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Fair but not equal

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It’s a new golden age for European golf in the men’s game.

The same can’t be said for the women.

With the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Carnoustie underway, we’re reminded how the status of the European women’s game has slipped since Annika Sorenstam retired.

Europeans or European Tour members have won the last six men’s major championships, nine of the last 20.

Since Sorenstam won her last major, European women have won three of the last 20.

With the Solheim Cup fast approaching, there will be scrutiny of the ability of European women to make the matches relevant again. The Americans haven’t just won three Solheim Cups in a row; they’ve routed the Euros three straight. If the Americans win easily again at Killeen Castle in Ireland (Sept. 23-25), it won’t just raise an American flag over the event. It will raise a red flag over the worthiness of the competition and fuel debate over whether the Europeans need help with a format change.

The European women have a chance to make a statement at Carnoustie. Sweden’s Sophie Gustafson and Germany’s Caroline Masson are in contention after the first round, each three shots back. Sweden’s Caroline Hedwall is four back. 

A look at the European Solheim Cup standings show England’s Melissa Reid, the Netherlands’ Christel Boeljon, France’s Virginie Lagoutte-Clement are all in the hunt to claim Solheim Cup spots off the Ladies European Tour points list.

Other than Gustafson, Americans have no clue who these women are.

The Women’s British Open offers a chance for Euros to introduce themselves to global audiences. European captain Alison Nicholas will announce her team on Aug. 29. Four automatic qualifiers will come off the Ladies European Tour points list, another four off the Rolex world rankings. Nicholas will also make four captain’s picks.

If the team were decided today, England’s Laura Davies, Reid, Boeljon and Norway’s Suzann Pettersen would make it off the LET list. Sweden’s Maria Hjorth and Anna Nordqvist, Scotland’s Catriona Matthew and Germany’s Sandra Gal would make it off the world rankings.

Nicholas will have some tough choices as captain’s picks. The possibilities include Gustafson, England’s Karen Stupples, Spain’s Beatriz Recari and Azahara Munoz, Lagoutte-Clement, Hedwall, Italy’s Diana Luna, Wales’ Becky Brewerton and Scotland’s Janice Moodie.