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Captain Suzann Pettersen believes Europe have assembled their strongest team ever as they bid to win an unprecedented third straight Solheim Cup.
Nine of Pettersen’s 12-strong side are ranked inside the world’s top 50, including Evian Championship winner Celine Boutier (fifth) and Charley Hull (eighth), who finished runner-up in both the US Women’s Open and AIG Women’s Open this year.
Scotland’s Gemma Dryburgh is ranked just outside the top 50, although Pettersen raised a few eyebrows when she selected world numbers 121 and 122 Caroline Hedwall and Emily Pedersen as two of her four captain’s picks.
“I think we’re all very ready to go,” Pettersen told a pre-event press conference at Finca Cortesin in Spain.
“I don’t think there’s any reason to hide that, if you look on paper, we have the strongest team that I’ve ever been a part of, and that’s based on great performances over the last few years from all the players.
“With good results there’s also expectations, but these girls are so up for it, so we can’t wait.”
Pettersen’s sentiments were echoed by several of her players on Wednesday, with Hull, who has been plagued by a neck injury, adding: “I think this is a very, very strong team.
“It’s got a lot of depth to the team as well. Before we had a lot of strong players, but then sometimes the back end of the team wasn’t as strong, but I feel like we’re pretty strong all the way through.
“I think we’ve got a good chance this year. I’m looking forward to it.”
Pettersen and Hull were involved in one of the Solheim Cup’s most controversial moments in 2015 when the Norwegian claimed a vital hole after Alison Lee had picked up her ball thinking a short putt had been conceded.
Hull gave that impression as she was already walking across the front of the green towards the 18th tee, but Pettersen said they had not conceded the putt and therefore won the hole.
A par on the 18th was enough for the European pair to win the match, but among those to strongly criticise Pettersen was her former team-mate and current assistant captain Dame Laura Davies, who said on Sky Sports she was “disgusted”.
He said: “How Suzann can justify that I will never, ever know. We are all fierce competitors, but ultimately it’s unfair. We have to play week in, week out together and you do not do something like that to a fellow pro.”
Asked on Wednesday how Pettersen compares to previous captains she had played under, Davies said: “Well, she’s a lot calmer than I thought she was going to be.
“I’ll be honest with you. I’ve played with her and against her in normal tournaments and she’s always been the same. She’s just friendly, a little bit fearsome now and again, but brings everyone together.”
United States captain Stacy Lewis agreed with the bookmakers that Europe are favourites to retain the trophy as she lamented a “massive missed opportunity” for the Solheim Cup to be more closely linked with next week’s Ryder Cup.
“I thought this could have been marketed together as two weeks in Europe, two Cups for play,” Lewis said.
“I think it was a massive missed opportunity for the sport of golf. We tried to do a little bit with the guys and just weren’t really able to move things along the way I would have liked.
“I tried really hard, actually. I probably spent more time on it than I should have. But whether it was timing or it was too late in the process, I don’t know. To really market it correctly, this probably had to happen two years ago.
“It’s something that, going forward, I think the game of golf needs to get on the same page and do better with. I just would like to see it for the good of the game.
“It’s not to further women’s golf. Let’s further the game of golf in general.”