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Stephen Gallacher: Time for the ladies to lead the way with a Solheim Cup hat-trick

Suzann Pettersen's European side go in search of a third straight win this week before Luke Donald bids to regain the Ryder Cup from the United States.

Suzann Pettersen is aiming to lead Europe to a hat-trick of wins in the Solheim Cup this week. Image: PA
Suzann Pettersen is aiming to lead Europe to a hat-trick of wins in the Solheim Cup this week. Image: PA

The two weeks of the season we’ve all been waiting for are finally here with the Solheim Cup and the Ryder Cup taking centre stage in the next fortnight.

Finca Cortesin in Andalucia hosts the Solheim Cup for the first time this week and if this week can live up the last two matches we’re in for a cracker.

I’m not sure whether you can class Europe, who are chasing what would be a historic third win in a row for the first time in the history of the event as underdogs though.

On paper the Americans are stronger but as we know when it comes to this event and the Ryder Cup these matches are not decided on paper.

The winner of the Solheim Cup, and the Ryder Cup for that matter, will be decided by who performs best on the course and off it.

There is so much noise about these matches and as a player the hardest part is the waiting to play.

You arrive at the venue at the beginning of the week and honestly, from the moment you get there on the Monday, the opening matches on Friday cannot come quick enough.

There are dinners, interviews, team meetings, practice sessions and of course every move you make draws attention.

It comes with the territory but trust me when you are so used to being focused on yourself the team environment is a different animal.

All you want is to get out there and play there is no more emotional week of the season than being involved in these matches.

That’s how we all felt at Gleneagles when I played in the Ryder Cup and I’m sure both the boys playing in Rome next week and the girls in the Solheim Cup this week feel exactly the same way.

Europe looking strong as they chase a hat-trick of wins

France’s Celine Boutier will be a key player for Europe. Image: PA

Europe captain Suzann Pettersen is certainly confident and has labelled her side as the strongest European side in the history of the event.

That’s a bold claim but she would not be saying that if she did not believe it.

There’s no psychological ploy at play here.

Pettersen is looking at a side with eight players in the top 40 in the world rankings, she has a major champion in Evian Championship winner Celine Boutier in her side and her players are in form right now.

Given Europe also have home advantage, I think all the pressure is on the Americans.

They won eight of the first 11 matches but the overall score is now 10-7 in their favour and the gap is closing.

I have no doubt whatsoever Pettersen will be wanting to carry on Catriona Matthew’s legacy by leading her team to a hat-trick of wins.

I’m thrilled we’re going to have Scottish representation in both with Westhill’s Gemma Dryburgh playing this week while Oban’s Bob MacIntyre is flying the flag for Scotland next week at Marco Simone Golf Club.

For now, I wish the European ladies the very best of luck this week. Let’s get that hat-trick.

Ryder Cup course layout should be the ultimate test

Luke Donald.

I was intrigued by renowned coach Pete Cowen’s comments about next week’s Ryder Cup venue.

He has labelled the layout as horrendous, believes it is too hilly, has too many blind shots and is going to be a huge physical test for the players and especially the caddies.

In my experience the Ryder Cup is so draining physically and mentally anyway that it wouldn’t matter if it was played on a flat municipal course across the road.

It’s also where the respective team captains Luke Donald and Zach Johnson’s involvement comes into play.

There’s so much more than picking a pairing or a singles order which comes into the equation for a team captain.

They have got to consider not just who is playing well but also make judgements on who is feeling fresh and who might benefit from a break.

Put it this way, with five sessions from Friday through the Sunday singles I think it’s highly unlikely we’ll see any player involved in all five.

The course needs to be tough as that’s what brings the excitement for the spectators and the testing clutch moments for the players involved.

That’s what the Ryder Cup is all about. It only happens once every two years so it should be the ultimate team test.

Like Gleneagles, it has great viewing areas where you can watch the action unfold on a few holes from the same vantage point and the atmosphere is going to be fantastic.

Garcia return was doomed to fail

Sergio Garcia made a late bid to return to the Ryder Cup fold. Image: PA

Luke Donald has certainly got to be feeling pretty good about things at the minute.

Ryan Fox played brilliantly to win the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth on Sunday but Luke also watched seven of his team finish in the top 10.

That tells him he has a team bang on form heading to Rome next week.

All he will be hoping for is to get to Monday with no distractions for anyone involved so that the mobile phones can be switched off and the players can get into the team bubble as soon as possible.

The news of Sergio Garcia’s failed attempt to make a late bid to be involved for Europe is the sort of distraction he does not want.

Sergio was reportedly willing to pay the £700,000 in outstanding fines he is due the DP World Tour following his involvement with LIV Golf it meant he would be considered for the team.

His countryman Jon Rahm has been a vocal supporter insisting one of Europe’s best ever Ryder Cup players should be involved.

But the late olive branch ultimately came to nothing. Sergio has resigned from our tour and is ineligible.

That’s the rules, I’m afraid, but if he is willing to pay his fine and reapply to join the tour then he can at least put himself back in the conversation for 2025 at Bethpage Black.