Dale puts faith in European team's depth - Golf - Sport - The Independent

Dale puts faith in European team's depth

Europe's traditional role in the Solheim Cup as plucky underdogs taking on the might of America has been consigned to history. Given the approach has brought only one victory in five matches, at Dalmahoy in 1992, Dale Reid might be correct to try a different approach when the contest returns to Scotland next month.

Europe's traditional role in the Solheim Cup as plucky underdogs taking on the might of America has been consigned to history. Given the approach has brought only one victory in five matches, at Dalmahoy in 1992, Dale Reid might be correct to try a different approach when the contest returns to Scotland next month.

Reid, Europe's new captain, contributed to that solitary win eight years ago and will be aiming to rekindle the same spirit at Loch Lomond next month. The Scot certainly cannot be accused of talking down her team's chances. "For a change, we might not be the underdogs," Reid said. "I definitely think we have more strength in depth than the Americans."

The American team will not be finalised for a couple more weeks and though they might not count as many tour victories from the current season as might usually be expected, that is because Karrie Webb, an Australian, has been winning titles at a similar rate to Tiger Woods. When the Americans won at Muirfiel Village two years ago, the winning margin was four points, the narrowest of their four victories.

The nucleus of that team remains, including Juli Inkster, Meg Mallon and Sherri Steinhauer, with Dottie Pepper to add the usual spice to proceedings. Where Reid cannot be queried is in suggesting Europe possesses more strength in depth than ever before. There is no question that their chances for success were hit when the Americans insisted on expanding the format to 12-a-side after the defeat at Dalmahoy.

Even with the luxury of five wild card selections, Reid found narrowing down the potential candidates far from easy. "There are 25 players who could have been on the team," said Reid. "There are a lot of players playing well. The last few weeks have been quite traumatic. I don't know if having more or less wild cards would have been easier but I'd have liked to have 12 picks if I had the chance."

But her task was made more straightforward when Annika Sorenstam, the world No 2, slipped into the automatic positions last week and stayed there as the top-seven remained unchanged after the final qualifying tournament, the Kronenbourg 1664 Classic at Chart Hills, was won by New Zealander Gina Scott.

While Lotte Neumann, Catrin Nilsmark, Janice Moodie and Carin Koch were on most people' lists for four of the five wild cards, the last went to Helen Alfredsson over Scotland's Catriona Matthew, who made her debut two years ago and has played steadily on both sides of the Atlantic this season.

Alfredsson has been an inspirational member of all five previous teams but the Swede's form has suffered due to personal problems this year. "Catriona was in the running," Reid said, "but unfortunately was edged out by a player with a fantastic Solheim Cup record. Alfie is great for the team. I don't know anyone who is a better match-player. I played with her a couple of weeks ago and felt her form was coming back."

Nilsmark, who holed the winning putt at Dalmahoy, has also had some off-course problems this summer but was assured of a place by Reid some weeks ago. Even Neumann, who was lacking form before finishing runner-up in the British Open last month, knew before playing alongside Reid in the final round here on Saturday. Neumann set a new course record of 64 and then claimed Reid had not said anything. "I know she lied," Reid aid. "She is following captain's orders already."

Although Moodie, the only Scot in the team, and Koch, one of six Swedes, will be two more rookies to go alongside Patricia Meunier Lebouc and Raquel Carriedo, who both qualified automatically, there was no doubt about their selections.

They are two of only five Europeans in the top 20 of the US money list, which also includes Sophie Gustafson, the British Open champion, who topped the qualifying list. Along with Alfredsson and Neumann, the other ever presents are the English trio of Alison Nicholas, Trish Johnson and Laura Davies.

EUROPEAN SOLHEIM CUP TEAM

v USA, Loch Lomond, 6-8 October

Helen Alfredsson Sweden Raquel Carriedo Spain Laura Davies England Sophie Gustafson Sweden Trish Johnson England Carin Koch Sweden Janice Moodie Scotland Patricia Meunier Lebouc France Liselotte Neumann Sweden Alison Nicholas England Catrin Nilsmark Sweden Annika Sorenstam Sweden

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