Europe rookie Maguire to face US ‘golden pairing’ Kordas in opening Solheim Cup match

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Mel Reid, Leona Maguire, Nelly & Jessica Korda
Leona Maguire (second left) will become the first Irish player to participate in the Solheim Cup
Date: 4-6 September Venue: Inverness Golf Club, Toledo, Ohio
Coverage: Live text commentary on BBC Sport website from 12:30 BST on Saturday and Sunday, from 16:00 on Monday.

European rookie Leona Maguire says she is under “no pressure” despite facing the United States’ “golden pairing” of Nelly and Jessica Korda in Saturday’s opening Solheim Cup foursomes in Ohio.

Ireland’s Maguire partners England’s Mel Reid against the Korda sisters, who were unbeatable at Gleneagles in 2019.

The Kordas both won three and a half points from four matches two years ago but Europe went on to win the title.

“These are the kind of matches you look forward to,” said Maguire.

“Nelly is the best player in the world right now. I’ll take it all in my stride. There’s really no pressure on myself and Mel because everyone expects the Kordas to win.”

Saturday's Solheim Cup foursomes tee off times
All times BST

Nelly, who is now world number one, and her older sibling Jessica Korda, dominated their foursomes matches at Gleneagles, winning 6&5 and 6&4.

But they were split up for the first day’s fourballs – each winning half a point – and left out of the second day’s fourballs entirely, before going on to win their singles matches on the final day.

Europe’s defence of the trophy begins with a strong duo, with Women’s Open champion Anna Nordqvist playing alongside Finland’s Matilda Castren against Danielle Kang and Austin Ernst (12:35 BST).

France’s Celine Boutier and England’s Georgia Hall, who together won two foursomes and one fourball match at Gleneagles, play US duo Ally Ewing and Meghan Khang (12:47), while Charley Hull and Denmark’s Emily Pedersen face Lexi Thompson and Brittany Altomare (13:11 BST).

“Celine and Georgia did so well at Gleneagles. That was an obvious one that we were going to put out again this time,” said Europe captain Catriona Matthew.

The US have won 10 of the 16 meetings between the teams since the competition began in 1990.

Europe start as underdogs as excitement builds

Europe have only won once in the US but Matthew is confident her team can overcome the odds and a lack of support to retain the Solheim Cup in Toledo.

Matthew’s side, who triumphed by a single point at Gleneagles, are also likely to face a partisan crowd because of Covid-19-related travel restrictions.

“I think the fact we have only won once, in Colorado [in 2013], shows how difficult it is to win away from home,” Matthew said.

“This year it is going to be more difficult and be more of a challenge for us, but I think in a way we can rise to that.

“Rather than just thinking we’re going to have a few fans, we’re expecting about zero fans.

“I think it just gives them [the players] another challenge and another thing to try and overcome and get that victory.

“But to actually be here and see all the stands up and the crowds beginning to come in, the excitement is starting to build.”

Reid, who occupied a non-playing vice-captain role in Scotland, says the newcomers at Matthew’s disposal underline Europe’s quality.

Germany’s Sophia Popov, who won the 2020 Women’s Open, is joined by fellow debutants Maguire, Castren and Nanna Koerstz Madsen.

“They’ve played on the LPGA, they’ve won on the LPGA, they’ve played fantastic golf on the LPGA against these American girls,” Reid said.

“I think in previous years, just the way the system is, we’ve not really had that with some of the rookies. This is by far the strongest team I really do think we’ve had. If I was to write 12 players, these are the 12 players I would have picked.”

Korda deflects pressure on to visitors

While US captain Pat Hurst is able to call on four players in the world’s top 15, Nordqvist at 16 is the highest-placed golfer in the visiting ranks.

World rankings by team
The US team boasts an average world ranking of 26.2 with Europe’s at 44.1

With an average world ranking that compares favourably to Europe’s, coupled with other factors like being able to set up the course to suit the hosts, the American side appear overwhelming favourites.

However, Olympic champion Nelly Korda disputes that view. “I feel like we’re underdogs, because they’re the ones defending,” Korda said.

“We are on home soil, so obviously the crowds are rooting for you, there’s more eyes on Team USA, but I think as Megan [Khang] said, we’re all embracing this, it’s a lot of fun.”

Speaking after announcing her opening picks for the foursomes, Hurst added: “We’re all excited to get going.

“We’ve been working hard for the last year and a half, and they’re anxious to get out there.”

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