Annika Sorenstam named 2017 European Solheim Cup captain

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. (AP) Annika Sorenstam will captain the European Solheim Cup team next year in Des Moines, Iowa.

The Ladies European Tour unveiled the selection at the ANA Inspiration on Wednesday, a day before the start of the major championship. The matches against the United States are Aug. 18-20, 2017, at Des Moines Golf and Country Club.

''I cannot tell you how excited I am,'' Sorenstam said. ''I had hoped and I had dreamed that this opportunity would come along. If I look back in my career, the Solheim Cup has always been an important part of it. We play as individuals for 99 percent of the time, but when we do get together it's just something special.''

Sorenstam played in the matches eight times from 1994 to 2007, helping Europe win in 2000 and 2003, and was an assistant captain in three events. The 45-year-old Swede won 72 times on the LPGA Tour and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2003. She's second in Solheim Cup history with 24 points, a point behind longtime teammate Laura Davies.

''It's just hard to explain, but when you get together as a team when you represent your country or your continent, there is just something a little extra than when you play in individual events,'' Sorenstam said. ''The memories that you build with your friends and playing in a match play coming down the stretch.''

Juli Inkster is returning to captain the U.S. team after leading the Americans to a comeback victory last year in Germany.

''Annika had an outstanding playing career and she is a tough competitor, which will make her a great captain for Team Europe,'' Inkster said. ''I am sure she'll have her team ready to compete to try to win back the Cup, and I hope to have Team USA ready to defend and keep the Cup for another two years.''

Inkster beat Sorenstam 5 and 4 in singles in 2000 at Loch Lomond. In 2002, Inkster rallied to beat Sorenstam in the U.S. Women's Open at Prairie Dunes.

''I respect Juli tremendously,'' Sorenstam said. ''She's done a lot for the game and certainly been a role model in so many ways. So I look forward to working with her and playing against her as a team.''

The competition turned ugly last September in Germany when Europe's Suzann Pettersen infuriated the Americans by insisting that Alison Lee be penalized for picking up her ball when she thought her short second putt had been conceded in a fourballs match. The U.S. then staged the biggest comeback in event history, winning 8 1/2 points in the 12 singles matches to take the cup.

''It was quite intense last year,'' Sorenstam said. ''I've been part of a few intense Solheims. But I think it also, that's kind of what makes the tournament the way it is. ... I think we're just going to keep reminding ourselves we all learned from what's happened in the past, and we all grow and mature.''

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