Golf: Europeans confident of revenge

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The Independent Online
EUROPE'S STRONGEST Solheim Cup team so far must avoid the sort of last-day collapse suffered in the last two matches to win at Muirfield Village next month. In the short history of the contest, in which the Americans have an overall 3-1 lead, the strength in depth of the European side has always been called into question, writes Andy Farrell.

Evidence of the problem came in the 8-2 singles defeat at The Greenbrier four years ago and in the 10-2 thrashing in the singles at St Pierre in 1996. The latter was all the more devastating as the home side led by two points going into the final day.

But for the first time the question facing the new captain, Pia Nilsson, as the qualifying came to an end with Annika Sorenstam's victory in the Compaq Open on Sunday, was who to leave out. Nilsson would have been happy with a 15-woman side but settled for a combination featuring six Swedes, four English players, a Scot and a Frenchwoman.

After the seven automatic qualifiers were known -- Sorenstam, the world No 1, only gaining a guaranteed spot with her win - Nilsson had no hesitation in selecting Stoke-on-Trent's Lisa Hackney, last year's rookie of the year in the States, Liselotte Neumann and Catrin Nilsmark as three of her five wild cards.

Nilsson, Mickey Walker's vice-captain two years ago, was also keen to include Charlotta Sorenstam, Annika's younger sister, despite the fact that the pair hardly speak, and her only dilemma was between Sophie Gustafson and Maria Hjorth, who missed out on an automatic place. Gustafson, for her long-hitting and ability to make birdies, got the place.

Catriona Matthew is one of only three Solheim rookies, along with Gustafson and the younger Sorenstam, while five players have played in all four previous matches.

"I am feeling relaxed now I know my team, because I am confident we are going to Muirfield Village to put up a strong performance," Nilsson said. "This is a really strong side and we have a good chance of winning."

Arguably, the last two places should have gone to two young Scots, Mhairi McKay and Janice Moodie, both of whom distinguished themselves in the Curtis Cup as amateurs and are enjoying impressive debut seasons in America. But McKay is a bridesmaid at her sister's wedding the weekend of the match, while Moodie has not played enough events in Europe to be eligible.

EUROPEAN SOLHEIM CUP TEAM (v the United States, Muirfield Village, Ohio, 18-20 September): H Alfredsson, L Davies, S Gustafson, L Hackney, T Johnson, M-L de Lorenzi, C Matthew, L Neumann, A Nicholas, C Nilsmark, A Sorenstam, C Sorenstam.