With a little less than five months to go until the opening shots of the Solheim Cup, the biennial competition between the best women golfers of Europe and the United States, The Chevron Championship offered an initial chance to assess the Europeans potential on paper, on camera, and on the course.
“This Solheim Cup team is potentially the strongest we have ever looked,” Suzann Pettersen, who will captain the European squad in September at Finca Cortesin in Southern Spain said recently.
On paper, the Europeans arrived at the first mayor of the year with a record number of 10 players among the top 50 in the Rolex World Rankings, including our very own Leona Maguire. Eight of them qualified to play at The Club at Carlton Woods. Six were still competing on the weekend, with Swiss player Albane Valenzuela finishing the best of the Europeans in T4, followed by Spaniard Carlota Ciganda and England’s Georgia Hall at T12.
“It is going to be a young team with players like Leona Maguire. You have two players who had a great start of the year, Georgia Hall and Céline Boutier. And you have very solid players like Linn Grant and Maja Stark,” said Ciganda, with five participations in the Solheim Cup, about her potential teammates.
As of today, based on the Ladies European Tour and Rolex World Rankings, Maguire (Ireland), Hall (England), Boutier (France), Charley Hull (England), and four Swedish players – Grant, Stark, Madelene Sagstrom, and Anna Nordqvist – have spots on the European team.
“I think we are going to have a very strong and very young team. And we are going to have a fair chance of winning,” said 23-year-old Stark, with a win at the 2022 ISPS Handa World Invitational and four top 10s in less than two years on the LPGA Tour.
“It is always nice to see Europeans in the mix. There is a long way to go until August and September, but it is always nice to see some European names high up on the leaderboard this season,” said 28-year Maguire, an important part of the winning team at the last Solheim Cup in US soil in 2021.
Except for Valenzuela, the Asian and American players dominated the top of the leaderboard, with Californian Lilia Vu beating compatriot Angel Yin in a playoff, while Nelly Korda completed a USA 1-2-3 in third.
“During majors you have the most demanding courses and setups, and very demanding conditions. They are a good test to help figure out which players have more potential for the Solheim Cup,” said Boutier, with the highest world ranking (eighth) among the Europeans and three career victories on the LPGA Tour, most recently at the 2023 LPGA Drive On Championship at Superstition Mountain.
On the other side of the paper, there are 12 American players among the top 50 of the Rolex World Rankings and, in the last decade, 11 U.S. players have won majors, versus only five Europeans. That series of victories started in 2013 with Pettersen winning of the Amundi Evian Championship, and the U.S. Team Captain, Stacy Lewis, winning the AIG Women’s British Open.
With 13 wins on the LPGA Tour and four Solheim Cup appearances, 38-year-old Lewis is mindful of the fact that, in that same 10-year period, the Europeans have grabbed the Solheim Cup three times, versus two wins for the Americans.
“I am looking for them to just get some experience of playing on the big stages and playing in front of the bigger crowds when things matter a little bit more,” said Lewis about the potential members of the 2023 U.S. Solheim Cup Team playing at The Chevron.
But the U.S. captain is also checking out the competition. “I am (watching the Europeans) and they’re making me a little bit nervous, to be honest,” Lewis said. “The young Europeans are playing so good. Linn Grant is obviously not here, but Maja Stark has started off great (in the last 12 months), Georgia has been on a tear lately. I’m watching what the Europeans are doing, too, because you’ve got to know who you’re playing against.”
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