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Davies shrugs off Solheim Cup adversity

Strength is often found in adversity and the European Solheim Cup team will hope to prove the point conclusively when the biennial contest against the United States gets under way here today.

Strength is often found in adversity and the European Solheim Cup team will hope to prove the point conclusively when the biennial contest against the United States gets under way here today.

To say the home side's preparations have not been ideal is an understatement, the hand injury suffered by Helen Alfredsson in a fall and the throat infection which has befallen Patricia Meunier Lebouc added to bookmakers' assertions that the Americans are odds-on certainties to win the trophy for the fifth time in six outings.

But being underdogs is a position the European side are used to and one, more importantly, which does not daunt them. Indeed, they produced their only victory to date, ironically also on Scottish soil at Dalmahoy near Edinburgh in 1992, when they were similarly discarded by most commentators.

Half the 12-strong European side played eight years ago and Laura Davies, one of the stalwarts of the European cause since the contest began, admitted she felt a similar feeling within the current squad of players as in the class of 1992.

"I think the obvious similarities are there," said Davies, who celebrated her 37th birthday yesterday on the eve of the contest. "It's in Scotland, it's being played at a similar time of year as back then and you're going to get the conditions which suit the Europeans. But I've got a good feeling about it.

"Stuff has been written about some of our players being not fit to lace up the Americans' shoes, but I disagree with all of that. I think we're ready to go and there's not a member of our team on any given week who could not win anywhere in the world. It is good to be told you're not good enough because it makes you better."

The worst kept secret of the week was released yesterday afternoon when it was announced that the perennial pairing of Davies and Alison Nicholas would open the event for the home side in the first foursomes session, squaring up in the top tie against Dottie Pepper and Juli Inkster.

The match reopens the rivalry between Davies and Pepper, much criticised in past matches for her over-exuberant on-course celebrations which have included applauding missed putts. In fact Davies was instrumental in pinning a large photograph of Pepper to the locker room door at Muirfield Village two years ago, enabling her team-mates to throw darts at it.

Davies played down the spat claiming, "there's no malice, it's just fun", and some of Pepper's fire might be doused as the result of a niggling back injury. But there is little doubt that a home win in the first tie would be a huge psychological boost. It would also be welcomed by the European captain, Dale Reid, who endured a difficult final day's build up as a result of the Alfredsson injury situation.

Having initially opted not to select her fellow Scot Catriona Matthew as a wild card, Reid then was forced to call Matthew to the course yesterday to practise before finally telling her she was not required, as the Swede managed a full practice round unhindered.

"There was obviously tears on both parts and not much I could say," admitted Reid. "I thanked her for coming at such short notice. But there's no bad blood between us - if there was I don't think she would have turned up like she did."

Despite coming through the practice session, Alfredsson has been left on the sidelines until this afternoon's second session of foursomes, as has Meunier Lebouc.

The American captain, Pat Bradley, who played at Dalmahoy, was vehement in her response to questions about the possibility of losing. "We are not thinking of it," was her brief retort. The 49-year-old, who described the 1992 contest as "the worst week of my life", knows the importance of a good start and has loaded her first selection with experience, with only one of her three rookies, the 32-year-old Becky Iverson, starting.