Solheim Cup returns to Scotland

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For a team that has dominated the Solheim Cup, the United States still has a score to settle with Europe.

For a team that has dominated the Solheim Cup, the United States still has a score to settle with Europe.

Its only loss in the women's version of the Ryder Cup came in 1992 in Scotland - golf's homeland. Europe beat the Americans in the Sunday singles, the only time that has happened, on its way to a 11 1/2-6 1/2 victory at the Dalmahoy in Edinburgh.

"It's a plus being on home soil, and we have the experience advantage," said European captain Dale Reid, a four-time Solheim player.

Reid was part of the only European victory, handing Dottie Pepper her only singles loss in Solheim play.

She now is captain of a team that features a six-pack of Swedes and has much more experience, determined to prove that the gap between Americans and Europeans is not nearly as wide as the Solheim suggests.

"I definitely think our team will have more strength in depth than the American team," Reid said. "I don't see us as the underdogs and to be quite honest, it makes no difference who goes in as favorites. It's what happens on the grass that counts."

The Loch Lomond Golf Club will be wet and long when the matches begin Friday. No one knows the course as well as Janice Moodie of Scotland, a Solheim Cup rookie but also a member at Loch Lomond.

Pepper returns as the only American to play in every Solheim Cup. She has become a favorite target, especially after last time, when her cheerleading so incensed the Europeans that they put her picture on a punching bag.

It didn't help. The Americans, led by Pepper who set a Solheim record by winning all four of her matches, retained the cup 16-12 two years ago at Muirfield Village in Columbus, Ohio.

"I don't think any of us want it to become like the Ryder Cup," Reid said. "I'd rather forget what I've seen lately at the Ryder Cup."

Pepper was out for 2 1/2 months with a back injury sustained in the U.S. Women's Open. She returned 10 days ago, much to the relief of U.S. captain Pat Bradley, and had a chance to win the Safeway Championship in Portland, Oregon.

"Watching Dottie come back after 2 1/2 months of not playing, it was the best that we could have all seen," Bradley said. "It was a nice shot in the arm for all of us."

Bradley hopes to get the same emotion Pepper takes everywhere, but in smaller doses.

"I've talked with Dottie many times," Bradley said. "We have great friendships with the Europeans, and Dale and I have talked numerous times and we have pledged to one another ... that we will play with the integrity of the game in hand."

The good-natured Reid jokes "that too much blood has already been spilled in Scottish history ... for this competition to cause problems."

"Many of our players live and play in the States and there are friendships here across the lines," said Reid, who had dinner this summer in France during the Evian Masters with U.S. Solheim players Meg Mallon and Beth Daniel.

"That shows how close we are, though I must admit Meg paid for the dinner."

While Pepper is the only American to play in every Solheim Cup, Europe has five players with that kind of experience - Trish Johnson, Laura Davies and Alison Nicholas, all of England; and Sweden's Helen Alfredsson and Liselotte Neumann.

A very wet September will make the American-style, 6,338-yard course play a lot longer. Designed by Tom Weiskopf, Loch Lomond Golf Club opened in the early 1990s.

The greens could be tricky.

In late July, a chemical treatment to kill meadow grass "severely stressed the greens, a human error," said Colin Campbell, the club professional.

Campbell said the greens were recovering, with 70 to 80 percent of the surfaces green. The rest has been touched up with green dye, but whatever the color, he said they are rolling fine.

The final five holes should invite match-play gambling. The 310-yard 14th can be reached off the tee by the big hitters, such as Davies and Becky Iverson. The par-5 16th measures 451 yards and can be reached in two, but it has a small creek in front of the green to invite risk taking.

The closing hole is 401 yards and has the famous loch on the left, the best line to the green but a dangerous one.

"There is a tremendous variety of golf holes that will really make the players think," Bradley said. "There are holes that might entice them to give it a go."

Nancy Scranton, Michele Redman and Iverson are the American rookies. Bradley picked Daniel and Brandie Burton as her two wild cards. Besides Pepper, who has won a team-leading 12 1/2 points in Solheim play, the other members are: Juli Inkster, Mallon, Rosie Jones, Sherri Steinhauer, Pat Hurst and Kelly Robbins.

Mallon has won 9 Solheim points followed by Daniel (8), Burton (7 1/2) and Robbins and Jones (6 each).

The Europeans have four rookies: Patricia Meunier Lebouc of France, Raquel Carriedo of Spain, Swede Carin Koch and Moodie. Europe has five wild cards. In addition to Koch and Moodie, Reid picked Swedes Alfredsson, Neumann and Catrin Nilsmark. The other members are Swedes Sophie Gustafson and Annika Sorenstam, and English players Johnson, Davies and Nicholas.

Europe's top point winner is Davies (12 1/2) followed by Sorenstam and Alfredsson (8 each).

Under the format, eight foursomes (alternate-shot) matches are played Friday, with six fourball (best-ball) matches Saturday and 12 singles Sunday. The Americans need 13 points to retain the cup and Europe needs 13 1/2 to win it.