Creamer comfortable in lighting Cup fuse

Home advantage is crucial as Europe attempt to extinguish a US uprising. James Corrigan reports
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The Independent Online

"The Bombers v The Bombshells" is so much more, however, than what this coarse title suggests, based as it is on Europe having four of the six longest drivers on the LPGA Tour and America having the two most pre-eminent calendar girls in a game that is, apparently, only just now discovering its sex appeal.

There will also be revenge lurking heavy in the Indiana air as Nancy Lopez's starred-and-striped ensemble try to banish the memory of the seven-point loss in Sweden two years ago that is the biggest in the Cup's 15-year history, while European motivation was generously provided by one of the opposing indignants. "All I can say is those Euros better get ready," said Paula Creamer. "Because they're going to get beat. I'm laying it down."

Ah sweet, coming from a fresh-faced teenager who together with her team-mate Nathalie Gublis managed to sell more calendars between them last year than one Pamela Anderson. "I said what needed to be said," Creamer confirmed unashamedly the day after her initial outburst. "We're all excited to be playing, that's all. I may have gotten a little ahead of myself, but I am ready to win."

And so is all of America for that matter, after last month's Walker Cup victory in Chicago ended a run of defeats and has suddenly made the nation switch on and appreciate the head-to-head, team-to-team nature of matchplay golf. It seems they are finally cottoning on to what makes a matchplay team as well. Lopez has forged a squad from a fine blend of veterans and youthful exuberance provided most startlingly by Ms Creamer - the first rookie to qualify for the Solheim - by having three sessions already at Crooked Stick, as well as bringing the top 15 Americans in the world standings together five times for dinner this season.

"At last we're going to be playing for each other and rooting for each other," said Cristie Kerr, third on the US money list behind Annika Sorenstam and Creamer. "I think you're going to see something special at the Stick."

Advantage USA then, especially if you listen to Laura Davies's warning last week. "Six months ago I would have said we had quite easily the strongest team," said the 42-year-old from Coventry, who has appeared in every match so far as the Americans have compiled a 5-3 lead. "But their players have really started to play well. It makes it very even again, and the crowd could quite possibly be the deciding factor. We've got to shut them up quickly."

At least there will be no Michelle Wie to drive the whoopers to even more hollering distraction, the American regulations saying that only members of the regular LPGA Tour are eligible to play, and although Catrin Nilsmark, the European captain, will be mighty relieved by that, it does seem a great shame that golf must wait two years, or more, for the phenomenal 15-year-old to be taking on Sorenstam in a straight fight that would raise the prestige of the Solheim Cup to undreamt-of hysteria. Even the Ryder Cup could not dream of a match-up to emulate that one - not Tiger Woods v Colin Montgomerie, not Sergio Garcia v Phil Mickelson, not nothing.

What this Pete Dye course (where John Daly so memorably won the 1991 USPGA Championship) will have, however, is a healthy British interest, provided by Davies, Trish Johnson, Catriona Matthew and Karen Stupples.

The latter only scraped in as Nilsmark's final wild-card pick of five, but as the 2004 British Open champion is a proven performer in the amateur equivalent, the nerves of her debut have yet to hit her. "I loved playing in my two Curtis Cups," said the 32-year-old from Dover, "and I'm sure the Solheim will be just as enjoyable."

Perhaps she should speak to Matthew before she affixes the perma-smile, as her Scottish team-mate - another wild-card fortunate - will tell her of the giddying contrast of emotions the Cup is prone to throw at its competitors.

"Yeah, it's odd," said the 36-year-old from Edinburgh. "At Muirfield Village in 2001, I lost the point that lost the Cup, then in Sweden the next time I win the point that wins the Cup. It's gone from one extreme to the other. Maybe this year I'll be somewhere in the middle."