(Photo credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports)
Suzann Pettersen sees no reason to be shy about the quality of her Solheim Cup team.
Team Europe is setting out to win a third straight Cup, with rising stars like Celine Boutier of France and Leona Maguire of Ireland leading the charge -- and home-field advantage this year, to boot.
A new-look American team led by captain Stacy Lewis will have a tall task to win back the trophy when the continental contest begins Friday at Finca Cortesin in Andalucia, Spain.
"I don't think there's anything to hide under a chair 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," said Pettersen, the Norwegian LPGA veteran serving as captain for the first time.
Five Swedes made Team Europe, including Anna Nordqvist, who is both serving as a vice captain and playing in her eighth Solheim Cup.
The team also consists of Boutier; Maguire; Charley Hull and Georgia Hall of England; Scotland's Gemma Dryburgh; Denmark's Emily Kristine Pedersen; Carlota Ciganda of Spain; and Maja Stark, Linn Grant, Madelene Sagstrom and Caroline Hedwall of Sweden.
Boutier had a magnificent run in Europe earlier this season, winning the Evian Championship on her home soil for her first career major and capturing the Women's Scottish Open the next week.
Boutier and Maguire -- who won 4.5 of a possible five points when Europe claimed the 2021 Solheim Cup -- are friends and former college teammates at Duke, but they were mum on whether they would be paired during the week.
"(Maguire's) last performance was essentially flawless, so, yeah, very impressive," Boutier said. "I think she's a very steady and consistent player, great around the greens, definitely a very good putter, so I feel like it's going to be definitely a weapon for match play."
The U.S. Team looks different than in years past. It features five Solheim Cup rookies in Lilia Vu, Allisen Corpuz, Andrea Lee, Rose Zhang and Cheyenne Knight. Vu is the current World No. 2 after breaking through for two major championships this season, while Corpuz won the U.S. Women's Open.
They are accompanied by Nelly Korda, Megan Khang, Jennifer Kupcho, Danielle Kang, Lexi Thompson, Angel Yin and Ally Ewing. Yin and Ewing joined Knight as captain's picks as Lewis sought to add their experience to the young roster.
"I'm not worried about the chemistry at all," Lewis said in August. "These five, they are rookies, but they are so experienced, just as far as the amount of golf they have been able to play."
All eyes will be on Zhang, the 20-year-old emerging star who won in her first event as a professional last June.
"I think whatever my place, whatever I should do is for the team," Zhang said. "Regardless of how much I'm playing, I'm going to be fighting out there every single event or every single match that I participate in."
On Friday and Saturday each team will see four fourball (best-ball) matches and four foursomes (alternate-shot). On Sunday, every player heads out for 12 singles matches.
Finca Cortesin is a par-72, 6,903-yard course with more than 100 bunkers and plenty of elevation changes in a mountainous area of Spain.
"It's really hilly. You're going to hear that from a lot of players and caddies," Ewing said. "It's a long week as it is, so taking care of our feet and our bodies off the course is going to be really important."
Ciganda, the only one playing on her home soil this week, is relishing the opportunity.
"I think more than pressure, it's just going to be excitement, adrenaline and just fun," she said. "I'm going to embrace it and I think it's going to be great to have all the support from Spain, from my family, lots of members from my club. So I'm just going to try to go out there and enjoy."
--Field Level Media