The 2011 Solheim Cup is set to kick off this Friday at Killeen Castle in Ireland and there is plenty of excitement building around this year’s U.S. and European teams. With the days ticking down to the start of the biennial event, let’s break down the two teams and see how they stack up against each other.
Team USA: Youthful energy
As Juli Inkster has said, the Americans are a young team besides her. At 51 years old, Inkster is the oldest competitor in the event’s history but the rest of the U.S. team is relatively youthful. While three of the Europeans — Laura Davies, Sophie Gustafson, and Catriona Matthew — have combined to make 23 Solheim Cup appearances, the entire U.S. squad has combined for 27 and that includes eight by Inkster. But although Team USA may not have the same veteran presence as the European squad, it’s a group with a lot of heart and Inkster believes that could be its best asset.
Team Europe: Home-field advantage
The Europeans are coming off three straight losses in the Solheim Cup and are considered to be the underdogs once again this year. But all three of Team Europe’s wins in the Solheim Cup have come on home soil and there should be plenty of support for them at Killeen Castle. With five talented rookies to combine with a core of Solheim Cup veterans, could this be the year that Europe ends its drought?
ROOKIE TO WATCH
Team USA: Stacy Lewis
It seems strange to call Lewis a rookie considering that she’s been making headlines on the LPGA Tour since 2007 when she finished tied for fifth at the Kraft Nabisco Championship as an amateur. Lewis is no stranger to team competition and set a record at the 2008 Curtis Cup by going 5-0 in competition. Expect her to play a significant role for this year’s U.S. team.
Team Europe: Melissa Reid
Reid has been one of the most successful players on the Ladies European Tour in recent years, finishing third in the Order of Merit in 2010. Reid is coming into the event on a high, having won the LET’s Open de Espana last week. It was Reid’s second win of the season and the England native finished first in the points race for this year’s European Solheim team.
MOST FEARED SINGLES OPPONENT
Team USA: Paula Creamer
Creamer’s undefeated 3-0-0 record in Solheim Cup singles play speaks for itself. The dynamic and tenacious Pink Panther has been playing well as of late recording four consecutive top-20 finishes prior to this week including fourth at the Safeway Classic Presented by Coca-Cola.
Team Europe: Suzann Pettersen
Ask any player who would be the toughest match-play opponent and Pettersen would likely rank near the top of the list. The Oslo, Norway native walked away with the 2011 Sybase Match Play title this year, beating Kerr on the 18th hole in the final match. And despite her winless singles record in the Solheim Cup (0-3-2), Pettersen will likely play a pivotal role come Sunday if Europe is to win.
Team USA: Ryann O’Toole
The most surprising moment leading up to this year’s Solheim Cup was when U.S. captain Rosie Jones selected the rookie as one of her two captain’s picks. O’Toole had played in just 8 LPGA events at the time of her selection and has missed three straight cuts since garnering a spot on the team. But the long-hitter brings with her a fiery nature and a passion to win that could be an asset for Team USA.
Team Europe: Caroline Hedwall
Hedwall has been very impressive in her rookie season on the LET Tour. The 22-year-old, who had a spectacular amateur career, has captured 3 wins on the LET so far this season and is one of the most talked about players heading into this year’s Solheim Cup. A native of Sweden, Hedwall has been compared to fellow teammate Suzann Pettersen early in her career and the captain’s pick by European captain Alison Nicholas could wind up being a big factor.
Team USA: Juli Inkster
Making her ninth Solheim Cup appearance, look for Inkster’s experience to play a crucial role for the U.S. team. On a team that consists of three rookies, the trio will rely on Inkster to learn the pivotal ins and outs of this historic event. This week, Inkster will divide her time between assistant captain and player as she is coming off a tie for 14th finish at the Navistar LPGA Classic Presented by Monaco RV which included a hole-in-one during the third round of play. Look for Inkster to shine during singles play this week as the fiery veteran boasts an impressive 6-1-1 resume.
Team Europe: Laura Davis
A fan favorite among many, Davies brings nine years of veteran experience to the less experienced European team. While Davies’ resume includes 81 professional victories worldwide, the World Golf Hall of Fame member boasts a 21-17-5 record in Solheim Cup play. Davies, who is considered to be one of the most decorative golfers to have ever played the game, will imply veteran knowledge to attempt to bring the cup back to Europe.
MOST TEAM SPIRIT
Team USA: Christina Kim
If 2009 is any indication of Kim’s patriotic pride, look for this LPGA veteran to exude red, white and blue from her veins. While Kim has missed two consecutive cuts on the LPGA Tour, that certainly wont stop her from celebrating proudly and competing passionately with her fellow Americans.
Team Europe: Azahara Munoz
Munoz might be a Solheim Cup rookie but look for her fiery and passionate personality to take center stage this week. Much like her fellow countryman Sergio Garcia, Munoz’s pride for her country will shine this week as the culmination of celebrating solid play and cheering on her teammates will make her Europe’s biggest cheerleader.
THE LONG KNOCKERS
Team USA: Michelle Wie
Michelle Wie, also known The Big Wiesy for her length off the tee, will rely on her driving distance to maneuver around the lengthy Kileen Castle. With a driving average of 266.1 yards, Wie is currently third in driving distance on the LPGA Tour.
Team Europe: Maria Hjorth
Ranked second in driving distance on the LPGA Tour, Maria Hjorth is the longest hitter of both squads with a driving average of 266.7 yards. Despite Hjorth’s stellar 2011 season, she has failed to win a match during her previous four Solheim Cup appearances. Feeling more confident than ever, Hjorth has already won once this year on the LPGA Tour and has failed to miss a cut all season.
Team USA: Cristie Kerr
Cristie Kerr should change her middle name to consistent as this LPGA Tour veteran has only missed one cut in the past three years. Despite coming off a missed cut at last week’s Navistar LPGA Classic Presented by Monaco RV, Kerr will provide the U.S. team with a consistent game they can surely rely on.
Team Europe: Karen Stupples
Playing in only her second Solheim Cup, Stupples has recorded six top-20 finishes during this season’s LPGA Tour. She also ranks amongst the top-25 in rounds under par and scoring average on the LPGA. Her stats combine to make Stupples a consistent and dominate force on this ear’s European squad.
THE MODERATOR: We’d like to welcome you to the 2011 Solheim Cup at Killeen Castle. Thanks everyone for joining us for the first interview of the week. We have, in her third appearance on the U.S. Team, in the middle, Christina Kim. She has a 5?2?1 overall record in the competition.
At the end, Angela Stanford, making her fourth appearance, a 3?4?3 overall record and 2?1 in singles play, And to my left, Michelle Wie, making her second appearance following her rookie campaign in 2009. She’s 3?0?1 all time.
We’d like to start with you, Angela. Your fourth appearance on the team, just talk about what it means to be on the U.S. Solheim Cup team?
ANGELA STANFORD: Well, I tell everybody that my dream is to make Solheim Cup teams. Dreams and goals. I’ve been excited since we hit the ground here, and I just think it’s an honor to be a part of this team. It’s an honor to be here. To get to play with a group of ladies you spend two years playing against, it’s kind of fun to pull for each other and play with each other.
I love it. It’s my favorite event, and it’s pretty weird that this is my fourth one so very happy to be here.
THE MODERATOR: Christina, your third appearance. You’re known for really pumping the crowds up out there. Do you have anything special in store this week?
CHRISTINA KIM: This is my first appearance here overseas. It’s an absolute thrill and honor to be here. Thankfully, it’s my third trip here to Ireland. I love the Irish people. Everyone’s been fantastic to me the last two times I’ve been at the AIB Ladies Irish Open.
You know, I don’t really have anything that I do other than celebrate the game. For me, it’s about celebrating that perfect shot, because I’ll probably just as shocked if the putt goes in as everyone out there will be.
THE MODERATOR: Your second appearance, in 2009, you scored three and a half points for the U.S. Team. What does that mean to you and what does it mean to be back here on another U.S. Solheim Cup team?
MICHELLE WIE: It’s the greatest honor to be able to represent your country and to represent your teammates out there. I was so happy when I did well in my first Solheim. It was a really, truly, amazing experience for me. I never felt so much support from my teammates before. It was my first time, and I think my second time being over in Europe.
So far the trip has been great, and I’m really looking forward to playing with these girls and cheering for them, no matter what and just kind of having fun.
Q. Christina, what have you been up to since you’ve been here in Ireland this week?
CHRISTINA KIM: Well, there’s not a lot, actually. It’s not quite like the Ladies Irish Open where we’re allowed to basically do what we want at our leisure. It’s a jam?packed week. 24 hours a day is not exactly enough sometimes.
We’ve got team fittings, and we’re just spending a lot of time ?? I’m just spending a lot of time with Angela, Michelle, and the nine other girls as well as our captains and assistant captains. Really just spending some quality time together and just loving being here. Haven’t had a pint of Guinness yet.
Q. How about you, Michelle, same question?
MICHELLE WIE: Same as her. It’s kind of nice going to the hotel, and we all are on the same hallway. Have the doors open, so kind of hanging out from room to room. Obviously we have an amazing team room and a game room with a ping pong table. So there’s going to be some competition there.
But overall, it’s been fun. I think yesterday like Christina said, it’s going to be a really busy week, a lot of things to do. So yesterday I just took some downtime. I have to say, worked out, just kind of laid down in bed and took advantage of that, so I’m looking forward to it.
Q. Angela, your experience as well being here so far?
ANGELA STANFORD: Well, I guess I’m echoing what they’ve said. But for me it’s just about kind of getting organized in the beginning of the week. I think we’ve all done different things since we’ve been here. For me, I’ve got to get everything straight.
I got my family and friends tickets taken care of, did all my shopping in the merchandise tent. Just trying to get organized so I can be focused on golf from here on out.
CHRISTINA KIM: On the ball.
ANGELA STANFORD: I’m trying. It took me four times to figure it out.
CHRISTINA KIM: I still have no place to walk. The floor is a mess.
Q. Michelle and Angela, your impressions of the course so far, and obviously with the veteran beside you in the middle there, are you getting advice from her the way it’s been played over the last couple of years?
CHRISTINA KIM: The old boot? Thanks.
MICHELLE WIE: Well, first time playing this golf course, and it’s absolutely beautiful. I didn’t know really what to expect because I heard so much about the golf course. It’s just amazing. I think the practice facility is really great here as well.
It’s kind of cool the little shamrock bunker on the first hole. Obviously not cool if you’re in it, but looking at it, it’s kind of cool. I think it’s a great golf course. The condition is amazing. Really, it’s really green. I was very surprised.
But I think the contrast between the brown and the green, it’s just a very beautiful golf course, and playing?wise, it’s a fun golf course. Little on the longer side, for sure, but the greens are tricky. But I think it’s a good match play golf course. We’re on the greens there today, and there are some crazy pins that they could put a four ball, so it’s going to be interesting.
THE MODERATOR: Angela, your thoughts on the course?
ANGELA STANFORD: I love it. I honestly ?? well, I played in the 2010 Ladies Irish Open and had kind of forgotten some of the holes and got my Irish book out on the plane ride over and was like Oh, yeah, that hole.
So I really enjoy this golf course. I think it’s going to be fun. It will be fun for spectators. It’s in great shape. The feedback from the 2011 Ladies Irish Open was it was playing firmer and faster.
CHRISTINA KIM: Much firmer.
ANGELA STANFORD: It looks like they’ve had some rain. I think it’s just perfect. It’s going to be a great week.
Q. How important will it be to have mental focus this week?
CHRISTINA KIM: I think the mental skills are going to have to be on the ball about it. Part of the beauty behind all of this is the fact that we’ve got, you know, for at least four of the five matches we’ll have someone there with us, be it our playing partners, along with our caddies and our captains and assistant captains.
Our mental toughness is going to have to be way up there. We’re not at home, I guess. I don’t know what the appropriate term is.
Q. You have the advantage of knowing the course.
CHRISTINA KIM: I hope I have the advantage of knowing the course.
MICHELLE WIE: I think also the part of it is the emotions are running so high this week. You’re representing your country and there is so much at stake that sometimes I think you have to kind of almost rely on your teammate to kind of push you in the right direction or kind of calm you down or pump you up. I think that’s going to be a very important part of the week.
Q. Obviously, there a few days before it starts. Are there any plans for initiation ceremonies for the rookies or anything, any songs you might ask people to sing?
CHRISTINA KIM: They’re coming in right after, so we can’t tell you that. We can’t disclose that information at this time.
Q. So there are some antics ahead?
CHRISTINA KIM: I can’t confirm or deny that.
MICHELLE WIE: What happens in the team room stays in the team room.
Q. Michelle, have you ever actually been in Ireland before or is this your first time?
MICHELLE WIE: No, this is my first time, actually.
Q. How different is it feeling this year compared to when you were a complete rookie? Are you more relaxed or what is the difference?
MICHELLE WIE: I think it’s kind of a feeling for me when I was a freshman in high school, kind of that buttery, nervous feeling, really not sure, kind of playing with the big girls.
Now it feels like I’m a sophomore where you see the younger kids come in, but at the same time you’re not a veteran at these things. It’s still new for me, especially me being the first time in Europe, I feel like a rookie.
Everything’s a new experience. I think every time you never know what to expect, and it’s just a wave of excitement. I’m really excited to see what’s going to happen this week.
Q. On the Guinness front, is there a ban on Guinness before the event or are you allowed a sample?
CHRISTINA KIM: No, there was plenty of Guinness flowing last night.
Q. Some of the girls have some?
CHRISTINA KIM: Some of the girls had some, some of the caddies had some, some of the caddies had more than some (laughing).
No, you know, I’d like to think that the entire team, honestly, we’re honored to be here. For me, I love coming to Ireland. The Irish people have always been so gracious to me. We like to par take in traditions.
I did the Irish dancing when we were here last month, and if we do that again, I’m going to wear a much longer dress.
MICHELLE WIE: Yeah, my caddie’s wife just went to the Guinness factory, and she proudly showed us the certificate, she can pour it.
CHRISTINA KIM: I can pour the perfect Guinness, I just went to the tap though. But I knew you were supposed to fill it up, and then you wait, and you watch it, and then you pour it again. I need a certificate for that.
Q. Just wondering if you consider yourselves the favorites to win this week?
ANGELA STANFORD: Well, I say no. I mean, if you look at their team from top to bottom, this is my fourth time, this is the most consistent team I have faced from top to bottom. They’re solid, and they’re at home.
I know a lot of their team has played on this course multiple times. Suzann won, Sophie won the year I played here. So for us to come in and think that we’re favorites, we have to watch that.
We’ve heard all the stats, you know. You’ve won X?number in so many years, and you haven’t lost since ’03. But it’s a new year, and they’re playing good. Outside of the fact that they’re consistent, they’re playing good.
We know we have our work cut out for us, and we’re excited about that. It’s going to be a great match, great matches.
CHRISTINA KIM: I agree with what Angela said. I don’t necessarily know about going all the way back to the first Solheim because I wasn’t playing golf back then. But I think this might be one of the strongest teams that Europe has ever brought forward, and it’s going to make for some exciting and incredible golf.
It’s an incredible golf course. There are going to be some magnificent fans, there is going to be a lot of cheering on both ends, and it’s just going to make for probably, honestly, some of the most dynamic and most exciting golf that we’ve seen come from ladies in recent history.
They’ve got a very, very strong team, as do we, and we’ve just got to see how the dice roll.
Q. So from what you said then, you’re the underdogs?
ANGELA STANFORD: I say yes. I’m saying yes.
CHRISTINA KIM: I don’t know how to answer that. I think that we’re very well matched up, and I think it will make for some damn good golf.
ANGELA STANFORD: I’m saying yes.
Q. Michelle, are you still using the long putter? And I know you switched it during the U.S. Open, can I ask you your philosophy for switching, and will you be using it this week and how are you getting on with it?
MICHELLE WIE: Yes, I’m still using the long putter. My philosophy was why not? I like it. I really do. And it will definitely be in the bag this week because I didn’t bring the short one.
Q. Can I ask you if you’re working with anyone particularly on your putting?
MICHELLE WIE: No, obviously, I worked with David Leadbetter on my swing and everything. But I found out that putting is kind of a very personal thing. I do take advice from a couple of people, but mostly I just kind of have to rely on myself.
Q. Christina, I read your book, and lots of people read your book. Can you tell us a bit about how it was received? Were you really happy with it? It was a good read.
CHRISTINA KIM: Well, thank you very much. Yes, it’s been received very well. I haven’t had it set on fire and thrown at me yet. I haven’t been everywhere in the world yet, but so far it’s been very well received.
We did the first printing, which was in hard back, and they said that they were going to print it in paperback, which I believe in the literary world is never a bad sign.
So I’m very pleased with how the book came out. There were a couple of typos toward the end, because we got a little tired. But it’s been a fantastic ride. It’s always great coming to different countries. I’ve signed the book and had people come to me in Jamaica, in Dubai, here in Ireland.
All around the world it’s pretty remarkable that people want to know what’s going on in my life. They open the book and it’s like oh, that’s it.
MICHELLE WIE: It’s a pretty awesome book, a pretty awesome read.
CHRISTINA KIM: But Suzann didn’t win the Safeway, and they put that she did. Typo.
Q. Forgive me if this is common knowledge. But what are your plans academically? I understand you’ve done your finals. Are you planning to go on and do your Masters?
MICHELLE WIE: I haven’t graduated yet.
Q. Have you done your finals?
MICHELLE WIE: No, I haven’t been back to school since May, June.
CHRISTINA KIM: Summer.
MICHELLE WIE: So, basically, hopefully, I’ll be graduating my undergraduate degree in March. And no, no Masters or Ph.D. for me yet. My dad’s still opening, he’s still wishing secretly that I’d get a Ph.D., but no, enough school.
Q. Were you aware of something that Annika Sorenstam said a few weeks ago where she said that you weren’t concentrating full?time on professional golf and that perhaps as such you couldn’t expect to attain what people expect of you until you do so? What did you feel about that and what is your impression of what college life has done for you?
MICHELLE WIE: I think that going to college is a very good decision for me. I think it’s a very personal decision. I think that growing up I didn’t have the normal childhood, per se, growing up in the spotlight. Obviously, very connected at the hip with my parents, going to every tournament and spending a lot of time together.
I think for me going to college was a step for me to grow up, for me to go out there in the real world and kind of live out by myself and get an education.
I think going to Stanford was one of my biggest goals since I was 4. So I think going there was a great accomplishment of mine. I’ve never felt so proud when I got that acceptance letter for me to go. It was a very personal decision. I don’t regret it at all.
I think over the last four years I’ve played in the same amount of tournaments that everyone else has played. I’ve put in the same amount of hours that everyone else puts in. If anything, my grades had an effect to it.
So I think it was a good decision of mine. I still work hard, maybe even harder to make up for it, but I think that it was a good decision of mine. I’m happy. I think that it’s done a lot for me personally and for my game as well, too because I think I’ve matured a lot hopefully. But I think it will be good once I graduate.
CHRISTINA KIM: Since you were four?
MICHELLE WIE: Yeah, my dad couldn’t get in, so I wanted to get in. My grandpa taught there, and both my auntie and uncle taught there, so kind of a legacy school for me.
Q. Doing course mechanics now?
MICHELLE WIE: No, I’m not an engineer major. I’m kind of far from that. I’m a communication major. I don’t know how to fix any buses or flat tires for that matter.
Q. We know your bus broke down. Can you tell us a bit about?
CHRISTINA KIM: We were on the road. We had just put some music on. I think it was Born in the USA was playing, and it was playing pretty loud. And we heard a slight beep, beep, beep for a while, and then we assumed that the driver was not driving well.
We turned the volume down and the beeping got louder. We were very fortunate that we had a secondary bus that was taking our luggage that was there for us, and we just hopped right off, hopped right on and off we went.
MICHELLE WIE: Got in between the suitcases.
CHRISTINA KIM: Got into the room, checked in, went to the course and putted. She worked out. Angela organized. Easy day. It’s fixed now.
Q. Could I ask you guys for each of you, your favorite and/or most significant Solheim Cup moment? In the heat of battle and chips are down, maybe?
CHRISTINA KIM: You mean Solheim Cup, a particular match?
Q. No, Solheim Cup.
CHRISTINA KIM: That will be easy for you, Michelle.
MICHELLE WIE: Well, of all the Solheims that I’ve played (laughing). I think personally for me, there is always that story that we tell in the team room where things don’t go as well, we’re kind of losing, then your teammate comes in and you kind of get a little hurrah moment and go. For us, I think playing with Christina, first hole, I think we were playing in Sophie ??
CHRISTINA KIM: No, Helen.
MICHELLE WIE: Helen chipped in on the first hole, and we got there on the second hole and they eagled, didn’t they?
CHRISTINA KIM: No, we tied them on the second hole.
MICHELLE WIE: We barely tied them. They’re like chip in, chip in, eagle. Kind of all of a sudden we’re like two or three down, and I’m kind of like what the hell is happening? What are we going to have to do here?
Christina came up, and we were going like I guess this is how the day’s going. I think for me it was that turn around moment where we can make a down moment and then kind of move forward from there. I think that was for me kind of an amazing feeling that we can move forward. I feel that I use that in a lot of tournaments, I guess.
CHRISTINA KIM: For me, I’ve only played in two other Solheims. For me, they were both in America so we have the home team advantage.
I really wish I could tell you at the end of the week, because I would love to see how this week turns out, not necessarily just with the results, but how the week goes. I’ve been very, very fortunate to have some amazing captains in the States with Nancy Lopez and Beth Daniel, and I’ve had some pretty incredible teammates with these two ladies sitting here with me.
But we’ve got Rosie Jones who is a firecracker and an inspiration in so many ways that I really can’t pick any one Solheim because every moment of every Solheim is spellbinding, and it rips your heart out.
I remember my first Solheim, my first match, everyone was like, if you want to puke, go puke. And I wanted to cry because at the start of my first match that meant that it was Friday, and it was ending on Sunday, so I shed a few tears before getting up to the first tee and didn’t puke, didn’t have that need.
Presently I can’t pick any one Solheim at the moment; every second is just such a precious moment.
ANGELA STANFORD: I agree in that they’re all very special for different reasons. But I would say 2007 was pretty cool for me because I missed ’05. So I played ’03 and was a part of that loss, and then missed ’05, and then coming back in ’07.
It’s really neat to be on the team. Especially when you’re overseas, I know how much harder it is to play over here than it is at home. Actually, ’09 was my first one at home. Even my Curtis Cup was over here. 32 years old, finally playing at home was fun.
But it’s different. To have a team come together in somebody else’s house is pretty cool. So I’m excited for these two because they’re going to get to feel it this week. It’s just really neat to kind of stand your ground. You have to be ready. It’s tough. I’ve always said it’s a lot tougher playing over here.
I think that team is pretty special because I guess it was our win after we’d lost over there last time in Sweden. So I’m looking forward to it this week because it takes something different when you’re over here.
THE MODERATOR: Angela, Christina, Michelle, thank you very much. Good luck this week.
THE MODERATOR: Welcome to the 2011 Solheim Cup. We have here today the three rookies on the U.S. Solheim Cup team: On the far left, Vicky Hurst, in the middle, Stacy Lewis, and to my left, Ryann O’Toole.
We’ll start with Stacy, because she’s the major champion at the table, by virtue of your win, you gained quite a few Solheim Cup points at the 2011 Kraft Nabisco, and you really shot up the rankings for this team. Just talk about being here in Ireland and playing your first Solheim Cup?
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, it’s been unbelievable. Since Kraft, I knew I was going to be here. I’ve heard so many stories of what walking into your room and coming out to the first tee. I really actually haven’t been too surprised by too many things, but it’s just unbelievable to be here. It was one of my goals going into the season.
THE MODERATOR: Vicky, you’re one of two captain’s picks. You had a very successful amateur career. You played some match play for the United States. Just talk about being here and what it’s like in your first Solheim Cup?
VICKY HURST: So far it’s been an amazing journey up to this point, and now it’s just getting started. But I have played in Junior Solheim Cup, Junior Ryder Cup, and couple other team events. But I think nothing can kind of prepare you for this kind of team atmosphere, and you’re playing with the 12 best Americans. So it’s been crazy, but I’m just so excited to get started.
THE MODERATOR: And Ryann, for you, your pick drew a lot of attention. I know you’ve done a lot of interviews and people have had different things to say. How does it feel to finally be here with your teammates in Ireland and not have to worry about that anymore?
RYANN O’TOOLE: Interviews are always fun. I mean, they can be bit time?consuming, but it’s also just shows you had the attention and being in the spotlight and having people want to know what’s going on and what you’re thinking, it goes along with playing well.
But to finally be here and be able to get down to business and play, I was ready to get here.
Q. Ryann, you have an Irish name, is there any connection?
RYANN O’TOOLE: Yes, where, I don’t know how far down.
Q. Do you know where or what?
RYANN O’TOOLE: No. My ancestors, my great grandparents came from Ireland, but I don’t know which part, so this is actually my first time to the country.
Q. So if there are O’Tooles in the phone book, they could be relations?
RYANN O’TOOLE: Yes, I need to go on Facebook and tell them all to come out and watch.
STACY LEWIS: We told her to look that up because that question was going to come today, but apparently she didn’t do it.
RYANN O’TOOLE: I went to bed.
Q. Anyone else have any Irish connections?
STACY LEWIS: No, I don’t.
VICKY HURST: My caddie is Irish. Well, he’s of Irish family. McDeed is his last name. That’s about it.
Q. Ryann, obviously it’s been a whirlwind last couple of years from Big Break to Solheim Cup. Can you describe that kind of process and transition in to where you are today?
RYANN O’TOOLE: Yes, obviously I was on the Big Break last year. I did the show just kind of to get my name out. I was playing on Futures Tour, and Big Break just brought fans out.
I think as a player, the more people that know you, the more people that follow, it kind of builds your momentum. From there, I made Top 10 on the money list for the Futures Tour, and I didn’t know which events I was going to get into for the LPGA.
But it wasn’t until the fifth or sixth event that I actually got in and made the cut and got through the reshuffle. It kind of just went from there. I mean, qualified for the Open, played well there, and that’s when Rosie contacted me, and I think the whole talk of the Solheim Cup came into perspective and became one of my goals.
As a rookie, at the beginning of the year that wasn’t something I had set fourth for myself, thinking that I was going to play a whole year again on the Futures Tour and only get in a couple of events.
Q. How important do you think mental skills will be this week to determine the winner?
STACY LEWIS: I think any kind of match play you’re playing mentally you have to be so strong. The momentum can switch on every single shot, so you have to be ready for it. I think at the end of the day, you’re more mentally worn out than you are physically.
You’ve just got to keep thinking. Even if you’re playing poorly, that that next shot or that next putt can change the whole momentum of all the matches.
Q. Of course you also have to be careful that you don’t try to hit it too hard before you get to the ball.
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, you have to reel yourself in a little bit and let yourself just kind of enjoy the moment and just play.
Q: Stacy, can you talk about your Curtis Cup experience? You were 5?0 for the U.S. Team which set a record. Is that going to help you this week?
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, I think so. We came over and played at St. Andrews and at the old course. It was unbelievable. The same kind of thing, just being with the best 12 amateur players at the time got some good pairings in, and I played well that week.
I love match play, I and I love alternate shots and I love the momentum changes and when things switch. You can hear it from hole to hole and match to match. I don’t know. It’s just a lot of fun for me.
Q. We asked the girls just now about the initiation ceremonies and as rookies. Are you scared of what you might be asked to do?
VICKY HURST: From our team?
STACY LEWIS: They tried to get us to get up and sing last night, but that wasn’t going to happen. I don’t think they’ve done anything in the past to the rookies, so we’re not going to be the first.
RYANN O’TOOLE: Not yet at least.
Q. What did they want you to sing?
VICKY HURST: The Star?Spangled Banner.
Q. Can I ask you, what have the older hands been telling you about the first tee? I know you’re experienced in previous match play events, but have they been talking to you about the nerves and what to expect on the first tee of the Solheim day, all the crowds there and everything else?
VICKY HURST: Yeah, from what I’ve heard from all the past players is that everyone is very nervous, not just the rookies, but also the veterans and even the opposing team. So I’m just trying to stay aware that everyone’s nervous, not just me, and kind of getting myself not just ready for the first tee box, but every tee box.
I don’t know. It’s kind of in anticipation, but I think we’re ready for it.
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, I’ve kind of heard ?? everybody says that Solheim pressure is almost worse than coming down the stretch at a major, so I’ve kind of got that. But if it’s worse than that, I don’t know if it can be much worse.
I don’t know. If I can get the ball on the tee and out there on the fairway somewhere, I’ll be happy. Everybody’s told me once you play the first couple holes, it’s just golf from there. Just kind of get through the first two and see what happens.
RYANN O’TOOLE: I think the best thing to do is to expect the unexpected and picture it being the absolute worst. For some of us, they said the weather was going to be absolutely crummy here and cold and windy. But walked out today and it was like, wow, this isn’t as cold as I expected. So you set yourself up for much worse and things seem much easier once they come that direction.
There are going to be a ton of people out there that are going to be cheering against us, and you just got to tell yourself that you’re in their territory, and we’re here to play and compete. And you just have to expect that they’re not going to be cheering for us. All you can do is focus on your tee shot and go from there.
Q. You’ve said foursomes was your favorite form of golf. Have you only played that in the Curtis Cup? Was that your first experience of it?
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, Curtis Cup was the first time, but also kind of on our college team we’d just kind of play some fun matches of alternate shot. I think it really brings out how well somebody’s playing. You really have to be playing well to play well in alternate shot. I don’t know, more than anything, I like the challenge of it.
THE MODERATOR: I’d like to welcome Maria Hjorth and Anna Nordqvist to the interview room. Making her fifth Solheim Cup appearance with a 5?7?5 record is Maria Hjorth with 7.5 points earned for the European team, And making her second appearance, the 2?2?0 record is Anna Nordqvist, with 2 points for the European team in 2009.
So, Maria, can you start by talking about what it means to be here at the Solheim Cup in Ireland?
MARIA HJORTH: It obviously means a lot every time you play Solheim Cup. It’s great to represent Europe and represent Sweden, and being here this week is going to be great. I’ve done three in America and one on European soil before. So playing again on European soil is just great, and I think the crowds here in Ireland are going to be amazing.
THE MODERATOR: Anna, how excited are you to be playing at home this time in Europe?
ANNA NORDQVIST: I’m very excited just to come back to Europe and play. I remember watching Barsebäck on site, and just the atmosphere how it was there. Coming home is a big honor, and I think we’re a great team and very excited to get to be inside the rope this week.
THE MODERATOR: Why is the Solheim Cup different to other regular Tour events, Maria?
MARIA HJORTH: First of all, it’s a team event. Playing with the players that you play against every week, it’s obviously very different. Solheim is also, especially for us, we have a lot of different countries representing our team, and it’s fun to get to know some of the girls that are playing on a regular basis on the European Tour and also get to know some of the girls that you maybe don’t spend a lot of time with because they’re European but playing on the LPGA.
It’s just the atmosphere of also having a chance, representing Europe and representing Sweden is something special.
THE MODERATOR: And you’ve both played Killeen Castle before, so can you give us your thoughts about the golf course and how it’s playing?
ANNA NORDQVIST: Yeah, we played the Irish Open here last year and just a couple weeks ago. I think it’s a great golf course. I saw it for the first time today. It’s playing a lot different than it did back in August. It’s playing pretty long, because the ball doesn’t fly as far.
But it’s a true test because you’re going to have to hit your irons good to get close to the pin and hopefully make a lot of birdies. But I think it’s a great set?up, and I think it’s going to favor whoever plays the best.
MARIA HJORTH: I think it’s obviously playing very different to the last time we were here, especially the front nine was playing very long this morning. The greens are ?? the greens are really nice. The course is in great shape.
I’m not sure if we’re going to keep having the course playing this long, but I still think it’s great. It’s going to be a great challenge for everybody. The greens are pretty tough, and coming in with long irons into the greens are very difficult.
But I think it’s going to be a lot of fun, and hopefully the weather will cooperate as well.
Q. Could you tell us about your day to day? When did you get up and what have you been doing so far?
MARIA HJORTH: I felt like a really short night. We both came from America. Pretty long day yesterday flying out here. Then we got up at like 5:30 this morning, came out here, had breakfast. We all played 18 holes today just to get a feel for a bit of the foursome and the best ball format.
It took quite a while, so we just got back in at 2 o’clock and had some lunch. Then come here, and we have a photo shoot at 4 o’clock, and we have a quiz night tonight on the European team, having just a bit of fun and get together.
So it’s a long day, a busy day. Tuesday is always the busiest day, so we’re looking forward to getting to bed tonight as well.
Q. As the week goes on, do you get more nervous or excited as we get closer to Friday?
ANNA NORDQVIST: I think you get more excited the closer you get. I think everyone kind of pumps up each other. Obviously, it’s only Tuesday today, so you have to really pace yourself to save energy for when you really need it. But just being in a team environment, I think that helps everyone really get motivated and really get inspired.
Our coaches have done a really good job with inspiring us with having different things every day. So hopefully we’ll be a little bit more excited by Friday, but I think we all are here and everyone’s just really happy and in a good mood.
Q. So, Anna, can you tell us, the last time you played Solheim you were a rookie. What did you learn then that you can benefit from now do you think?
ANNA NORDQVIST: Well, I was really nervous as a rookie. I didn’t really know what to expect inside the ropes. So I think I feel a lot calmer and with my own stuff, just trying to stick to my own game plan whenever you play.
I feel like I got really aggressive in the foursome matches I played with Mimi, so she had a couple of good return putts. But I think just try to keep your own pace and keep your own tempo even though you have a lot of adrenaline. I think that’s what I learned last time.
Q. How important will the mental focus be, just trying to focus yourself and not trying too hard?
ANNA NORDQVIST: I think as strong as the athletes you have this week, you’ve got to really be strong. You’re going to win holes, you’re going to lose holes and fight through things. We can expect some weather this week. It’s a part of it, and whoever stays the strongest will come out on top.
Q. This morning the Americans are saying that perhaps they’re the underdogs. Do you think you’re the favorites going into this event? You’re probably the foreign team through the season, but does the favorite tag sit well with you?
MARIA HJORTH: I don’t know. Looking at world ranking, they’re still the team that’s going to win this week. And I think that’s why we have a great feeling coming in this week. We have nothing to lose. If we lose, then I think a lot of people are going to say, well, you were supposed to lose. If we win, it’s going to be something huge.
I think we’re going in here and we’re all playing really well. I think that gives us a great boost. We’re all playing very consistent and have been for a while now.
So I think that’s ?? I don’t know I still think it’s going to be them having a little bit of an advantage, but also with the course set?up, I think we have maybe a little longer hitting team on average, which will help I think, in these conditions. Also the crowd, obviously is behind us, and that’s a huge bonus too.
So I think it’s going to be a great match. I think it’s going to be really tight, and hopefully we can start making some putts. That’s usually where we kind of lose a little bit. But hopefully we can do that this year.
Q. How much do you know Annika, and can you tell me how much she’s brought to the team this week?
ANNA NORDQVIST: Ever since I came out on Tour in 2009, Annika has been mentoring me. So it’s been a huge support, and I practice a lot at her academy in Orlando where I live. She’s just been a great support. Helping me go through a lot of things and helped me with advice here and there.
I think it’s great for us to have her on our team this week. She has a lot of experience and brings a good spirit. So I definitely think it’s a huge support for us this week.
Q. You have five rookies on your team this year. What’s that mean for you? You’ve been around before.
MARIA HJORTH: I think it’s just giving them a lot of confidence, a lot of help. If they have any questions, any questions, don’t hesitate to ask us, because we know what they’re going through.
The first tee experience is always something you cannot really describe or explain for them. You can go out there and be as nervous at any tournament, but you’re going to be triple that, and that’s how you’re going to feel on the first tee.
So I think trying to explain to them that this is what’s going to happen. You’re going to have every feeling or every emotion this week. You’re going to be happy, you’re going to be sad, you’re going to be annoyed, you’re going to be angry, everything, everything is just popping up. That’s what we really have to explain to them.
And it’s okay. Whatever you’re feeling, it’s okay. And I think that’s important for them to know that anything will happen, and you’re going to be nervous, but that’s fine. Everybody’s nervous, even I am. It’s my fifth time playing, but I’m still so nervous and excited on the first tee. It’s important for them to know that everybody’s nervous and excited.
Q. So what do you do to deal with this nervousness before you go out? What is your trick?
MARIA HJORTH: I don’t know. I think ?? normal events you just try to ?? obviously with breathing and everything like that. But this is just so special that I don’t think you can do anything. You just have to let go with just your experience. You’ve hit golf balls before. The golf ball doesn’t know whether it’s Solheim Cup or whether it’s your club championship. You just have to let your body know this is a golf shot. Any golf shot, and just let it happen.
Q. Alison is the captain for the second time. Is there anything that she’s doing differently or did you talk about things to change since last time?
ANNA NORDQVIST: I think she called every friend she has in Ireland, and they’re going to come out and support us this week. She’s just put a lot of heart into this. She’s been working very hard the last couple of years.
This is what she dreamed of. And just being on the home soil, I think she’s just, you know, just trying to make everything better. Having Annika, and having Jo as assistant captains, and just trying to make our lives easier. Everything she’s done, it’s just an honor to be a part of her team really.
THE MODERATOR: We’d like to welcome Laura Davies and Melissa Reid into the interview room. Making her 12th Solheim Cup appearance and the only player to play in every edition of the event is Laura Davies here. She has 23.5 points to the European team, secondly only to Annika Sorenstam by half a point.
Melissa’s making her Solheim Cup debut as a rookie, and qualified in first place in the early tee rankings, also celebrated her 24th birthday yesterday, so congratulations.
So, Laura, first of all, what’s it mean to you to make your 12th appearance in this competition?
LAURA DAVIES: I’m obviously very pleased. That means I’ve played at a consistent level for a long time. The ultimate every two years is to qualify for the team and not worry about getting a captain’s pick. And that is the mark of what you’re trying to do. I guess I’ve done it 12 times now, which is very satisfying.
THE MODERATOR: And, Melissa, you’ve played well here at the Irish Open, tied for third. What’s it mean to be back here at Solheim Cup?
MELISSA REID: Obviously, it’s one of my goals of the year was to get to Solheim Cup, so I managed to do that, which was nice. I’ve got some good memories here. I think the course is set?up really, really well.
Yeah, obviously finishing third in the Irish Open is good, because it brings back some good memories.
THE MODERATOR: So, Laura, how does the experience now compare to when you were a rookie, a Solheim Cup rookie?
LAURA DAVIES: That was 1990. It’s hard to remember that far back to be honest with you. But it was on a much smaller scale in those days. Obviously, the history of the tournament now makes it where it’s a huge sporting event.
But back then at Lake Nona it was a lot quieter. The golf was fierce enough, the competition was fierce enough, but there wasn’t all the infrastructure that goes with the modern Solheim Cup that we’ve got now. It’s just grown.
THE MODERATOR: And you have many memories of this day. What would be the most significant of your memories?
LAURA DAVIES: Just the three wins. Three wins and eight losses, you try to forget the losses as painful as they are, and remember the good, the three wins and the fun you have with your teammates after you’ve achieved something that means a lot to all of us, really.
THE MODERATOR: Do you consider the European team to be underdogs?
LAURA DAVIES: If you look at the bookmakers, we’re massive underdogs in a two?horse race, but underdogs do win things, and I think we’ve got a very good chance. We’ve got 12 good players, the course is nice and long. Most of our players hit the ball a long way, and I think the chance is ours.
It’s up to us now. We’ve got to take the chance we’ve got.
THE MODERATOR: Melissa, how do you feel about Europe’s chances this week?
MELISSA REID: I think looking on paper we are probably coming in as slight underdogs, but I think all 12 players, all of us are playing really, really well. The last two or three months, everyone’s stepped up and started to play some really good golf.
So I think, like Laura just said, we need to take our chances when we get given them. And, yeah, I think there’s a good buzz on the European team, and hopefully we can snatch it from them.
LAURA DAVIES: Good team spirit.
MELISSA REID: Yeah, good team spirit. Yeah, it’s brilliant. No, it’s good team spirit.
Q. Laura, I know you’re both big football fans. If you were to pick two football teams at the moment, who would America be and who would Europe be?
LAURA DAVIES: We’d be Barcelona and they’d be Grimsby Town, I think (laughing).
Q. The bookies wouldn’t agree with you.
LAURA DAVIES: No, it would probably be the Champions League final the other day. They’d probably be Barcelona, and we’d probably be Man United. It’s a close thing. You know, the star players have to step up and win the points at vital times. So hopefully we’ll have a Lionel Messi on that team or a Wayne Rooney.
Q. Would you like to see a sort of Liverpool?Istanbul type situation?
LAURA DAVIES: No, I’d like to start off strong and get further and further away from them. You don’t need a close run thing, because they’ve proven over the years the singles are their forte.
I think we need a lead going into the singles. If we don’t have a lead, we’ll be in a little bit of a trouble, but our goal is to get a lead.
Q. There is no Irish player here, but what would you say to Irish people who haven’t decided if they’re going to come along on the weekend. What would you say to encourage them to come here?
LAURA DAVIES: They’re going to miss out on a good crack really. Win or lose, it’s going to be a really good fierce battle. Hopefully they’ll be able to cheer on their home ?? not the home nation, but the European Nation to try to beat the Americans because they’re tough.
Q. Laura, 12 Solheim Cups. Is motivation an issue for you? Is it just the fact that you’re playing event is the motivating factor for you?
LAURA DAVIES: Yeah, that’s the thing. You know when this is finished, we start again. And you’ve got to be thinking for 2013 I want to try to be part of the team again, and you set your schedule out where you give yourself the best chance to qualify for it again to be part of this. Because the team’s getting younger, I’m getting older, and it’s harder to do it. But it makes it all the more fun when I can get in the team.
Q. Mel, having somebody like Laura there, for you particularly as a rookie, how important is that?
MELISSA REID: Obviously, it’s great. We get on really well, and Laura’s been a big help. I feel very, very comfortable around Laura, so the nerves haven’t really crept in yet. And I think that’s a massive part to do with somebody like Laura, to be honest.
We have a lot of fun. You do this with someone that’s played that many Solheim Cups, they know what it’s about and the experience that Laura has and some of the other players have played Solheim Cup before. So I think it’s very important for the rookies to talk to the more experienced players and kind of get a feeling of what this week is all about, because it’s completely new to us.
Q. How important do you think the home advantage and fans will be this week?
LAURA DAVIES: I think it will be huge. The home advantage is not the golf course, it’s the fans, it’s the galleries, it’s the cheering you get. You know all over the golf course whose won a hole. You don’t have to guess at it. And it works against you in America, because you know exactly what’s happened over there too.
If it’s quiet on a home course, you know things aren’t quite going your way. So you need the crowd to be in it early on.
Q. We’re in a golden age for the European mens, there was a run of six straight majors won by the Euros and four or five Ryder Cups. Not so much with the women with the Solheim Cup here, and not so many major championship wins. How motivated are you to prove yourselves?
MELISSA REID: Yeah, I think obviously we do have something to prove. I think, like I said before, I think everyone’s kind of come into form the last three months, and everyone’s playing really, really well. It’s not as easy for us to go out there and play on the LPGA as it is for the guys. So we don’t get to play against the same sort of competition as they do. So maybe that’s the difference. I’m not sure.
I think definitely we’ve got something to prove, especially somebody like myself who is desperate to try to get on the LPGA. It’s not as easy for women to do so. I definitely ?? somebody like myself has a point to prove this week to show what Europe has to offer.
Q. I wanted to ask about a few spats over the years between Europe and American players. What do you make of that and does that act as an extra incentive?
LAURA DAVIES: In the Solheim Cup?
LAURA DAVIES: There’s only been a couple. We had a punch bag thing and we stabbed it once because Dottie Pepper annoyed us ?? we didn’t stab it, Annika actually stabbed it. So that was quite contentious. We enjoyed doing that.
There have been a couple of things. They made us re?chip one on Loch Lomond, they made us re?chip because of playing out of turn. It was crazy. And that caused a bit of a ruckus. But, overall, I’d say these matches have been played very, very friendly.
The things is, for me especially, because I’ve played out in America a long time now, most of these girls are friends of mine. Although you really want to beat them, you don’t want to be nasty because they’re mates of yours. It’s just friendly competition, and there is nothing quite like beating one of your friends at something. I’ve always enjoyed that.
Mel beat me on the back nine today, so I think she enjoyed that.
Q. You’ll enjoy beating Annika’s record then?
LAURA DAVIES: Well, who knows. I didn’t even know that stat, but I need a point. So hopefully if I get a chance to play in the foursomes or the four balls and then obviously the singles. You just don’t know. You can only try your best.
But I’d be very disappointed not to get at least one point and hopefully three or four.
Q. How much of a confidence boost do you think your recent form has had on the rest of the team and yourself?
MELISSA REID: I’m not sure on the rest of the team, but obviously winning last week was nice. It gave me a nice boost of confidence coming into this week. So it just made me ?? it just gave me a little bit more confidence on what I was working on, et cetera.
But like I said, everyone’s coming to form. Everyone’s playing well. I definitely think that everyone’s coming into format the right time.
Q. My friends have enjoyed having you as their guest the last few years for the Ladies Irish Open. And do you get a chance to relax this week at all as you would for that event or is it tense.
LAURA DAVIES: It’s not so much tense. There’s always something going on. Last night was the welcome party. Tonight’s a bit more less, but we’ve got the photos to do, so you’re always on a schedule. You can’t just sneak off on your own and have a few hours away because there’s always something for us to do.
But if you’ve played in a enough Solheim Cups, you realize this is a week for the team. So you go where the team goes, so it is different than normal weeks.
Q. Did you get down to the pub?
LAURA DAVIES: Of course we did, yeah.
Q. Did you enjoy that?
LAURA DAVIES: Yeah, really nice. The people in there are really nice. It’s always nice to meet the local people. Nine times out of ten, they’re into the sport and they love watching it and a lot of them are golfers.
So, yeah, we went in there last night and saw them again, and they were wishing us good luck. It was nice.
Q. Was that Brady’s?
LAURA DAVIES: The one on the corner, Galvin’s or whatever it is. It’s nice, next to Paddy Power. I didn’t go in there.
Q. Laura, you’ve been in a lot of these. Could you compare this team with other Euro teams?
LAURA DAVIES: I think it’s strong from player number one to player number 12 if you could label it, because obviously it goes in three different portions our team.
Obviously, Suzann Pettersen would be the standout. I think she’s two or three in the world rankings now. She’s our marquis standout player. But with the rest of us on any given day, you know, you could throw a blanket over us.
We’re all good players, and now we can take the Americans into singles. And a couple of the American girls haven’t been playing quite so well lately, so hopefully ?? they’ll probably come out and have a great week this week. That’s how it works. You can never single anyone out and say I’d like to play against her, because on the day, anyone can do it. But finally we’ve got 12 that can stand toe?to?toe in the singles and have a really good crack at it.