Players to watch at the Solheim Cup — Must-click women’s golf links
The IX: Golf Thursday with Addie Parker, Sept. 21, 2023
Well, the time has come…we’re one day (Happy Golf Thursday, by the way) away from the start of the 18th Solheim Cup in Andalusia, Spain and the excitement is reaching a peak. September has served as a month-long countdown for us, and all the speculation and predictions will finally be put to rest this weekend. Which players will have a standout week? Which team will come out victorious? Only time will tell, but there are a few key players on each team to watch out for.
Team USA: Lilia Vu
This should come as no surprise—all eyes will be on the world No.1 as she makes her Solheim Cup debut. Vu started this season firing on all cylinders, winning twice in her first five starts. She’s won three times this season, including two majors at the Chevron Championship and the AIG Open. We saw Vu and Nelly Korda team up at the International Crown earlier this season, so she’s already had a bit of match play experience already and she did quite well despite Team USA failing to make the finals.
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Despite her being a “rookie”, Vu has proven that she can rise to the occasion in the big moments. I expect her to have some big time moments this weekend.
Team Europe: Charley Hull
Charley Hull has experienced a bit of a renaissance this season on the LPGA tour. She won her second LPGA event last year, and despite being win-less this season, she’s finished in second place four times, the most recent being at the Kroger Queen City Championship in Cincinnati and at the AIG Open.
Hull is one of the more experienced players at the cup this week, and her impact on Team Europe is quite underrated. Her overall record is 11-5-3 accumulating 12.5 points for Team Europe over her five cups. In her sixth appearance, this week, Hull is going to be a clear leader of the team. Her experience combined with her success will bode well for the Europeans and you better believe they’re going to take full advantage of Hull’s skills.
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Team USA: Lexi Thompson
This is Thompson’s sixth appearance on the U.S. Solheim Cup Team, making her the most Solheim Cup experienced player on Team USA. There was doubt surrounding if Thompson would even make the team this year. Her game has been shaky at best, and her recovery will be critical if Americans win the cup back.
Much like Justin Thomas on the men’s side with the Ryder Cup, just because a player is out of form does not mean they can’t contribute to the team. The Solheim Cup and the nature of match play is a holistic experience. There’s so many aspects to what shapes a team, which Thompson and captain Stacy Lewis know better than all of us. If Lexi Thompson can play freely, she will perform well. I can see her being partnered with perhaps Rose Zhang or Megan Khang, solid and stable players, who will just let Lexi be Lexi. The Americans need her length off the tee, and they need her fired up.
Team Europe: Linn Grant
This is Grant’s first time representing Europe at the Solheim Cup and she will definitely bring the heat. The Swede shot onto the scene with her historic victory in 2022 at the Volvo Car Scandinavian Mixed, becoming the first woman to win a mixed event…and she won by nine shots. Winning five times on the LET over the last two seasons, and once on the LPGA at the Dana Open, Grant has proven herself to be a force and will bring fire power to this Euro squad.
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Team USA: Rose Zhang
I mean, do I really even have to explain this one? She’s been the belle of the ball since turning pro and subsequently winning her debut tournament. She also has had three out of four top-10 finishes at the majors she’s competed in this season (she missed Chevron because she was winning the ANWA).
I love Rose. You love Rose. America loves Rose.
Team Europe: Carlota Ciganda
As the resident Spaniard this week, Carlota Ciganda will have the crowd on her side.
When asked if she’s feeling any pressure playing in her home country this week, Ciganda said, “I think more than pressure it’s just going to be excitement, adrenaline, and just fun. I’m going to embrace it and I think it’s going to be great to have all the support from Spain, from my family, lots of members from my club. So I’m just going to try to go out there and enjoy. I know I’m going to feel nervous and I’m going to feel that adrenaline. I know I can play great golf with that, so I’m just going to enjoy and embrace every moment.”
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Five at The IX: Quotes from Team USA vets Ally Ewing, Danielle Kang and Lexi Thompson
Q: Ally, welcome to Spain for your third Solheim Cup. In 2019 you took Stacy Lewis’ place to play in your first Solheim Cup and this year she’s your captain. How does that feel for you and how excited are you to be under her captainship this year?
ALLY EWING: Yeah, it’s great. Obviously when Stacy was announced, huge respect for her as a competitor, as a golfer, obviously. Her resume speaks for itself. It’s just an exciting time. We’ve got a great team and a great list of captains here that are going to work really hard and do our best to represent the U.S. and try to get the Cup back.
Q: Amazing. Lexi, this will be your sixth Solheim Cup appearance. Can you tell us what it means to you to have qualified for the Solheim Cup so many times and what your expectations for your sixth playing are this year?
LEXI THOMPSON: It means the world to me to be able to play on the Solheim Cup. I know every year that I know 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.
Q: Danielle, you’re also a veteran on the team this year, and I know you love representing your country. How much do you love representing your country and being here on the Solheim Cup team?
DANIELLE KANG: Well, anytime you get to wear the red white and blue and represent your country at any level of competition it’s a big honor. My entire team, and I can speak for, you know, everyone that we come out here to represent it as best as we can and we’ve been preparing for this, so just excited.
Q. What’s it like to embrace that leadership role on the team with so many rookies on it?
DANIELLE KANG: Oh. I didn’t even know we had that many rookies. I think, if you look at it, I mean, throughout the entire year for two years everyone plays their own game and competes against each other, competes against the field, but rookies or veterans or not, I think our team is really strong and they have been playing really great golf. We’ve got multiple major champions this year.
Q. Is it true you travel with your putter, with a putter with you?
DANIELLE KANG: I do travel with my putter separately, yes, in a rifle case, because my putter is a different model, so we don’t have the bending machine for it, and it bends a lot during travel, so I put it in a separate case to travel with because I don’t have the means to get my putter checked every week and, yes, the clubs do get bent on the plane and, yes, they matter, to all the people wondering.
So thankfully the putter didn’t get lost. But it’s okay. The other 13 are coming. It’s coming. We have faith. Stacy is on it. I mean, she’s putting out fires, and I’m pretty sure I’m the only one causing fire right now.
Q. Tell us your thoughts on the course so far.
ALLY EWING: It’s great. It’s obviously in spectacular shape. I don’t know how much play there’s been recently or, you know, over the course of the year, but it’s in really good shape.
Q. I guess for all three of you, if you’re interested in answering. This is the first time we’ve really had statistics to kind of look at when y’all are building up your partnerships. How cool is it, to the three of you have played in an era of pre-statistics, to now come to a Solheim, have that information to rely on and help build your all’s routine matchups this week.
LEXI THOMPSON: Yeah, it’s something I guess that we haven’t really done in the past. I think it’s a great source for us that we’ve been able to really look on in being able to team up our matches. Not that we’ve done that, but we kind of have a really a better idea about it. So I think it’s definitely a little bit of an advantage, for sure. We’re pairing up the best that we can with whoever we’re paired with.
DANIELLE KANG: I actually really like it because when Stacy calls me and tells me that my make percentage is whatever, I’m like, Yeah, great. My up-and-down rate is — it’s like Danielle, your percentage of whatever, whatever, and then she gives me the stats, and I go, Numbers don’t lie, man. One plus one equals two. I love it. Just keep telling me my stats.
So I personally like it and I can really trust numbers and factual things on that. So I’ve really appreciated the statistics coming in.
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