|Alison Nicholas hopes she has found the recipe for success by mixing youth and experience in the opening series of foursomes as Europe bids to regain The Solheim Cup at Killeen Castle in Ireland.
The European Captain also managed to spring a surprise on her US counterpart, Rosie Jones, by sending Suzann Pettersen, the world No.2, out in the final pairing.
“I thought Suzann would be out first. You got me there. Strike one,” joked Jones.
The US lead 8-3 overall and both Captains are aware of how vital it is to get off to a good start and build momentum.
Nicholas, captaining Europe for a second time, has sent out the Swedish pair of Maria Hjorth and Anna Norqdvist in the first match of the opening foursomes and they will face Michelle Wie and Cristie Kerr.
An all-English pair of rookie Melissa Reid and Karen Stupples are in the second match against Paula Creamer and Brittany Lincicome, while Scotland’s Catriona Matthew, a six-time Solheim veteran, joins Spanish rookie Azahara Munoz in match three versus Stacy Lewis and Angela Stanford.
In the final foursomes, world No.2 Pettersen, the highest ranked player on show this week, and Sophie Gustafson, a four-time Irish Ladies’ Open Champion, face Brittany Lang and Juli Inkster, who becomes the oldest Solheim player at the age of 51.
“I think I have a good blend in my team and I am very happy with the way the draw has worked out,” said Nicholas, the 1997 US Women’s Open Champion. “Catriona, for instance, is a great leader and gets on so well with everyone. She has lots of experience and I think she will make a great pairing with Azahara. They are both steady players.”
Rosie Jones, the US Captain, has four of the world’s top ten in her side and she is relying on her big hitters after a week of heavy rain and cold, windy conditions.
“I’ve put Michelle and Cristie out first because they are both good leaders,” she said. “They have played a lot together and had success. I want them to get out there and put up a point.
“I’ve got heavy hitters in every match. I have a master plan and I’m going to stick to it as much as possible. But you have to wait and see how the matches go and maybe adjust.”
Nicholas added: “I agree. I have a plan but you have to watch what happens and be ready to change.”
After four days of intense preparation, gala dinners and opening ceremonies, both Captains agreed it was time for the talking to stop and the play to begin. They shared one prediction: it is going to be close.
Foursomes (Europe names first):
7.40am: Maria Hjorth and Anna Nordqvist v Michelle Wie and Cristie Kerr
7.52am: Karen Stupples and Melissa Reid v Paula Creamer and Brittany Lincicome
8.04am: Catriona Matthew and Azahara Munoz v Stacy Lewis and Angela Stanford
8.16am: Suzann Pettersen and Sophie Gustafson v Brittany Lang and Juli Inkster