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The guessing game
If Dale Reid (left) aims to wind everyone up in the countdown to this Sunday's Solheim Cup selection, then she has well and truly succeeded.

The rumours and counter-rumours at last week's Compaq Open in Sweden were enough to send even the most worldly-wise of professionals into an uncontrollable spin.

Take Laura Davies, for example (pictured overleaf). She is currently lying in eighth place, and just one outside the seven that will be guaranteed selection when the curtain falls on the WPGA Championship of Europe at Royal Porthcawl in Wales on Sunday.

It would be inconceivable if Laura - the former world No. 1, a player with a record haul of Solheim points and still one of the best players on the planet - was not awarded one of captain Reid's five wild card selections.

But apparently she has heard word that Dale does not have her down on the list of definites. And, incredibly, quite a few people I spoke to last week placed her in the doubtful category.

Hogwash. I'd bet my mortgage - and anything else for that matter - that Laura is included. And, of course, she could still play her way in with a good performance in the principality.

But Laura herself has become embroiled in the state of paranoia. Asked by a TV interviewer if she suspected Dale had been spying on her in Sweden, she was clearly irked and retorted: 'If Dale doesn't know my game by now, she never will.'

She went on to remind everyone that she won the Norwegian Masters just a couple of weeks ago (and she finished seventh at the Compaq). Then she remarked: 'If you're not in the top seven, then you have no right to assume you will be included.

'But I do think it would be a mistake if I'm left out, and I would be very surprised. But, then, there are going to be a lot of top players disappointed on Sunday evening.'

True enough. At present, the top four in the rankings - Annika Sorenstam Raquel Carriedo, Karine Icher and Paula Marti - are sure of selection while Sophie Gustafson is almost there in fifth place. Suzann Pettersen and Iben Tinning are vulnerable at No 6 and 7.

Two years ago, Dale made a few controversial choices among her chosen five - Catriona Matthew's absence was one of them - but no one could argue with the result after Europe whipped the United States in the quagmire of Loch Lomond.

This year, I suspect there will again be a few raised eyebrows, and the Scots could again suffer. I fully expect Mhairi McKay to be in the five, but Janice Moodie and Catriona could be in danger.

Catriona and Dale have, apparently, never exchanged as much as a glance since the spat two years ago, although the North Berwick player must have done her cause some good with a second place in last week's Canadian Open. It's just a pity that she slipped to a final round 77 and missed out on a victory.

As for Moodie, she has won this year, and would be really unlucky to miss out. Some detractors point out that she hasn't sustained the form that earned a runaway seven shot victory in the Asahi Ryokuken International in May. But they also seem to forget that she finished seventh in the US Open last month.

But don't be surprised if the old war horses of Helen Alfredsson and Lotta Neumann again appear among Dale's chosen quintet. They have both played in the six Solheims to date, and would provide some welcome experience if rookies Icher, Marti, Pettersen, Tinning and McKay are all included. But, then again, neither has enjoyed the greatest of seasons.

So who are my choices (I knew someone would ask)? Well, I'm going to assume that Laura plays her way in this week and then I would choose two Swedes in Carin Koch and Maria Hjorth, plus the three Scots - Mhairi, Janice and Catriona.

But, I must emphasise that this is my choice, not the five that I think Dale will pick. And if Laura does need a wild card, then I would knock off one of the Scots. But I'm not divulging which one. After all, I've got to work with them!

©    21 - AUGUST 2002

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