U.S., Europe vying for underdog role at Solheim Cup

Anna Nordqvist ended Europe's 14-month winless drought Sunday at the ShopRite Classic. (Getty)

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The Americans have declared themselves the underdog with the Solheim Cup only a few months away.

With the Europeans winning the last two, nobody seems to be arguing.

But maybe somebody should.

Anna Nordqvist’s victory Sunday at the ShopRite Classic raises the question about who really ought to be favored with the Americans and Euros jockeying to make the teams that go to Germany in September. Nordqvist ended a 14-month winless drought for Europeans in LPGA events. In fact, the Swede is the only Euro to win an LPGA event since Suzann Pettersen won late in the 2013 season.

If you look at the Rolex world rankings, LPGA player records and major championship performances, there’s no way Europe should be favored to beat the Americans. In fact, the Americans ought to be lopsided favorites.

Going into last weekend’s LPGA event, there were five Americans among the top 11 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings. There was one European.

Americans Stacy Lewis, Brittany Lincicome, Cristie Kerr, Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie were all inside the top 11. Suzann Pettersen was the only European.

Over the last 14 months, Americans have won 13 LPGA titles, the Euros just one.

If you’re thinking the Rolex rankings might be weighted too heavily against the Ladies European Tour, look at major championship performances. The records just as definitively favor the Americans.

Over the last 23 major championships played, Americans have won eight, the Euros just one.

It might seem a silly matter, debating who ought to be designated the underdog, but it’s a big deal how teams crave the label going to these international team events. Apparently, there’s power in the underdog mentality. The same thing happens going to the Ryder Cup. Everybody wants to be the underdog.

You can’t blame American captain Juli Inkster for seizing on the designation.

“We are definitely coming in as the underdogs,” Inkster said earlier this spring. “We’ve lost the last two, and we’re playing on their home soil.”

Spoken like that, it makes sense. It’s a smart tactical move on Inkster’s part. It shifts the pressure on to the Europeans.

European captain Carin Koch knew exactly what Inkster was doing.

“In my eyes, it’s Team USA that’s under pressure,” Koch said.

The Euros rocked the Americans in a record rout in the last Solheim Cup in Colorado. It marked the first time since the biennial competition began in 1990 that the Euros won on American soil. It has fueled this feeling the Euros are the team to beat, but if Americans really analyze it, they ought to be insulted in how this picture looks from a long view.

If Americans are really the underdogs, what’s the designation mean? It means the Americans have massively better records as individuals, but the betting public thinks they can’t play together. They think they’re a lousy team. That’s what it means.

Maybe there’s motivation in that. Maybe there’s a chip-on-the-shoulder, us-against-the-world mentality in that.

Bookmakers don’t look like they’re going to fall for it, though.

While Solheim Cup odds haven’t gone up at most betting houses yet, the few bookmakers who are posting odds are making the Americans the favorites. William Hill has the Americans as 4/6 favorites, BetFred has them as 8/11 favorites and Paddy Power as 8/13 favorites.

“We want to win three in a row,” Koch said. “That’s our big goal. It’s another tournament. It has nothing to do with what happened in Colorado or what happened the time before then. We start over, and it's the Solheim Cup 2015 at St. Leon Rot. This is the event. We're there to win, but we're also there to have a great match and to just have a lot of fun.”

Apparently, they’ll be having fun with the advantage of being an underdog despite being the home team and having won the last two Solheim Cups.

It all makes you wonder what being an underdog really means.