Strongest team ever?
That’s Mel Reid’s opinion about a European Solheim Cup team that has the task of returning to the continent with the cup it earned two years ago in Gleneagles, Scotland.
Playing on her fourth European team this week at the Inverness Club in Toledo, England's Reid didn’t make the team in 2019, but was instead a vice captain. Her game was just not up to snuff, so she was relegated to giving out water bottles to the team she desperately wanted to be on.
“I was pissed,” Reid said. “I wanted to be on the team, obviously, but, I mean, I wasn't playing great, but I didn't feel I was playing — I probably wasn't playing great, but I just feel like the Solheim Cup just brings something different out in myself. I do really believe that I would have played well at Solheim Cup.”
Reid was too quick on the draw — or maybe impetuous — after not getting picked for the team in 2019. She initially turned down Captain Catriona Matthew's offer to be a vice captain, but immediately called her back and accepted the position.
The stint as a vice captain drove Reid to be a player in 2021 and she accomplished that goal when Matthew picked her after the Women’s British Open.
“She realizes it's not about the individual. It's about the team," Matthew said. "I think having the experience of being behind the scenes and seeing it from another kind of angle will really help her out there on the golf course, and with the rookies and things.”
Her experience as a player and vice-captain puts Reid in a good position to judge if this really is the strongest European team ever. Is she right?
Reid does make a compelling case that the women on the European team no longer fear LPGA players. The argument is that in the early days of the Solheim Cup most European players didn’t get to the U.S. to play much and never had seen or met their opponent in person. They likely knew more about them by watching them play on television.
That has changed. Eleven of the 12 players on the European team are currently LPGA members and the one that is not, Denmark’s Emily Pedersen, is a past member.
The awe factor is gone, according to Reid.
“I think it's a great mix of some experienced people and some rookies that bring the energy that the team needs,” Spain’s Carlota Ciganda said. “I wouldn't say they are rookies because they are great players. They've been playing great all year. So, I think the 12 players that we have is the best team that Europe can have,"
American Danielle Kang agreed with Reid that the European team is strong, but mentioned that the 12 wearing red, white and blue are not a bunch of stiffs.
“I think for us it's really easy going this year in my opinion, because I really love my pod,” Kang said. The American team and captain Pat Hurst are using a structure of putting players together in groups, similar to the one U.S. captain Paul Azinger famously employed the 2008 Ryder Cup.
Reid points to four European players finishing in the top five at the recent Women’s British Open, including winner Anna Nordqvist, Madelene Sagstrom, Georgia Hall and Nanna Koerstz Madsen.
However, one performance doesn’t make you the strongest team ever.
The Europeans have one player in the top 28 in the Rolex World Rankings, Nordqvist at 16. The Americans have eight.
The Europeans have won only six of the previous 16 Solheim Cups. But three of those wins were lopsided: 11.5-6.5 in 1992 in Scotland, 17.5-10.5 in 2003 in Sweden, and maybe the best European team ever in 2013 when Europe won 18-10 on U.S. soil at Colorado Golf Club.
Three members of this week’s European team — Ciganda, Nordqvist and Charley Hull — were on the Colorado juggernaut as well as captain Matthew.
Reid is not someone that rides the fence much, but when the gun goes off on Saturday, we will get a better feeling if Reid is a soothsayer or not.
Either way it should be good television.