The European Solheim Cup team won’t be finalized until the AIG Women’s Open wraps up on Sunday, but captain Catriona Matthew has already declared her team the underdogs.
“I think on paper the Americans are always the stronger team,” Matthew said Wednesday at Carnoustie. “But in 18 holes match play, anyone can win. So, I'm sure we'll probably go in as the underdog, especially with it being an away game.”
Matthew successfully captained her team to victory at Gleneagles in 2019 to win back the cup for Europe for the first time since 2013. But Matthew is squarely putting the pressure on the Americans, who they'll face in two weeks at Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio. And she’s applying the pressure to one American in particular – Nelly Korda, the top-ranked player in the world.
“For Solheim to have the world No. 1 player, it's a great thing and in match play, as we've seen in a lot of 18-hole events, anyone can beat anyone,” Matthew said about Korda. “Certainly, all the pressure will be on her to beat our team.”
Korda, who made her Solheim Cup debut in 2019, led the Americans with a record of 3-0-1 at Gleneagles. While Korda did her part, it wasn’t enough to lift her team to victory as Europe narrowly defeated the U.S., 14 ½ - 13 ½.
“She's obviously been very impressive the last few months,” Matthew said about Korda, who won her first major at the Women’s PGA and then won gold at the Olympics. “I think without a doubt, she's got that potential to be dominant. You know, she hits it long. Well, to be world No. 1 you have to do everything well. If she can keep that form going, I don't see why she couldn't be dominant.”
The European and U.S. Solheim Cup teams will be finalized on Sunday. Because of the pandemic, the Euopeans modified their qualifying criteria due to limited playing opportunities over the last year. In 2021, the top two players in the Ladies European Tour point standings will qualify for the team with the next four players qualifying via the Rolex Rankings. Matthew will round out her team with six captain’s picks, which will be announced on Monday.
“I think the players know themselves who they are,” Matthew said when asked about who she might be considering for a pick. “They don't [need] me telling the media who they are.”
Based on the current standings, Matthew’s team is made up of four returning players in Carlota Ciganda, Charley Hull, Georgia Hall and Emily Kristine Pedersen. First-timers, Sanaan Nuutinen and Sophia Popov, are also likely to qualify.
“I think we are going to have a great team, a real mixture of some experienced players and some new, younger, exciting players,” said Matthew. “I'm really looking forward to it.”