It’s been two years of waiting, but the 2023 Solheim Cup is finally here. Two 12-player teams from the U.S. and Europe, led by LPGA legends Stacy Lewis and Suzann Pettersen will battle it out over three days of riveting competition – two days of foursome and fourball matches and a final day of head-to-head singles matches – for the crystal trophy and the honor of winning for their respective countries.
The Solheim Cup has long been dominated by the United States, with the Americans holding a 10-7 historical edge over Team Europe, but this year the competition is closer than ever. En route to those 10 victories, the Americans have successfully won three straight Solheim Cups twice, with consecutive wins from 1994 to 1998 and from 2005 to 2009. However, the U.S. squad hasn’t touched the crystal trophy since 2017, and with back-to-back wins in 2019 and 2021, the Europeans have a chance for their first-ever three-peat this week. With several members returning from those two winning teams, Team Europe has all the momentum. Captain Pettersen put the exclamation mark on the European win at Gleneagles in 2019, clinching the 14 1/2 to 13 1/2 victory with that famous final birdie putt before announcing her retirement. Major champions Celine Boutier and Georgia Hall, who are competing in Spain this week, both went 4-0-0 that year. In 2021, team Europe found just its second victory ever on American soil, led by a 4-0-1 performance from Leona Maguire in her Solheim Cup debut. The first Irishwoman to compete in the international competition, Maguire will return this year as a two-time LPGA Tour winner after victories at the 2022 LPGA Drive On Championship and the 2023 Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give. The Americans will have their work cut out for them trying to keep the Europeans from a third consecutive Solheim Cup victory, especially on foreign soil as the U.S. has only won three times in Europe since the Cup’s inception.
Though both the Europeans and the Americans can claim plenty of experience, Solheim Cup rookies will be ever-present at Finca Cortesin this week. There are three rookies on the European Team and a whopping five on the U.S. Team for a total of eight players making their Solheim Cup debuts this year. Gemma Dryburgh, Linn Grant and Maja Stark will be donning blue and yellow for the first time this week while Allisen Corpuz, Cheyenne Knight, Andrea Lee, Lilia Vu and Rose Zhang will suit up in red, white and blue. But don’t be fooled by their rookie status as these elite eight are some of the best and brightest on the LPGA Tour. Dryburgh, Grant and Stark all earned their first Tour wins in the past two seasons and have found consistent success since. The U.S. cohort is headlined by former world No. 1 Vu, who has recorded three wins this year, including two major victories at The Chevron Championship and the AIG Women’s Open. The Americans also own another major champion in Corpuz, the 2023 U.S. Women’s Open champ who became a Rolex First-Time Winner at Pebble Beach Golf Links in July. Knight, Lee and Zhang have additionally found wins in the past two seasons. Although they haven’t felt the pressure of vying for the coveted Solheim Cup, these eight are more than ready to tackle the task ahead of them this week.
Two in One
On the other side of the spectrum, there is no player in the field this week with more Solheim Cup experience than Anna Nordqvist. Across seven appearances – the Swede has not missed a Solheim Cup since 2009 – Nordqvist has won 15.5 points for Team Europe. She has an overall record of 14-10-3, recording one undefeated performance at the 2017 edition of the event, and has helped the Europeans to four victories during her tenure. With her wealth of experience, Nordqvist was tapped to be a vice captain by Pettersen early and just as quickly announced her intent to be a playing one if she were to qualify. At No. 38 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, Nordqvist easily made the team and is sure to make an impact at every level of this week’s competition. A three-time major champion, Nordqvist has found some consistency on Tour after an up-and-down 2022 season. In 14 starts this year, the Swede has earned three top-10 finishes and six additional top-20 results.
The U.S. is fielding one of its youngest teams ever and it’s not just because there are so many rookies on the roster. This year the U.S. team combines for an average age of 25.83, just shy of the all-time record: 25.5 years set in 2019. The youngest member of the squad, and by far the youngest player in the competition, is 20-year-old Rose Zhang who shocked the world when she became just the second player in history to win in their professional debut at the inaugural Mizuho Americas Open. Corpuz, Megan Khang, Knight, Nelly Korda, Jennifer Kupcho, Lee, Angel Yin and Vu are all just 26 years old or younger. With an average Rolex Ranking of 24.42, the U.S. roster reads like a who’s who of Gen-Z golf talent. The oldest members of the bunch, Danielle Kang and Ally Ewing, can hardly be called old at only 30 years, and the irrefutable veteran of the team with five appearances and 9.5 points on her Solheim Cup resume, Lexi Thompson, is just 28 years old.
Sweden is the most well-represented country on the European roster with five Swedes competing at Finca Cortesin this week. Nordqvist will be joined by fellow countrywomen Caroline Hedwall, Grant Madelene Sagstrom and Stark with the blue and yellow on their uniforms bearing a marked resemblance to the flag of their home country. Nordqvist’s record speaks for itself, and Ladies European Tour member Hedwall also boasts a wealth of experience with four Solheim Cup appearances and an 8-6-1 record for 8.5 points. Sagstrom is an LPGA Tour winner, capturing the 2020 Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio, and will be making her third appearance in the Solheim Cup with a 2-4-0 record. She was also a member of the 2017 and 2021 European teams. And has represented Sweden in two Hanwha LIFEPLUS International Crowns. The two have paired up in previous Cups and own a 3-2-0 record throughout their partnership. On the other hand, Grant and Stark are true rookies in every sense of the word. Both are making their first Solheim Cup appearance after impressive rookie seasons in 2022 and have one LPGA win each on their resumes. After accepting immediate LPGA Tour Membership following her win at the 2022 ISPS Handa World Invitational, Stark has easily fallen in step on the LPGA with five top-10 results this season in 17 starts. Grant found her first win this season at the Dana Open and has carded three additional top 10s in 12 starts. With an even balance of veterans and rising stars, the European team’s performance this week will provide a neat cross-section of the legacy of Swedish golf. And with so much talent packed into these four golfers, this weekend might just be a source of Swedish national pride for years to come.