Laura Davies, one of Suzann Pettersen’s Solheim Cup vice captains, suspects that the team which makes off with the trophy on Sunday night in Spain will need to have had all 12 players in top working order.
Having featured in 15 Solheim Cups herself, 12 of them as a player and the past three as a vice captain, Davies would have woken up this morning knowing how everyone was feeling. In which connection, one of her worst-ever moments was in the inaugural Solheim, in 1990 at Lake Nona in Orlando, Florida. Partnering with fellow Englishwoman Alison Nicholas in the first of the contest’s foursomes, Davies was so nervous as to insist that Nicholas hit the opening shot.
It was in that same week that Davies experienced something else for the memory bank. Once again it had to do with the first tee, only this time it concerned the way she reacted to American Rosie Jones’ comment about her use of a 3-wood instead of a driver.
“Is there a screw missing from your driver or something?” Jones asked.
“No,” returned Davies in answer to what she saw as an unnecessary and untimely quip. “I don’t need my driver to beat you.”
Though Davies once was sufficiently irked as to say in a tournament press conference that the greens at the venue in question were “a lovely shade of brown,” she mostly has known what to say, when to say it, and when to keep quiet. Always, she has adhered to the truth. It’s just that her comments are a tad more tactfully couched than they used to be.
Her views on the vice captaincy are as follows: “You’re there to support the captain, to let her bounce ideas off you,” she told GGP. “It could be about pairings, but whatever it is, you’re not there to say ‘Yes’ all the time. If the captain asks for your opinion, that’s what she wants.” (Pettersen, of course, is also able to draw on the opinions of Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist, a playing vice captain, and Norway’s Caroline Martens.)
Moving on to where Davies always has known to be wary in a Solheim context, it’s when someone like herself takes out a top player in the singles, only to discover that every member of the opposition is hell bent on being the one to have the better of you in return.
“We’ve ended up with nine players in the been-there-done-that category, and three great rookies in Maja Stark, Linn Grant and Gemma Dryburgh.” – Laura Davies
In 1992 at Dalmahoy in Scotland, to give just one illustration, Davies won comfortably against Brandie Burton to top off a week in which she bagged three points out of three for the victorious Europeans. Two years later, Burton duly got her own back, beating Davies on the home green.
The situation was not so very different in 2013 when Charley Hull, in her first Solheim, posted a 5-and-4 win over Paula Creamer. Two years on, and there was no way that the feisty Cristie Kerr was going to be beaten by the still-teenage Hull. Though 3 down after four holes, Kerr came back to win at the 16th.
To Davies, Hull, who will be playing in her sixth Solheim Cup despite being only 27 years old, is the strongest among the strong this time around. Although Céline Boutier won this year’s Evian Championship, Hull was runner-up in the U.S. Open, the AIG Women’s Open and in the Kroger Queen City Championship played earlier this month. In other words, she is back in the position of being the player whom every American wants to annihilate.
Not that Hull would object. After all, in 2013, when she was asked whom she would like to play the most in singles, she said, “All of them,” before settling for Creamer.
Pettersen and her vice captains will not have needed to worry over much about who would make for the best partner for Hull in the foursomes and four-balls, the reason being that Hull is happy to play with anyone. It could, of course, be Emily Pedersen, with whom Hull won two of her three matches in ’21. However, Hull’s father, Dave, would not be surprised were Pettersen to pair his daughter with Linn Grant, one of the five glorious Swedes. Hull and Grant were out together – presumably at Pettersen’s request – for the opening rounds in their last two LPGA events. The thinking here would take in how both are ultra-long hitters who would be on the same page when it came to clubbing.
In answer to any questions about Georgia Hall’s relatively disappointing form this year, Davies has predicted that this former Women’s British Open champion “will turn up with her best stuff.” Again, Davies mentions how Hall and Boutier won three matches out of three in 2019 and won a half-point in their lone pairing in 2021.
Indeed, there is one thing after another to have Davies making bold to suggest that of the two first-class teams competing at Finca Cortesín, Europe could have the edge.
“We’ve ended up with nine players in the been-there-done-that category, and three great rookies in Maja Stark, Linn Grant and Gemma Dryburgh,” Davies said.
“We couldn’t ask for more.”
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