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Play Nears Players Ready

LODDEKOPINGE, Sweden -- Wendy Ward was trying to get a handle on why Americans -- men and women -- struggle in alternate shot.

'We never play it,' she began. 'Maybe the Europeans are more laid back where they can say, 'Hey, wherever you put it partner, I'll find it!''

In Friday morning foursomes, Ward will team with Juli Inkster against the Scottish tandem of Janice Moodie and Catriona Matthew. Moodie was brilliant at Loch Lomond but wrongly overlooked by last year's captain, Dale Reid, as an at-large selection. Moodie, who fits perfectly the phrase 'classy and sassy,' still sent the team a good luck letter, and it reduced even Reid to tears.

On paper, which is usually good for nothing in these matches, Annika Sorenstam and Suzann Pettersen appear to be overwhelming favorites to beat Laura Diaz and Solheim rookie Heather Bowie. But if the U.S. can steal a point or even a half in that contest, it could provide a huge early momentum swing.

'Heather and Laura are very good friends,' explained captain Patty Sheehan. 'And I know they feel comfortable playing with each other.'

Compatability is vital in foursomes, both in terms of playing style and personality. European captain Catrin Nilsmark paired Sorenstam with another long hitter, Petterson, and linked fun-loving Laura Davies with Carin Koch in a match against Beth Daniel and Kelly Robbins.

'Carin really likes a bit of a good time on the golf course, so it's a good combination from that aspect,' said Nilsmark.

Certainly, the Americans cannot afford to repeat the Day 1 disaster of three years ago when they got blanked in the opening session, 4 to nil. On foreign soil, with 25,000 partisans in the other corner, climbing out of that kind of deep hole is an almost impossible task.

As for those sitting out in the morning, there are other ways to contribute. Kelli Kuehne won't tee it up, but recounted a telling story from Interlachen a year ago, a tale which says a lot about why she's here when many thought Pat Hurst should have gotten the nod from captain Sheehan.

'I walked into the team room,' she remembers. 'And the walls were bare. There was no red, white and blue. Anywhere.'

She was fired up at this point just thinking back.

'So I said to Patty, 'I need some paint and some paper, some posters and streamers and some American flags.' Sure enough, Patty sent a runner to get the supplies.'

Sheehan recalls the moment with a smile, shaking her head in amazement. 'We get the stuff, and Kelli's in there by herself, puttin' it up all over the room. By herself!'

What did she put on the posters?

''Go like hell.' ' Stars and Stripes forever.' And 'USA is No. 1.''

Kuehne didn't get the call for this Friday's morning matches. But she did reprise her role as team room decorator.

That's the essence and spirit of The Solheim Cup. Professionals play for pride rather than pay.

Pressure? Mountains of it. But ask any lady who's been a part of it and they won't hesitate to tell you that if it were a match, this week fun beats pressure, 5 and 4.
It's not even close.
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