By Jack Bantock, CNN
(CNN) — Hold onto your hats, the Solheim Cup is back.
Two years after suffering a dramatic 13-15 home defeat in Ohio, United States captain Stacy Lewis and her team touch down at Finca Cortesin Golf Club in Andalucia, Spain, desperate to prevent a first ever European three-peat.
For European captain Suzann Pettersen, it’s an opportunity to extend her glittering Solheim Cup résumé and close the gap. In the 17 bouts since the first edition of the event at Lake Nona, Florida, in 1990, the United States leads 10-7.
On Friday, the chase continues.
How to watch
Golf Channel and Peacock are handling coverage in the US, broadcasting from 2 a.m.
ET on Friday and Saturday, then from 5 a.m. ET for Sunday’s deciding day.
Viewers in the UK can follow the action on Sky Sports Golf, who are showing the first two days of play from 6:30 a.m. BST before beginning Sunday’s coverage at 9 a.m.
For more information on how to watch, check the LPGA website here.
Two teams of 12, three days of action, 28 points up for grabs.
The opening ceremony will be staged at the nearby Marbella Arena from 5 p.m. BST (12 p.m. ET) on Thursday, before play gets underway with a morning session of foursomes matches teeing off from 7:10 a.m. BST (2:10 a.m. ET) on Friday.
The foursomes format – also known as alternate shot – sees two golfers team up to face off against an opposing pair, alternating hits of the same ball.
Each match at the tournament is worth one point, with the points halved in the event of a tie.
From 12:40 p.m. BST (7:40 a.m. ET), the four-ball games begin. Again, it works in a two vs. two setup, but this time, each golfer plays their own ball. The lowest score recorded by either player in the pair is the one registered for that hole, hence the format’s other name, four-ball better-ball (4BBB).
That schedule is repeated Saturday to reach a total of eight foursome matches and eight four-ball matches before Sunday’s finale: the single’s contests.
Starting from 10:10 a.m. BST (5:10 a.m. ET), 12 straight shoot-out matches will be staged, with each member of both teams sent out to fight for points.
When the dust settles, the team with the most points wins. If it’s a draw, the defending team – in this case, Europe – retains the trophy. Despite a number of close contests, there has never been a tie in the 33-year history of the Solheim Cup.
Team Europe: Project three-peat
Captain: Suzann Pettersen
Non-playing vice-captains: Laura Davies, Caroline Martens
Automatic selections: Céline Boutier, Maja Stark, Charley Hull, Leona Maguire, Georgia Hall, Linn Grant, Carlota Ciganda, Anna Nordqvist (playing vice-captain)
Captain’s picks: Madelene Sagström, Gemma Dryburgh, Emily Kristine Pedersen, Caroline Hedwall
Playing on home soil and led by one of the tournament’s most experienced figures, Europe will fancy their chances of a third consecutive victory.
Norway’s Pettersen made nine appearances as a player at the event, three short of Laura Davies’ all-time record, going 18-12-6 across 36 matches. Four of those outings ended in wins, including an iconic walk-off birdie to clinch a win for Europe on her last ever Solheim Cup appearance in 2019 at Gleneagles.
Her leadership style has already impressed some of her players, including Ireland’s Maguire.
“She’s obviously very competitive, she has an unbelievable record, so we really want to win for her,” Maguire told reporters Tuesday.
“She’s been great, very open, very transparent with everything this week, communicating a lot with what she’s thinking about pairings and different things. She’s trying to get all of our inputs and really wants what’s best for the team.
“Ultimately, we have to hit the shots, so it’s a little bit out of her control, but she’s been really good so far.”
In Céline Boutier, the captain can call upon a 2023 major winner; the French star brimming with confidence after a comprehensive victory on home soil at the Evian Championship in July. The 29-year-old, Europe’s highest ranked player at world No. 5, boasts a brilliant Solheim Cup record too: two wins from two appearances and a 5-1-1 match record.
Does that add any pressure to maintain a flawless run? Not for Boutier.
“I don’t think we really are worrying about the expectations right now,” she said.
“We’re just trying to prepare the best that we can. Trying to figure out the pairings and do the best with what we have with what we’re being paired with and against, and I think just worry about the results later.
“We can only give our best and I feel like we should be pretty satisfied if everything goes according to the plan.”
World No. 8 Hull adds a second golfer inside the world’s top 10 and another player with a strong Solheim Cup pedigree. The Englishwoman has triumphed on three of her five appearances at the tournament, winning on her 2013 debut as the youngest player ever to tee up at a Solheim Cup.
In Dryburgh, Grant, and Stark, Team Europe takes three Solheim Cup rookies to Andalucia, two shy of the United States’ five.
Team USA: Revenge tour
Captain: Stacy Lewis
Non-playing vice-captains: Morgan Pressel, Natalie Gulbis, Angela Stanford
Automatic selections: Lilia Vu, Nelly Korda, Allisen Corpuz, Megan Khang, Jennifer Kupcho, Danielle Kang, Andrea Lee, Lexi Thompson, Rose Zhang
Captain’s picks: Ally Ewing, Angel Yin
Lewis will be determined to halt the losing slide and can call on a star-studded arsenal of talent in her attempt to do so.
On form and silverware, the visitors outmuscle Europe. World No. 2 Vu spearheads the charge as a two-time major winner this year and is the highest-ranked player at the tournament, and she’s joined by 2023 US Open champion Corpuz.
Korda makes it 3-2 to the US in terms of players inside the world’s top 10 and joins Kupcho in adding another player that has won a major within the last two seasons.
There’s also a wealth of Solheim Cup experience in the ranks, with Thompson making her sixth appearance.
“It means the world to me to be able to play in the Solheim Cup,” Thompson said.
“I know every year that … it’s that year playing. It’s my No. 1 goal to be on that team to be able to represent my country. It’s my favorite event by far.
“There’s nothing like waking up, putting country’s colors on and going to represent and be alongside a team at that.”
Yet close to half the team has never played a senior Solheim Cup. Vu, Corpuz, Knight, Lee and Zhang will all make their debuts in Spain, yet Kang has no concerns about a lack of experience affecting performance.
Zhang in particular is a prime example of rookie status being no barrier to success. The 20-year-old Stanford University student has enjoyed a remarkable debut season on the LPGA Tour after turning pro in May, winning in historic fashion on her first start and recording top-10 finishes at three majors.
“Rookies or veterans, I think our team is really strong and they have been playing really great golf. We’ve got multiple major champions this year,” Kang said.
“It doesn’t matter if you’ve been a rookie or a third time on Solheim Cup, they all act like their own leaders and they know how to approach their own games, and I think it’s very inspiring to see, no matter who it may be, so I really get inspired by my entire team.”
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