Scotland’s Catriona Matthew led Europe into action this morning as the all-important singles matches were under way in the 12th Solheim Cup at Killeen Castle in Ireland.
The 2009 Ricoh Women’s British Open champion is up against the formidable Paula Creamer in the top singles as both sides endeavour to win the final series and capture the most prestigious team trophy in women’s golf.
The score is tied at 8 matches all heading into the 12 singles and if the statistics are to be believed the odds lie heavily in favour of the visitors winning the trophy for the ninth time in 12 starts.
On each of the three previous occasions Europe won the Solheim Cup (in 1992, 1998 and 2003) they led heading into the singles so the home side will have to achieve something unprecedented if they are to claim a place in the history books this afternoon. They will also have to perform better than at Rich Harvest Farms, Illinois, two years ago when they shared the points 8-8 going into the singles but succumbed by a four point margin in the end.
Europe has only ever won three singles series (1992, 1998 and 2003) but if that is a sobering statistic for the home fans it should be remembered that golf is not a game played on paper and that there is considerable evidence to suggest The 2011 European Solheim Cup team has more strength in depth than arguably all of its predecessors.
Certainly, European Captain Alison exuded no panic last night, despite her side losing the second series of fourballs by 3-1.
“I’m very confident in my players,” she insisted in the same feisty way she used to play her golf. “I knew it was always going to be about tomorrow (the singles). I know they’re up for it and they’re feeling good.”
Nicholas said that in past matches tiredness had often being a factor heading into the singles but she suggested it would not be a problem this time because she had been able to rest key players in the lead up to the final day.
“In the past we’ve played a lot of players five times and they’ve been exhausted coming into the singles,” she said. “I think we’ve always been aware we’ve overplayed players before the singles. I deliberately set out to rest players so we’re ready to take them on tomorrow.
“That was my strategy,” she added. “We will see if it works.”
For the first time ever it has been the Americans who have had to work their most influential players harder heading into the singles matches.
“Yesterday afternoon was huge for us,” a delighted US Captain, Rosie Jones, said last night before admitting her team’s fightback had not come without a cost.
“Today was hard for us as far as the pairings were concerned,” she said.
“I never imagined not playing everybody each day but, with a two point deficit, I felt I had to get our big guns back on the golf course and figure out some good pairings that would shake it up a little bit.
“When I came in, I had no intention of playing anybody in five matches because I didn’t want to tire them out.
“So, yeah, I’m a little bit worried about them,” she added. “I want them to rest up. I wish I could have rested them. I wish we had a three point lead, but I didn’t. I had a two shot deficit. I needed to do whatever I had to do.”
The scene is set for arguably the most competitive singles series in the history of the contest and the European team will head out with one piece of vital advice ringing in their ears.
Both Nicholas and her most experienced player, Laura Davies, said it was vital that each player should concentrate on her job and her job alone. Scoreboard watching is a no-no, for this afternoon at least.
“Absoutely,” said Nicholas. “They’ve got to go out there selfishly and go get their points and not look at the scoreboard. You’ve got to take care of your own business.
“Obviously, anyone would have preferred to go in with the lead. But what it is, is what it is and we have to deal with it. We will go forward. Everyone has their own point to win.”
Singles draw (Europe names first)
10:10 Catriona Matthew v Paula Creamer
10:20 Sophie Gustafson v Stacy Lewis
10:30 Anna Nordqvist v Morgan Pressel
10:40 Laura Davies v Juli Inkster
10:50 Melissa Reid v Vicky Hurst
11:00 Christel Boeljon v Brittany Lincicome
11:10 Sandra Gal v Brittany Lang
11:20 Maria Hjorth v Christina Kim
11:30 Suzann Pettersen v Michelle Wie
11:40 Caroline Hedwall v Ryann O’Toole
11:50 Azahara Muñoz v Angela Stanford
12:00 Karen Stupples v Cristie Kerr