Carin Koch looks to lead Europe to third Solheim Cup

Europe stands on the brink of history this weekend with the prospect of a third victory in a row in the Solheim Cup at St Leon-Rot in Germany. It wasn’t so long ago that the biennial contest was becoming a breeze for the USA, but how the tables have turned.
Team Europe, top, and Team USA pose for photographs prior to the start of the Solheim Cup. Pictures: GettyTeam Europe, top, and Team USA pose for photographs prior to the start of the Solheim Cup. Pictures: Getty
Team Europe, top, and Team USA pose for photographs prior to the start of the Solheim Cup. Pictures: Getty

A thrilling win in Ireland in 2011 was followed by an equally dramatic 18-10 triumph in Denver two years ago. Colorado was a double whammy for Europe – a record winning margin and a first ever win on US soil.

With Scot Catriona Matthew and Norway’s Suzann Pettersen – both making their eighth appearance – leading the way, there is the chance to complete a famous hat-trick and reduce the overall scoreline to 8-6 in USA’s favour.

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European captain Carin Koch played in four matches and she has consulted last year’s Ryder Cup captain, Paul McGinley, in a bid to repeat his winning formula from Gleneagles.

“Everyone is ready and we all have good memories from Colorado,” said the Swede. “We don’t have any rookies in our team and it is good to have so much experience. I was at Gleneagles last year and I’ve had some dinners with Paul. He was so well prepared.

“We have a whole range of characters and it’s also great to have two Germans in the team. Sandra Gal and Caroline Masson will have a great time. It’s good for the home country to be able to watch their idols.”

Koch has two favourite moments from her playing career. “Holing the winning putt at Loch Lomond [in 2000] is hard to beat,” she said. “But standing on the first tee at Barseback in 2003 was also special. Playing on home soil was an amazing feeling.”

The weather at St Leon-Rot in Heidelberg this week has been wet, wet, wet. With the course measuring over 6,500 yards it is going to be a tough slog and a bonus for the big hitters.

American Brittany Lincicome – known as Bam Bam – is the player most delighted by the conditions. She is the longest on the statistics with an average drive of more than 270 yards and she is followed by team-mate Lexi Thompson.

But the Europeans also have some bombers. Carlota Ciganda and England’s Melissa Reid are the next on the list of big hitters.

“The course isn’t just for the long drivers,” said Koch. “There are a variety of holes and there is also a lot of water. Some are made for birdies and others are very tough.”

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Julie Inkster is the USA captain and she has played in nine Solheims, her finale coming in Ireland in 2011. A seven-time major winner, the 55-year-old is one of the most respected figures in the game.

She has the only rookie on show – Alison Lee – but several of her big names have been out of form. Paula Creamer has missed the last four cuts, including last week’s Evian Championship, and Michelle Wie has been struggling with injuries.

Not that the Europeans have all been on song. Caroline Hedwall became the first player from either side to win five out of five matches in Colorado, but the Swede didn’t automatically qualify this time round. But Hedwall hopes to repay Koch’s faith. “I’ve been hitting the ball really well, but I just haven’t putted that well,” said Hedwall. “It kind of was the same situation when I came into the Solheim in 2013, I didn’t make many putts and all of a sudden it works. I’m kind of hoping for some magic this week, too.

“It is different when you’re playing match play. I’m an aggressive putter and I think I can be more aggressive when it’s match play compared to stroke play. Match play is different.

“In match play, I actually trust my game a lot more and my putting, as well. So I think I’m ready for tomorrow. It feels good.”