Europe Desperate for Road Win


2005 Solheim CupCARMEL, Ind. -- Laura Davies somehow feels empty at the Solheim Cup.
She has played in every one since it began in 1990 and has been such a key component of the European team that Davies has teed it up in 32 of a 33 possible matches over 15 years. She has won 17 1/2 points, a record shared with Annika Sorenstam, and she has hoisted the crystal trophy three times.
But never in the United States.
'It's going to happen at some point,' Davies said. 'I would like it to happen when I'm playing. It would be very disappointing not to win here. I think the team we've assembled this time has the chance to do that.'
The next opportunity comes Friday at Crooked Stick, which John Daly made famous in 1991 when he overpowered the course to win the PGA Championship as the ninth alternate.
Europe has the big hitters -- Davies, Sophie Gustafson, Annika Sorenstam and Maria Hjorth are ranked among the top six on the LPGA Tour in driving distance -- so the course would seem to favor their games.
The American advantage is home soil.
And that might be just as big.
'There's nothing better than winning at home,' Juli Inkster said. 'I can't imagine anything worse than losing at home, and we don't plan on doing that.'
But the Americans cannot simply show up, glance at the flag-waving crowd and expect to win. Three years ago in Minnesota, Europe was ahead 9-7 going into the final day until the United States dominated the 12 singles matches and went on to another victory.
'We're very aware of the situation that we haven't won there before,' Carin Koch said. 'That's a big task.
A victory by the road team could be just what these matches need.
The Ryder Cup was merely an exhibition until Europe won for the first time in the United States in 1987 at Muirfield Village, which helped raise interest in the matches and eventually turned it into a bonanza, with big TV ratings, record galleries and no shortage of acrimony among the players.
'We have come pretty close over here, and everybody would love to win here,' European captain Catrin Nilsmark said. 'To break that barrier would be big for not only us, but for the Solheim Cup as a competition. If they lose on home soil, it would be even more hype next time.'
All the Solheim Cup has thus far is some hard feelings.
It started in 1998 when the Europeans were so infuriated with Dottie Pepper's celebrations that they pasted her picture on a punching dummy and took turns whaling away. Two years later at Loch Lomond, the Americans ordered Annika Sorenstam to replay her chip-in for birdie because she went out of turn. Sorenstam was in tears.
Even now, the Americans can sense some needling by the Europeans.
Davies led off Tuesday afternoon by saying the Americans 'don't seem to have quite the fun we have.'
Then came Trish Johnson of England.
'The American team, in all honesty, they try to beat each other every single week of the year apart from once every two years, when all of a sudden they're supposed to be best mates,' Johnson said. 'That's really difficult.'
All of which came to a surprise to the Americans, who drove to Crooked Stick in a motor home for a practice round a few weeks ago and have been all smiles throughout the week.
'We have a blast,' Beth Daniel said. 'For them to say that is absurd. 'They're trying to make people think we don't enjoy it. They're just trying to stir the pot.'
Europe might need all the help it can muster.
It brings the best player in the world in Sorenstam, but Koch is the only other player who has won on the LPGA Tour this year. Eight of the Europeans play most of their golf on the LPGA Tour.
Sorenstam has not won in America since the LPGA Championship brought her halfway home to the Grand Slam. She fizzled in the U.S. Women's Open and has been relatively quiet most of the summer. 'I've just seen how she's playing now,' Nilsmark said. 'And it looks really good. I would say she's strong as ever.'
Europe won two years ago in Sweden by leading from the opening session of alternate-shot matches (3 1/2-1/2). It clinched the cup in the sixth of 12 singles matches, and went on to the largest margin of victory in the Solheim Cup, 17 1/2-10 1/2.
There was hardly any red, white and blue in the gallery at Barseback Golf and Country Club.
'In Sweden, I thought the atmosphere was great. Obviously, we had a lot of fans pulling for us,' Sorenstam said. 'When we come here, it's probably going to be the opposite, but that's what makes this competition so much fun. It's harder away. It's a big challenge for us.
'If you think about it, the golf ball doesn't know which country you're in.'
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