The Americans have dominated the Solheim Cup with eight wins from 11 meetings, but they were playing it cool on the opening practice day of the 12th match against Europe at Killeen Castle in Ireland. “Playing away from home makes a huge difference,” warned Angela Stanford, a 33-year-old playing in her fourth Solheim. “I was in the team that lost in Sweden in 2003 and I think this is probably the strongest European side that I have played against. “They are consistent and solid throughout and they are all in great form. They also know the course really well and we are going to have our work cut out to win. I definitely think we are the underdogs.”A big plus for the Europeans is that the AIB Ladies’ Irish Open has been staged at Killeen Castle for the past two years – and Solheim Cup veterans were victorious. Sophie Gustafson triumphed last year and Suzann Pettersen reigned supreme just a few weeks ago. Gustafson, playing in her eighth Solheim, is something of a course specialist in Ireland and will play a major role for Alison Nicholas’s side this week. The Swede has won the Irish Open on four occasions and also triumphed, with Carin Koch, in the 2000 Ladies’ World Cup of Golf at Adare Manor. For two of the most effervescent members of the USA team – Christina Kim and Michelle Wie – it is a first away fixture. Wie was a star as a rookie at Rich Harvest Farms two years ago, contributing 3.5 points to the 16-12 winning margin.“Last time I felt like a freshman just starting college and now I’m a sophomore,” was how Wie summed up her standing. “It’s nice to see the younger kids on our team. But, for me, this is a new experience playing in Europe and it is the first time that I have been to Ireland.”Wie has combined life as a professional with the demands of studying for a degree – she is majoring in Communications – at the prestigious Stanford University in California. She insists the distraction has helped her golf. “I didn’t have a normal childhood. I lived in the spotlight and my parents came with me everywhere,” she explained. “Going to college was a step to growing up. It was also my goal from the age of four. My Dad didn’t get in to Stanford but my grandpa, aunt and uncle all taught there. I hope to graduate next year – it’s definitely been a great decision for me.”