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Golf lovers globally will be bracing themselves for a fortnight of riveting matches between the best golfers the US and Europe has to offer as passion meets determination in the Solheim Cup and Ryder Cup in Italy later this month.

A fortnight ago, we had a good look at US captain Zach Johnson’s 12-man line-up for the much-anticipated men’s event in Spain. Once again, it looked like the David and Goliath script was written ... the Americans would be the overwhelming favourites, and Europe the plucky underdogs. 

The six automatic qualifiers on the Team USA already included the who’s who in elite world golf — world No 1 Scottie Scheffler, reigning Olympic champion Xander Schauffele, world No 4 Patrick Cantlay and three of the hottest rookies in 2023 Open winner Brian Harman, 2023 US Open champion Wyndham Clark and super-talented Max Homa — and Johnson’s wild-card picks including Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Collin Morikawa, Justin Thomas, Sam Burns and LIV defector and PGA champion Brooks Koepka further enhanced the impression that Team USA will be invincible next month. 

In the past two weeks, European Team skipper Luke Donald finalised his side, and I now believe the two teams are very evenly matched, despite the bookies leaning heavily towards the Americans. This is in part due to the change in the golfing landscape in the past two years.

US captains always had the pick of the litter from an endless pool of talent jostling for position, but Johnson was at the receiving end of the fallout of the Saudi-funded LIV Golf Tour that launched two years ago. A magnitude of former world-beaters from the PGA and DP World Tours moved to greener pastures and Johnson, instead of worrying who he would include in his team, had to decide who to leave out. Donald had no such worries. 

His choices were made noticeably easier, knowing the Europeans would be facing a US Team without former bankers such as Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed and Phil Mickelson, and he didn’t have to entertain nostalgia and sentiment around former Ryder Cup legends such as Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson, also campaigning on LIV. 

Gifted with Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Matt Fitzpatrick and the feisty Victor Hovland, Tyrrell Haton and first-timer Robert MacIntyre, who were locked in via the automatic qualifying spots, Donald simply opted for the in-form players. 

Tommy Fleetwood was added alongside rookies Ludvig Aberg, Sepp Straka and Nicolai Hojgaard and the final two spots — Donald’s captain’s picks — went the way of Justin Rose and Shane Lowry. As far as bringing experience into the locker room to balance youthful exuberance of the young and the restless, this pair of Major champions are the perfect fit. 

I believe that makes for a powerful line-up and gives the Europeans more than just a fighting chance in Rome. 

Yes, the Americans have dominated since 1979 when Europeans were invited to the party for the first time. (Remember, previously the Ryder Cup was between the Americans and Britain & Ireland only). Yes, the Europeans were pummelled into submission and the US celebrated a dominant 19-9 victory the last time the two teams met at Whistling Straits. But, outside the draw in 1989, the US has only won half a dozen times since 1985.

Europe actually leads the way with 11 wins and the last time Europe lost a home match with a narrow 15-13 defeat at The Belfry was 20 years ago.

On paper, it could go either way from September 29 to October 1 at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club. It will just depend on who brings the most heart to this year’s matches. 

No curtain-raiser

Much the same holds true for the 18th Solheim Cup at the Finca Cortesin Golf Club a week earlier. 

Don’t think for a minute this is just the curtain-raiser. This iconic transatlantic match play competition has exploded in popularity and comfortably eclipsed its male counterpart for drama, action and controversies over the best part of the last decade.

The US team dominated with 10 wins, most recently in 2017 at Des Moines Golf and Country Club in Iowa, but while Europe has only triumphed seven times, they will be gunning for their first three-peat in the competition with the home advantage. 

US captain Stacy Lewis is travelling with a team packed with the top two players in the world — Lilia Vu and Nelly Korda — and a troupe of LPGA Tour winners including Megan Khang, Jennifer Kupcho, Danielle Kang, Lexi Thompson, Elly Ewing and Angel Kin.

World No 1 Vu, the reigning Chevron Championship and AIG Women’s Open champion, makes her debut alongside four rookies on the American team, including former No 1-ranked amateur Rose Zhang, Allisen Corpuz, Andrea Lee, Cheyenne Knight 

European captain Suzann Pettersen’s mix bag is a team that is big on heart and will bring an incredible winning mindset to their matches. 

The side features five Swedes including Anna Nordqvist, Caroline Hedwall, Madelene Sagstrom and first-timers Linn Grant and Maja Stark, Celine Boutier from France, Carlota Ciganda from Spain, Denmark’s Emily Kristine Pedersen, England’s Georgia Hall and Charley Hull, Leona Maguire from Ireland and Scottish rookie Gemmy Dryburgh. 

The Americans edge their counterparts on paper, too, but history has taught us that winning on foreign soil takes guts, determination and a fair bit of luck The US has only achieved this three times, with the most recent occasion being in 2015 and the Europeans will be inspired to achieve that long-awaited hat-trick.

The format of both cups relies heavily on team chemistry. More than often, it comes down to two things: the captain’s pairings for the foursomes and four-ball matches and how the players handle the pressure with so much on the line.

But whichever way the chips fall, strap in for two weeks of captivating viewing, incredible shot-making, fireworks, drama and delight. 

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