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Tuesday, 22 January, 2019

Well-backed USA team look booked for Solheim glory

Home advantage expected to count for American aces

Stacy Lewis can help Team USA keep hold of the Solheim Cup in Iowa
1 of 1

Live on Sky Sports Main Event & Sky Sports Golf
Starts 2pm Thursday

The last Solheim Cup in Germany made headlines for all the wrong reasons when Europe's Suzann Pettersen claimed a hole the Americans thought had been agreed a half and created an incident that left a sour taste.

The combative Norwegian insisted Alison Lee's 20-inch putt for a half had not been conceded after Lee picked the ball up, and although Europe won that fourball, they lost the war as the furious Americans gritted their teeth and fought back from a 10-6 deficit the next day to win the singles by five and the match.

Lee was playing her first Solheim Cup, was undoubtedly nervous and the putt was just about missable but the majority view was that Pettersen had not acted in the spirit of the game. She was not flavour of the month when she went back to the States to rejoin the LPGA Tour.

The American fightback stopped Europe completing a hat-trick after a thrilling come-from-behind victory in Ireland in 2011 and an emphatic 18-10 one in Colorado in 2013.

That's the background to this week's showdown at Des Moines, Iowa, where Europe, captained by the great Annika Sorenstam, are 3-1 underdogs with Sky Bet and shorter elsewhere.

Tough Juli Inkster, who led the Americans to victory in Germany, stays on as captain. She has home advantage and the highest-ranked player on either side, world number two Lexi Thompson, who is struggling with a virus which is affecting her sleep.

Europe's problems are greater than that. Pettersen had to withdraw from the match on Wednesday because of a slipped disc, to be replaced by veteran Catriona Matthew, and their highest-ranked player Anna Nordqvist is also in the wars. In recovery mode from glandular fever, she may only be strong enough to play 18 holes a day.

Neither team is fantastic and the Koreans would be fancied to beat a USA-Europe combined. Britain's star, Charley Hull, has had a niggling wrist problem and not been at her best all year, finishing no higher than ninth, and that could be the difference between the teams as she has a brilliant Solheim record.

Europe had a boost at the British Women's Open with Jodi Ewart Shadoff and Georgia Hall finishing second and third behind yet another Korean winner, In-Kyung Kim. Hall, who topped the European Tour rankings without winning a tournament, makes her Solheim debut.

Apart from Thompson, the Americans have class acts in former world number one Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie and dogged veteran Cristie Kerr batting for them. They have lost Jessica Korda through injury but Paula Creamer is a fair substitute although not the player she used to be.

Big-hitting teenager Angel Yin, 11th at Kingsbarns, is an exciting wild card for the home side who may just win a close match. Not enough of Sorenstam's side seem at the top of their games.

The experienced Lewis, seventh in the British Open and playing her best golf for a while, and fiery Spaniard Carlota Ciganda, twice a winner on the LPGA Tour at the end of last year, can be top scorers for their respective teams.

Should the bookmakers price it up, the best bet would be Hall to be top European rookie. The 21-year-old from Bournemouth is a real talent, loves match play and as the top player on the LET rankings should get plenty of games.

4pts 1-2 Betfred
S Lewis top USA scorer
2pts 11-2 Betfred
C Ciganda top Europe scorer
1pt 11-2 Sky Bet

The lowdown

Course Des Moines Golf and Country Club, West Des Moines, Iowa
Length 6,894 yards Par 73
When to bet By 2pm Friday
Where to watch On Sky Golf and Sky Main Event from 2pm Friday
Time difference Iowa is six hours behind UK and Ireland

Format Two teams of 12 play two days of foursomes and fourballs, eight of each, followed by 12 singles on Sunday, 28 points in all, as in the Ryder Cup. Four players per side are omitted in the four pairs matches. Everyone plays the singles

Course overview A composite made up from Des Moines’ North and South courses. The average elevation is 950 feet above sea level

Weather forecast Cloudy and hot, up to 31C. Moderate wind

The story so far The USA lead 9-5 and won last time in Germany.

Britain's star Charley Hull has had a niggling wrist problem and not been at her best all year and that could be the difference between the teams
E.W. Terms
Sky bet