Meg Mallon’s U.S. team arrives at Colorado Golf Club this week poised to regain the Solheim Cup from Europe, as the PGA Tour lands in Greensboro for the Wyndham Championship and the guys’ last chance to earn spots into the cash grab known as the FedEx Cup playoffs.
The Americans, still smarting from the Solheim Cup defeat to the Euros two years ago in Ireland, have home-field advantage this time and they aim to get back on the winning track after losing bragging rights for the first time since 2003.
"We’ve waited two years to get our cup back, and I can tell you we’re not going to let it slip through our fingers again," Paula Creamer, who will make her fifth Solheim Cup start on Friday, told reporters Tuesday from Parker, Colo.
Captain Mallon, an 18-time LPGA Tour winner, whose squad is favored to go 7-0 at home, concurred.
"It’s a big deal," she told GolfChannel.com’s Randall Mell. "I know a lot of those players didn’t like that feeling at all. Some of them had never lost a Solheim Cup, so I know I have a highly motivated team."
Two teams of 12 each of the best women players in the U.S. and Europe will tilt in the 13th Solheim Cup. The Americans, with four rookies on this year’s unit to the Europeans’ six, enter the week with momentum on their side, thanks to the Women’s British Open win two weeks ago by second-ranked Stacy Lewis (No. 1 Inbee Park from South Korea will watch the proceedings from afar).
Lewis, a two-time major champion, believes the 2011 cup loss fueled her success, which includes seven of her eight LPGA Tour triumphs in the past two seasons.
"I learned a lot about myself that week," said Lewis. "Learning how to deal with adversity and handling different things. I definitely think I grew up a lot that week. I learned what it took to be a great player ... I wouldn’t be where I am in my career had I not been through that loss at Solheim."
Creamer, Cristie Kerr, Brittany Lincicome, Angela Stanford, Brittany Lang, Morgan Pressel, and Michelle Wie will lend experience and guidance to newbies Lexi Thompson, Jessica Korda, Lizette Salas, and Gerina Pillar. Led by world No. 3 and seven-time Solheim Cup player Suzann Petterson, and without Laura Davies for the first time since the competition began in 1990, the Euros hope to even up the score a bit more from the current 8-4 record in favor of their opponents.
“I think it’s healthy for us to kind of have new players coming up,” Pettersen said about the youth on her side. “They’re all out there, and they’re fearless and have nothing to lose. I think it’s much better to have that kind of player rather than the experienced ones who puts a lot of pressure on themselves and has everything to prove to the rests of the world that they deserved this spot on the team.”
Meanwhile, on the men’s tour, Padraig Harrington is one of the notables seeking to bolster his FedEx Cup standing and start in next week’s first leg of the playoffs as well as secure exempt status on the tour for the 2013-2014 season, which begins with the Frys.com Open in October. Players in the top 125 in FedEx Cup points qualify for the playoffs, with its $10 million payout to the winner of the overall series.
Harrington, the winner of three major titles, comes into the week ranked 129th in points. At 110 on the money list, however, he is well within the top 125 who will earn or retain their cards.
To extend his season at least into The Barclays, Harrington must finish no lower than 39th at Sedgefield Country Club, according to PGATour.com’s Mike McAllister. With competitors like world No. 7 Brandt Snedeker, defending champion Sergio Garcia, and 2012 U.S. Open winner Webb Simpson in the lineup this week, however, the 41-year-old from Ireland will have to do more than toss his cap onto the field if he hopes to advance to Jersey City.