Pet­tersen puts neck on line with quip

Sol­heim Cup barb was ‘playful’ in­sist Europe Rook­ies handed an early taste of the at­mos­phere

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Golf - By James Cor­ri­gan GOLF COR­RE­SPON­DENT at Gle­nea­gles

As if the 16th Sol­heim Cup re­quired any more hype, Suzann Pet­tersen de­cided to af­ford this match a ra­zor-sharp edge any­way cour­tesy of an out­ra­geous state­ment. “We are go­ing to step on their necks,” Europe’s most ex­pe­ri­enced cam­paigner said.

Pet­tersen grinned as she ut­tered the words and the Europe camp in­sisted the Norwegian was “only be­ing playful”. How­ever, there was def­i­nitely zest in the jest and ran­cour in the banter as Pet­tersen was re­spond­ing to the United States’ Danielle Kang ex­claim­ing “we want to take their souls and ex­pect to be booed”. Just imag­ine the out­cry if these barbs had come from op­pos­ing play­ers on the eve of the Ry­der Cup. As it is, it all adds to an at­mos­phere that should reach fever pitch, with more than 100,000 ex­pected here over the next days, mak­ing it easily the most at­tended fe­male golf event ever staged in Bri­tain.

Of course, it was Pet­tersen who played the star­ring vil­lain role in the Sol­heim’s big­gest con­tro­versy dur­ing Europe’s last home match. In Baden-wurt­tem­berg, the for­mer world No2 – and fifth-high­est points scorer in the 29-year his­tory of this Ry­der Cup equiv­a­lent – cre­ated pan­de­mo­nium by in­sist­ing she had not con­ceded an 18ins putt to Ali­son Lee. Tears en­sued, as did an­gry con­dem­na­tion from the vis­i­tors. Juli Inkster, who was the US cap­tain and is again now, de­clared: “No way they can ever jus­tify that. It’s just not right.” The US were duly pumped up for the sin­gles and pro­duced a stun­ning comeback rem­i­nis­cent of the Mir­a­cle of Me­d­i­nah to avoid los­ing their third match in suc­ces­sion. Flash for­ward to 2019, and now it is the US look­ing for a Sol­heim “three-peat” and yet again, Pet­tersen is in the spot­light.

This is the 38-year-old’s first Sol­heim since 2015 and, with her hav­ing missed the past sea­son af­ter giv­ing birth to her son, Her­man, many won­dered why Europe cap­tain Ca­tri­ona Matthew se­lected her as a wild­card. Per­haps Pet­tersen’s words high­lighted why.

Matthew, the Scot de­ter­mined to pre­vail on home soil, does not want her out­siders to go down with­out at least a fight. Say­ing that, when it came to nam­ing the pair­ings for the first four­somes last night, in an open­ing cer­e­mony typ­i­cally cringe­wor­thy in its over-the-top­pery, Pet­tersen was ab­sent. As was Kang. In­stead, the morn­ing will have a heavy St Ge­orge flavour. There are four English­women in­volved – but bizarrely none of them are play­ing to­gether. Bronte Law, the debu­tante, goes out first with Spain’s Car­lota Ci­ganda – the only world top 20 player in Matthew’s ranks – against Mor­gan Pres­sel and Ma­rina Alex, while Ge­or­gia Hall and France’s Ce­line Boutier face Lexi Thomp­son and Brittany Al­tomare. Jodi Ewart Shad­off is next along­side Ger­many’s Car­o­line Mas­son as they take on sis­ters Jes­sica and Nelly Korda, with Charley Hull and an­other Spa­niard in Aza­hara Munoz tack­ling Megan Khang and An­nie Park in the fi­nal con­test.

Rook­ies will be ev­ery­where on a first tee sur­rounded by an in­tim­i­dat­ing grand­stand. Inkster is blood­ing five of her six, while Matthew is putting out of two of her three. “We wanted to try and get as many rook­ies out as we could,” Matthew said. “It’s a long hang-on if they play any later. Be­ing the home side, a quick lead would get the crowd into it, so we’re go­ing to go out and get some blue on the board.”

Inkster sounds con­fi­dent, but home ad­van­tage counts for plenty as Paul Mcgin­ley’s men showed here five years ago by crush­ing the op­po­si­tion. Amer­ica’s neck is once more on the line in Perthshire.

Stars and lights: The Sol­heim Cup has a typ­i­cally over-the-top open­ing cer­e­mony

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