TOLEDO, Ohio – The 17th Solheim Cup begins on Saturday at the Inverness Club, an historic Donald Ross design that has played host to four U.S. Opens and two PGA Championships.
Home soil has been good to Team USA. The Americans have won seven of eight contests they’ve hosted. Of course, that one loss was a doozie: Europe won the 2013 contest at Colorado Golf Club by eight points, the biggest thrashing in Cup history.
Europe also won the last contest in 2019 at Gleneagles in dramatic fashion, with Suzann Pettersen draining the winning putt and then retiring on the spot. She’s back as a vice captain for Catriona Matthew, who will try to become the first European captain to win twice.
Here are five things to look for this week in Toledo.
1. Year of the Kordas rolls on
The Solheim Cup is a team affair, of course, but given that it’s the “Year of the Kordas” – with the sisters winning a combined four times on the LPGA plus Nelly’s Olympic gold – fans get a bonus this week because they’ll likely see Team Korda in action several times. At the 2019 Solheim at Gleneagles, Jessica and Nelly went 2-0 together in foursomes, crushing opponents, 6&4 and 6&5. It’s kind of hard to believe that this is only Jessica’s third Solheim Cup. She has a career 4-2-2 record. Nelly went 3-0-1 in her 2019 debut at Gleneagles.
Nelly Korda and Jessica Korda of Team United States laugh together during a practice round ahead of the start of The Solheim Cup at Inverness Club on September 01, 2021 in Toledo, Ohio. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Neither of the Kordas have been on a winning U.S. Solheim Cup team, so a victory at Inverness would certainly elevate their already terrific year. “It’s been hectic,” said Nelly of what has felt like four majors in a row, with the Olympics and Solheim added to the Amundi Evian and AIG Women’s British Open. “But I’ve loved every single minute of it. It’s been a surreal year so far, and hopefully we can make it even better this year or this week.”
2. Why is Bubba Watson at Inverness?
For starters, Watson will be taking part in the BMW Celebrity Match on Sept. 2 at 2 p.m. ET at Inverness along with Darius Rucker, Nancy Lopez and Juli Inkster to name a few. Hurst said Watson called a few weeks ago to ask how he could help out. Watson has been in Team USA’s locker room telling stories and walking along during practice rounds. “He was talking to Danielle (Kang) about a chip shot,” said assistant captain Angela Stanford. “They were talking about different ways, how to hit different shots, and I think that’s really cool. I mean, I think it’s, he’s available, and I think that’s what makes it so special is you just have, you have a major champion, multiple major champion, another one walking around and being helpful. I think that was the cool part. I just kind of stood back and watched that and watched them interact and it was really cool.”
Team United States pose for a team photo with Bubba Watson during a practice round ahead of the start of The Solheim Cup at Inverness Club on September 01, 2021 in Toledo, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
3. A breakdown of the pods
Nelly Korda, Ally Ewing, and Megan Khang of Team United States walk together during a practice round ahead of the start of The Solheim Cup at Inverness Club on September 01, 2021 in Toledo, Ohio. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
U.S. captain Pat Hurst has carried on the pod system that worked so well for Juli Inkster. The team of 12 is broken up into three pods, mostly based on a behavior profile everyone took, and all pairings come from within those pods. An assistant captain is then assigned to each one.
Here’s how they are broken down:
Stacy Lewis: Nelly Korda, Jessica Korda, Megan Khang and Ally Ewing
Angela Stanford: Austin Ernst, Danielle Kang, Jennifer Kupcho and Lizette Salas
Michelle Wie West: Lexi Thompson, Brittany Altomare, Yealimi Noh and Mina Harigae
“We haven’t determined who is going to play with who yet in the different formats,” said Hurst, “but, yeah, of course you can tell kind of, if they’re coming in in 4s what the pods are going to be. I don’t think we’re going to split them up.”
4. One-sided affair
Organizers expect around 150,000 to attend this week’s Solheim Cup but with the ongoing pandemic, there won’t be many fans from the European side. Not even for players. “It’s unfortunate that none of our families are here to share this experience,” said European veteran Anna Nordqvist. “Solheim Cup is a very big moment for me and my family. They come and dress up, and it’s one of few tournaments they’re all able to come to. So that will be hard for all of us and especially from, maybe those who can’t share this first-time experience with their families or their close friends that really want to be here.”
Golfers on the 10th hole during the first round of the LPGA Drive On Championship at Inverness Club. (Photo: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports)
European captain Catriona Matthew tweeted that her home club, North Berwick, in Scotland would be staying open late so that members could watch the Solheim on television together. “Rather than just thinking we’re going to have a few fans,” said Matthew, “we’re kind of really expecting very, I mean, basically about zero fans. Obviously a few Europeans who perhaps are living in the States can make it here, but it certainly won’t be the same presence that we normally have at an away match. “But I think the players are going to be mentally prepared, so I think it just gives them another challenge and another thing to try and overcome and get that victory.”
5. The last time at Inverness
Danielle Kang and Lizette Salas of Team United States laugh together during a practice round ahead of the start of The Solheim Cup at Inverness Club on September 01, 2021 in Toledo, Ohio. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
When the LPGA came back from its 166-day break for the COVID-19 pandemic in July 2020, the Inverness Club stepped up host the Drive On Championship, which came together in the span of seven weeks.
The tour restarted its season with back-to-back events in Toledo, giving players and officials an easier way to navigate new safety protocols.
Danielle Kang won both events in Toledo. She edged out France’s Celine Boutier at Inverness, finishing at 7-under 209.
American Solheim rookie Mina Harigae tied for sixth at the Drive On while Megan Khang took a share of 11th.
Sophia Popov was at Inverness that week too, working as a caddie for best friend Anne van Dam, who tied for 11th.
Carlota Ciganda, Lexi Thompson, Brittany Altomare, Madelene Sagstrom and Austin Ernst round out those in the Solheim who finished in the top 20 last summer.
Despite being the host, Hurst has little to do with how the course will be played this week. “We’re not really, we don’t have that much control over setting up the golf course,” she said. “Basically what’s out there is what both team USA and Team Europe is seeing. They’re giving us the tee placements and we don’t have any say on the pin placements during the event. So we’re just going out and trying to prepare ourselves with the tees that they did give us.”