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Americans laughing now
It wasn't so long ago that a cocky European Captain, Dale Reid, was suggesting that she could quite happily 'help out' her American counterpart, Patty Sheehan, by handing over a couple of her players.

But now that the dust has settled on the team selections, I would suggest that it is the once ultra-confident Reid who would be happier to conduct an exchange deal.

On Sunday, Sheehan added the experienced pair of Kelly Robbins and Pat Hurst (the pair involved in the controversial incident at Loch Lomond when Annika Sorenstam was asked to replay a chip shot that she had just holed) to the automatic 10 that earned selection from the US rankings.

On paper, the American team is far the stronger, although Reid will contend that her side is packed with great up and coming talent. But the statistics suggest that America will be the overwhelming favourites.

And there is a real danger that Reid could live to regret not including her experienced fellow-Scots, Catriona Matthew and Janice Moodie.

Just look at the stats. Every member of the US team is in the top-55 on the LPGA Rankings - only six of the Europeans are in the same category. Sophie Gustafson then comes in at Number 65 and the other five do not play on the LPGA Tour.

Sheehan has five rookies - Laura Diaz, Cristie Kerr, Wendy Ward, Emilee Klein and Kelli Kuehne. But they have all won at least one LPGA tournament, and Diaz, with two wins this year, is one of the hottest players in America. Kerr is also recognised as one of the best on Tour this season.

While Europe does hold something of an ace card in world No 1 Annika Sorenstam, there is no doubt that Reid's side of six rookies, and a bundle with no US experience, are going to be facing a stiff task at Interlachen in Minnesota in two weeks' time.

No one knows how the rookies are going to react, but had Matthew and Moodie, now ranked at No 16 and No 20 respectively on the LPGA money list, had been included, the side would have fitted into the 'no worry' category. Both have great track records and are totally reliable when facing the big occasion. Will it be the same with the new, raw brigade?

Still, the good news - or perhaps bad as far as the Evian European Tour is concerned - is that three of the European newcomers (Karine Icher, Suzann Pettersen and Iben Tinning) all successfully came through last week's LPGA qualifying school in Florida. But travelling reserve, Elisabeth Esterl, missed out by a long way after a final round 80.

Icher, Pettersen, Tinning and Paula Marti will all now be heading for the LPGA final qualifying school in Florida in October - if they all get through it will be a body blow for the Evian circuit.

As for Matthew, she continued to underline Reid's questionable choice by finishing tied 12th in the State Rail Farm Classic in Illinois. Having finished second and fourth in the two previous tournaments, she is now the leading British player - and the third European - at No 16 on the LPGA money list with $394,201.

In fact, it is shaping up as an exciting end of season race for the leading Scottish honours in America. Mhairi McKay, the one Scot in the Solheim, is just $10,000 behind at No 17, while Moodie is at No 20 with $378,235.

For all three, the target is to finish in the top-16 and earn a place in the Cisco World Matchplay Championship in Japan, while the top-30 qualify for the Tour Players' Championship in Florida. Both tournaments are in November.

AS for McKay, whose own inclusion was rather overshadowed by her compatriot's absence when the Solheim team was announced, she returns to competition this week following a two week break. The 27-year-old Scot is one of Reid's rookies - and has already been picked out by Sorenstam as a possible foursomes partner.


©    5 - SEPTEMBER 2002



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