The Course

The Finca Cortes Golf Club in Malaga, Andalucia, Spain is a spectacular Cabell Robinson design that opened in 2007 and is rated among the best courses in Spain. It was previously seen hosting the World Match Play Championship in 2009, 2011 and 2012.

The course will play as a par-71, measuring 6,318 yards; with nine par-4s (295-447 yards), five par-3s (167-195 yards) and four par-5s (476-531 yards).

Finca Cortesin is tree-lined and packed full of elevation changes but full of wide fairways. Nevertheless, large and sometimes deep bunkers eat into the landing areas; with out-of-bounds areas and water in play on four holes. Despite the wide fairways, you are not able to just grip it and rip it with driver off the tee.

The small and speedy greens have many subtle breaks. Many of the greens are elevated and are heavily protected by bunkers plus some severe slopes and run-offs.

The Teams

Team Europe

Captain: Suzann Pettersen (Norway)

Assistant captains: Laura Davies (England), Caroline Martens (Norway), Anna Nordqvist (Sweden)

Players

Celine Boutier (France)

Solheim Cup record (wins-losses-ties): 5-1-1

Rolex Ranking: 5th

Boutier is the highest-ranked player in the European side and is making her third Solheim Cup appearance after being on the previous two winning teams.

She has just one defeat to her name in seven Solheim Cup matches and has exclusively played foursomes with Georgia Hall, winning two and tying one of their three matches. She tied for the top overall points scorer on debut in 2019.

Boutier just won her first major at home in the Evian Championship at the end of July and then won the Scottish Open the following week for her third win of the season.

Charley Hull (England)

Solheim Cup record: 11-5-3

Rolex Ranking: 8th

Hull debuted in the Solheim Cup as a 17-year-old and makes her sixth consecutive appearance, having been on winning teams in 2013, 2019 and 2021.

Her overall record is strong but is best in pairs, where she has won or halved just under 79% of her 14 matches during her five appearances. She was the leading points scorer in the entire event in 2015, taking four of a possible five points.

Hull is in terrific form with four runner-up finishes in her last seven starts. This includes twice finishing as runner-up in majors at the U.S. Women’s Open at Pebble Beach and at the Women’s Open at Walton Heath.

Linn Grant (Sweden)

Solheim Cup record: Rookie

Rolex Ranking: 15th

Grant is one of the two rookie Swedes this week along with Maja Stark, and it is expected that she will be a regular Solheim Cup participant for years to come.

Grant was part of the winning Swedish team in the 2018, 2019 and 2020 renewals of the European Ladies Team Championship and was also on the winning International team in the 2020 Arnold Palmer Cup.

Grant has been a regular winner since turning pro in 2021, gaining five wins on the LET, including an incredible nine-stroke victory in the Scandinavian Mixed.

She transferred that winning stateside to the LPGA this year, winning the Dana Open.

Georgia Hall (England)

Solheim Cup record: 7-5-1

Rolex Ranking: 16th

Hall is making her fourth Solheim Cup appearance this week after debuting in 2017. She is a rock for the European side, having played in 13 of 15 possible matches.

She has an excellent foursomes record, not only with Celine Boutier, but she won both foursomes matches in 2017 when paired with Anna Nordqvist. Hall was 4-for-4 in 2019 to tie Boutier for top scorer honors.

Hall was in good form earlier in the year when recording two second-place finishes in a row on the LPGA Tour and has maintained a solid level of form throughout the year.

Leona Maguire (Ireland)

Solheim Cup record: 4-0-1

Rolex Ranking: 17th

Maguire was the star of the show two years ago at Inverness winning 4 1/2 points from a possible five in her rookie appearance.

She won 2 1/2 of those points with Mel Reid last time, who doesn’t appear this time around. However, with her steady ball-striking and elite short game, she will be an asset to whomever she is partnered with this week.

Maguire has had some good periods of form this year, picking up a second LPGA success in the Meijer LPGA Classic in July; firing an excellent 8 under to close out that event.

Carlota Ciganda (Spain)

Solheim Cup record: 7-8-4

Rolex Ranking: 28th

Ciganda makes her sixth straight Solheim Cup appearance and has reason to be as enthused as anyone as the only Spaniard in the event for this first staging in Spain.

Ciganda is at her best in Sunday singles with a 3-1-1 career record.

Ciganda’s having a good year on tour, winning the Aramco Series Florida event, finishing third in the Women’s PGA and arriving here after a third in the Portland Classic on her latest start.

Anna Nordqvist (Sweden)

Solheim Cup record: 14-10-3

Rolex Ranking: 39th

Nordqvist is a playing assistant captain and the most experienced member of the European team, playing in her eighth Solheim Cup this week.

She is almost assuredly playing in the foursomes, having played 13 of the possible 14 matches since debuting in the event in 2009. However, she is 5-2 in fourballs as well, winning fourball matches in the last two Solheim Cups with team captain Pettersen. The question is how much the captain will rely on the team’s oldest player.

Nordqvist has had a solid year so far, with four top-10s in 17 starts, a best of third coming in the Women’s PGA Championship.

Maja Stark (Sweden)

Solheim Cup record: Rookie

Rolex Ranking: 40th

Stark is the second Swedish rookie (along with Grant) on Team Europe.

She played on each of those winning Swedish teams in the 2018, 2019 and 2020 European Ladies Team Championships and also took part in the International Crown earlier this year. Her Swedish side lost in the semifinals, but she did form a good fourballs partnership with Madelene Sagstrom, winning two and tying one of their three matches.

Stark has been a tad inconsistent in her first full LPGA season but did finish an impressive fourth in the Scottish Open just four starts ago.

Madelene Sagstrom (Sweden)

Solheim Cup record: 2-4-0

Rolex Ranking: 45th

The first of the captain’s picks is Madelene Sagstrom, who will be making her third appearance in the event. She played on the losing side in 2017 but returned to the fold in 2021, winning an important singles match over Ally Ewing.

Indeed, Sagstrom has won both of her singles matches (also in 2019 over Austin Ernst) in the event but has yet to pick up a point in the pairs. She likely will pair with Stark.

Gemma Dryburgh (Scotland)

Solheim Cup record: Rookie

Rolex Ranking: 55th

Dryburgh is another captain’s pick and the third and final rookie for Team Europe.

The Scot has some solid match-play experience, having gotten to the quarterfinals of the Bank of Hope Match Play on the LPGA Tour last year.

Dryburgh won on the LPGA Tour for the first time last year, taking home the Toto Japan Classic. She has not been able to duplicate last year’s victory, but she recorded a first major top-10 five starts ago with an eighth in the Evian Championship.

Emily Kristine Pedersen (Denmark)

Solheim Cup record: 3-4-0

Rolex Ranking: 121st

Pedersen will be playing her third Solheim Cup after getting a somewhat surprising captain’s pick this year.

She debuted in 2017 and had a forgettable week, losing each of her three matches but had much better luck when returning in 2021, winning three of four. This included the final match when she beat Danielle Kang to give Europe the outright victory.

While not in contention much this season, Pedersen has made nine of her last 10 cuts and formed a good partnership with Hull in 2021. Perhaps with Hull in peak form, Pedersen will not feel as much pressure knowing her partner can do much of the heavy lifting.

Caroline Hedwall (Sweden)

Solheim Cup record: 8-6-1

Rolex Ranking: 122nd

Hedwall is the final captain’s pick and another surprising selection. She makes her fifth appearance after playing on the winning teams in 2011, 2013 and 2019 and the losing side in 2015.

Hedwall is the only player in the history of the event to collect the full five points in this format, something she achieved in 2013. Nevertheless, she has won only one point from a possible six in her last two appearances.

Team USA

Captain: Stacy Lewis

Assistant captains: Morgan Pressel, Natalie Gulbis, Angela Stanford

Players

Lilia Vu

Solheim Cup record: Rookie

Rolex Ranking: 2nd

Vu is one of five rookies for Team USA and the highest-ranked player in the event, sitting at No. 2 in the world, courtesy of her two major wins this year, in the Chevron Championship and Women’s British Open.

She has plenty of team golf experience from her amateur days, with the standout performance coming in the 2018 Curtis Cup — a similar event that takes place between the U.S. and GB&I — winning four of her five matches as the USA demolished their GB&I counterparts 17-3.

Vu also played an encouraging part in the U.S. finishing third in the International Crown this year, gaining 2 1/2 points from a possible three in her fourballs matches when paired with Nelly Korda and also recorded a victory in her only singles match.

Nelly Korda

Solheim Cup record: 5-2-1

Rolex Ranking: 3rd

Nelly Korda enters her third Solheim Cup still searching for a first win after being on the losing side in each of the last two editions.

Having said that, she has performed in both events, taking 5 1/2 from a possible eight points and has shown mettle on the final day, winning both of her singles matches (2021 over Hall, 2019 over Hedwall). Although she has missed time with injuries the last two seasons, Nelly likely plays all five sessions.

Despite the injuries, Korda’s form this year has been excellent, with eight top-10s in 15 starts and a victory five starts ago in the Aramco Series London.

Allisen Corpuz

Solheim Cup record: Rookie

Rolex Ranking: 10th

Corpuz is the second 2023 major winner on the U.S. side — which came at Pebble Beach in the U.S. Women’s Open — and also the second rookie on the team.

She does have some high-class experience in a similar format at the 2021 Curtis Cup. She played three matches there and won each time; most notably winning both of her fourballs matches when paired with Rose Zhang. Her accurate ball-striking should make her a reliable partner.

Corpuz has continued to play some good golf since that major triumph, finishing second in the Dana Open and sixth in the Women’s British Open just four starts ago.

Megan Khang

Solheim Cup record: 1-3-2

Rolex Ranking: 14th

Khang makes her third appearance in the Solheim Cup after playing in the last two editions, but she arrives as an LPGA winner at last, having won the CPKC Women’s Open two starts ago.

Khang’s record in this event is not great with just one win in six matches, but she should be improved this time around and have a renewed sense of confidence after having finally won on the LPGA Tour.

Lexi Thompson

Solheim Cup record: 6-6-7

Rolex Ranking: 26th

Thompson has been a constant presence since making her debut in 2013 and will be playing her sixth Solheim Cup, making her the most experienced American.

She enjoyed some great success in this event in her early years, playing an integral part in the 2015 and 2017 winning sides, winning three points of a possible four on each occasion. However, with 2 1/2 points from a possible eight in her last two appearances, her Solheim Cup form has regressed.

Thompson has also been fairly inactive this year and has made only five cuts in 12 starts.

Jennifer Kupcho

Solheim Cup record: 2-1-1

Rolex Ranking: 29th

Kupcho, the 2022 Chevron Championship winner, enjoyed a promising Solheim Cup debut in 2021, striking up a good relationship with Lizette Salas to win 2 1/2 points from a possible three when paired together.

Except for two consecutive top-10s in July when second in the Mizuho Americas Open and sixth in the Meijer LPGA Classic, her form hasn’t been up to the level of many here, with her game looking a little flat.

Ally Ewing

Solheim Cup record: 2-5-1

Rolex Ranking: 30th

Ewing is making her third consecutive Solheim Cup appearance and is the first of the U.S. captain’s picks this year.

Ewing has two fourball wins with Angel Yin and Nelly Korda, but that is all she has to show for two Solheim Cup appearances.

Neverthless, she has been performing well of late, hitting the top 10 three times in her last five starts and finished fourth in the Kroger Queen City Championship in her most recent start, which was her best finish of the year.

Rose Zhang

Solheim Cup record: Rookie

Rolex Ranking: 32nd

Zhang makes her Solheim Cup debut this week just four months after turning professional. The 2020 U.S. Amateur winner and two-time NCAA champion looks bound for superstardom.

After all, she won on her first professional start in the Mizuho Americas Open in June. She then followed up by hitting the top 10 three times in majors over her next four starts.

Zhang has an abundance of winning experience in team events, having been on two winning Junior Solheim Cup teams and two winning Curtis Cup teams.

Danielle Kang

Solheim Cup record: 5-7-0

Rolex Ranking: 33rd

Kang is playing in her fourth Solheim Cup this week, having made her debut on the last U.S.-winning side in 2017.

She provided an important contribution there, winning three of her four matches but has taken only two points from a possible eight in her last two appearances.

Like Thompson, Kang has really struggled to find form this season.

Angel Yin

Solheim Cup record: 3-2-1

Rolex Ranking: 34th

Yin makes her third Solheim Cup appearance after playing both in 2017 and 2019. She is the second captain’s pick for the U.S. side.

Yin has never lost in singles and has two wins in four fourballs appearances but has yet to appear in foursomes.

Her unpredictable ball-striking may mean she is left out of those matches again. However, she has some strong showings this year, which includes a runner-up finish in the Chevron Championship and sixth in the Women’s British Open.

Andrea Lee

Solheim Cup record: Rookie

Rolex Ranking: 38th

Lee is the fourth rookie for the U.S., earning her way onto the team after a terrific breakthrough year in 2022 as she won her first LPGA title in the Portland Classic.

The Californian has twice been on the winning Junior Solheim Cup team and twice competed in the Curtis Cup, where she won half of her matches. Her match-play ability is further evidenced by a fourth-place finish in last year’s Bank of Hope Match Play.

Lee struggled for form at the beginning of the year but has found something over recent starts, finishing no worse than 13th in her last five events. She’s an excellent, precision ball-striker and with the putter starting to behave, she may end up being one of the U.S. team’s strongest performers this week.

Cheyenne Knight

Solheim Cup record: Rookie

Rolex Ranking: 49th

Knight is the final rookie and captain’s pick. She is a bit of a wild card as the least experienced player on the team.

Having said that, she won her second LPGA trophy this year in the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational; a stroke-play pairs event.

Knight’s better early-season form has deserted her over recent starts, but she’s an accurate ball-striking type with a good touch on and around the greens.

Selections

Charley Hull — Top European Points Scorer (6-1, DraftKings)

While she does not have a victory in 2023, Hull has four runner-up finishes in her last seven worldwide starts.

This is her opportunity to cement her career year by being the best player on the European side.

Europe to Win (+100, DraftKings)

While the Americans have the more talented team, especially at the top with Nelly Korda, Rose Zhang and Lilia Vu, the Europeans’ experience will be too much to overcome, and Team Europe’s captain Suzann Pettersen is one of the fiercest competitors in the history of the sport. That will translate to her team.

Solheim Cup matchups will be posted later in the week at VSiN.com/picks

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Wes Reynolds
Wes Reynolds writes a weekly golf column and contributes NFL and college football best bet write-ups throughout the season. He is the co-host of VSiN Tonight (9 p.m.-12 a.m. ET, M-F), The Lookahead (Sunday nights), and the Long Shots golf podcast. He has a Masters in Athletic Administration and Sport Management from Indiana University and previously worked in sales and marketing for the Indiana Pacers, Indiana U., and the Indiana Firebirds (AFL).