The Solheim Cup
The 18th Solheim Cup matches are set to take place this week in Andalucía, Spain. Just a little north up the south east coast above Gibraltar, Finca Cortesin will host 24 of the best players Europe and America has to offer. The matches started back in 1990. The American side holds a 10-7 edge in the previous 17. Both teams have winning records at home (US 7-2, Europe 5-3) and losing records away (US 3-5, Europe 2-7). The European team is going for three cup wins in a row!
Currently, the odds to win are basically even between the two teams. The moneyline for Team USA is +115 and Team Europe +100. If you can’t decide who will win feel free to wager a tie between the two sides at +1300.
Finca Cortesin is a beautiful golf destination with amazing topography and stunning sunrise views set overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The hillside terrain layout covers over five miles from start to finish. The par 71 scorecard stretches 6,318 yards. The routing offers nine par 4s, four par 5s, and five par 3s. Those par 3s will have a huge effect on the matches. They have an average length of 183 yards and three of them will be contested over the final nine holes. All four par 5s are reachable and will also provide incredible scoring swings. Those nine par 4s average just 377 yards in length and six of the nine are under 400 yards.
The golf course has been re-routed for the matches. Players will begin play on hole four and then followed by five, six, three, one, and two. Starting on hole 7, the remainder of the holes will be played in order. This new routing gives us two par 5s in the first four holes and a drivable par 4 over water at the start of each match! Watch as teams must attack the course early or find themselves behind before they get close to the turn.
The field of 24 will face 107 bunkers and tons of elevation changes. That five mile plus walk will include nearly 600 feet in elevation change from start to finish. Course conditions are impeccable as this region of Spain has been dry and warm. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday we expect temperatures in the high 70s. We may see a slight shower on Wednesday which will only soften the top layer of soil. Sitting alongside the sea, the forecast also calls for wind. On Friday and Saturday, it should be in the high teens and Sunday's breeze will be blowing over 20 mph. One more challenge for these ladies to face amid incredible team pressure.
The Solheim Cup has a special format and one that must be carefully considered before we go ahead and pick the winner. The competition will begin on Friday morning with four foursomes (alternate shot) matches.
- Foursome's play is better known as alternate shot. Each team will determine who tees off on the odd holes and the other partner will tee off on the even holes. Once they tee off, the players alternate until the ball is holed.
The afternoon complement to the morning matches will be four fourball matches.
- Fourball is easy to remember since there are four balls in play. Each team of two players takes their best score and matches it against the other team's best score.
Both forms of play use match play scoring where teams can win, lose, or halve (tie) a hole. Once a team is up more holes than there are left, the match is decided. Each match is worth a point if you win and a half point if tied after 18 holes. The same morning and afternoon schedule will be followed again on Saturday. Sunday concludes with 12 individual singles matches. The first team to 14.5 points will be the winner. Should the two teams tie at 14 points, the Solheim Cup will be retained by the team who currently holds it, in this case Europe.
Team USA is led by the number one (Lilia Vu) and two (Nelly Korda) ranked players in the world. The team's average world ranking is 24. The US side has an average age of 26 years old and has five Solheim rookies on the roster for Captain Stacy Lewis. The remainder of the team has participated in 15 Solheim Cups and compiled an aggregate record of 24-26-13. Keep in mind, the US side has lost two straight Solheims. We have youth and a potent team at the very top but slip past our first four players and the list gets a little less intimidating.
The Europe side has played in 31 Solheim Cups. Only three rookies populate their roster, and the aggregate team record is 62-43-13! Although their average age is 28 and average world ranking is 42, they hold a heavy edge in experience over the American side. Eight players have played in two or more matches. Captain Suzann Pettersen holds a much stronger hand of matchup possibilities pairing veterans with first timers.
Solheim Cup starts in...
Who will reign in Spain?
Let's breakdown both sides so we can pick a Solheim Cup winner. Each will have their hands full from a ball striking perspective. As mentioned above, Finca Cortesin is built on the side of hill. Not only will the ladies have a difficult walk, but they also won’t face many level lies to play from. If ball striking is the first indicator, then I fear for the US side. Even though Europe has a higher average world ranking they are much better tee to green. Take the teams as a whole and compare the average T2G ranking, and Europe is ten below the Americans. We have five players ranked higher than 40 T2G on the LPGA.
Five par 3s will be exciting. They will also give the best approach players a decided edge. One swing with an iron and you can win a hole. Europe holds the strokes gained edge in approach play. They consistently hit the ball closer than their competitors. With those five 3s, and six par 4s under 400 yards the course will play short. The better you drive the ball, the closer those approaches will be. Partner golf in fourball is all about aggressive play. The Europeans are also better on average off the tee.
Four reachable par 5s combined with the other medium sized holes will favor the team who drives it best especially in team play. One area the US is better is around the green. Although I fear if you need to chip, you are probably just halving holes. Hopefully, their short game skill will serve them well on the short 4s and reachable par 5s. The odds in ball striking are stacked up against the red, white, and blue. Europe also has a much lower team scoring average on tour and comparable BoB% abilities.
The short, dog leg, unique par 4s will add a great deal of intrigue to each match. The variety of skills required to birdie each of them runs you through the full complement of skills needed to play successful golf. The Europeans are statistically much better at par 4 scoring than us. I was hopeful we may have an edge there, but we don't. These last three scoring stats I mentioned tell a very specific story. Our American women will have to play over their regular season long statistics.
The Solheim Cup can propel players to exceed expectations. Passion can sometimes push you past an opponent or two. These matches are always won on the greens. When you look down the strokes gained putting for both sides, the difference between our Americans and the Europeans is quite alarming. We have eight players ranked eightieth or higher on the LPGA tour in putting. The Europeans have four ranked that far down the list. Even if the ball striking catches up, our flatsticks need a serious amount of favor from the golf gods.
The Americans have five rookies. Combine that with Lexi Thompson who has missed five of her last six cuts; who can you hide through 16 team matches? Experience is probably the strongest strokes gained category in any international match and we severely lack it. Our aggregate team record is below .500 and the Euros are 62-43-13! There's an edge this week to make some serious money. Kind of reminds me of those old ziploc commercials... combine blue with yellow and you get green.
Match winner - Solheim Cup
Placements, Props, and H2H's... (LPGA) *Solheim Cup extra!
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The Solheim Cup match pairings will be announced prior to each round starting with the Opening Ceremonies on Thursday morning (Remember Spain is six hours ahead!). Once published, I'll research the best bets and present my live wagers on social media. Here are the RTL links: TWITTER, INSTAGRAM, TIKTOK. The same format holds true next week for the Ryder Cup.
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More matches next week!
The Ryder Cup takes center stage in Rome.
The LPGA returns to action in Arkansas.
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