Solheim Cup setback for Europe as Alfie injures hand

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The Solheim Cup may need a miracle to begin on Friday. And the Europeans may need several to win it back from the heavily favored, relaxed American women.

The Solheim Cup may need a miracle to begin on Friday. And the Europeans may need several to win it back from the heavily favored, relaxed American women.

Three European players were ill or injured today, and European captain Dale Reid was "also a touch under the weather." And the weather, itself, was nasty with pounding rain soaking practice for the second straight day with an improving forecast for the weekend.

Then there's the matter of the greens at the Loch Lomond Golf Club, which were sprayed with an emerald dye Wednesday to cover a brownish surface burned by a herbicide treatment 2 1/2 months ago.

Savvy British bookmakers have installed the Americans as 8-15 odds-on favorites to retain the women's version of the Ryder Cup, where they already hold a 4-1 advantage in the biennial matches.

Europe's biggest concern is Helen Alfredsson, who slipped hands-first Tuesday into some loose gravel, skinning her palms and straining her wrist. She played only five holes on Wednesday and retired.

"I did not think it was any reason to push it," she said. "I mean, I was hitting the ball and everything. I felt I didn't want to aggravate it many more."

Reid had until Thursday afternoon when she announces her Friday foursomes (alternate ball) pairings to scratch Alfredsson in favour of fellow Scot Catriona Matthew, a player she angered in naming the Swede as one of her five wild cards.

"Time is a great healer, but today she (Alfredsson) couldn't hold the golf club," said Reid, who called Matthew and asked her to prepare.

"There were a few apologies going back and forth," Reid said of the conversation.

French player Patricia Meunier Lebouc struggled in practice with flu symptoms, and Spaniard Raquel Carriedo had the sniffles after fighting flu last week.

Meanwhile, the Americans joked about everything: the sopping wet rough, captain Pat Bradley, and the thick Scottish brogue of their welcoming Scottish hosts.

"I don't know why this is supposed to be a stressful week," said U.S player Meg Mallon. "I think the stress was getting here."

Juli Inkster and Rosie Jones kidded how the narrowly focused Bradley - a hall-of-fame player - had forgotten their names, using terms like "pro" and "babe" when her memory slipped.

"I never thought I would have Pat Bradley worrying about my insoles," Inkster joked. "I've seen a big change in Pat."

Bradley, a three-time Solhiem player, admitted the same and kidded she was learning to use a walkie-talkie for the first time.

"For 27 years in my LPGA career I have been very focused and single-minded," said the 49-year-old Bradley. "One of the enjoyable things in this situation as captain is I've had to broaden my view. Only this type of event would allow that. ... I mean this is the crown jewel in my career."

Dottie Pepper, the firebrand playing in her sixth Solheim, was lighthearted about the heavy downpours.

"The hardest part is getting from green to tee," she said. "That seems to be the sloppiest area. We've had a couple of causalities."

She also deflected criticism from European reporters who were upset by her cheerleading two years ago in the American victory at Muirfield Village in Columbus, Ohio.

"At the end of the day we played hard for three days and we're all friends," she said, noting that four European players had sent letters to U.S. immigration officials in her bid to hire a British caddie.

"As far as the bad blood that's been written about, it's as far overblown as it could possibly be."

Spanish player Carriedo complained her English-speaking teammates talked to fast. American Beth Daniel, whose first language is English, had the same complaint about her Scottish hosts.

"We love the accent, except every once in a while. It is like: 'Translation please.' We speak the same language but sometimes we don't understand each other."

Even European captain Reid got a laugh when asked if her highly paid players - most with contracts with major ball manufacturers - were having problems agreeing on the ball to play in foursomes (alternate shot).

"There are a few out there playing golf balls they don't normally play with," Reid said. "They are trying anything out, anything that floats at the moment."