Sat, 09 Dec 2023

Young U.S. Solheim Cup team bonding in underdog role

Field Level Media
22 Sep 2023, 02:19 GMT+10

(Photo credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports)

Both captains have acknowledged that the United States is the underdog entering this week's Solheim Cup.

The Europeans are the two-time defending champions as they seek a three-peat on home soil in Spain. They also have a significant edge in experience, averaging 28.25 years of age to the Americans' 25.83.

Among the 12-player rosters, Europe has three rookies and a combined 62-43-13 Solheim Cup record. By comparison the U.S. is a combined 24-26-3 in past Cups and have five rookies on their roster.

"Our rookies also have three major championships," said Nelly Korda, herself a major champion.

While United States captain Stacy Lewis acknowledged the Europeans are the favorites this week, some of her veteran players are also reminding people that the Americans have impressive resumes in their own right.

Korda has been ranked No. 1 multiple times in her young career. She's currently No. 3, with the top 10 also including USA teammates Lilia Vu (No. 2) and Allisen Corpuz (No. 9). Corpuz won this year's U.S. Women's Open, while Vu captured the first major of the year at the Chevron Championship.

They are two of Lewis' five rookies. Another, Rose Zhang, won her first career start as a pro in June and followed it up with top-10s in each of the next three majors. Cheyenne Knight has also won this year, while Andrea Lee enters the Solheim Cup with no worse than a T13 in her past five starts.

"I joke that our rookies aren't really rookies," Megan Khang said ahead of her third Solheim Cup. "I think both teams are stacked very well. We have a little more rookies on our team, but it's going to be a good week to watch some golf."

The American team is also leaning heavily on the wealth of experience Lewis has compiled among her assistants. Natalie Gulbis, Morgan Pressel and Angela Stanford are all Solheim Cup veterans who will be walking with the groups along the hilly terrain at Finca Cortesin.

"Morgan came out and walked with Angel (Yin) and Lexi (Thompson) and me," Khang said after Thursday's practice round. "There were some missed shots we hit, and Morgan is right there telling us, like, 'Hey, it's OK. ... Let's hit another one. Let's do this. Let's do that.' Telling us and reassuring us that it's OK today to have these missed shots.

"Missed shots are going to happen. Knowing that your assistant captain, your partner and your captain, your whole entire team is going to be like, 'Hey, we're all trying our best.' I think that's definitely a huge part in this environment and team golf that we don't get to play often."

Khang said the U.S. team is working its way through jet lag since arriving in Spain on Sunday, but bonding over bus rides and team meals.

"We brought a speaker on the bus and kind of pumped each other up to like get us in a mood, like, 'Hey, we're in Spain, we are here representing our country being, let's get it going," she said. "So, just kind of like bringing the mood up, letting everyone know that we are here to crush it out here and just do our best and have fun while we're doing it.

"And let's kind of keep the positive energy going from the start and kind of finish out the week that way."

--Field Level Media

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