Arriving at Finca Cortesin, Pettersen has a rich history in golf’s other transatlantic team golf battle, which could provide more thrills than the Ryder Cup next week.
The Norwegian is familiar with the thin line that separates fiery competitiveness and unsavoury scenes when animosity spills over on the golf course.
“Gimme-gate” defined the 2015 edition with Pettersen, and her partner Charley Hull, at the centre of the storm when Team USA’s Alison Lee picked up her ball without checking the putt had been conceded.
Zach Johnson, the USA’s Ryder Cup captain this year, branded Pettersen a “disgrace” at the time, as the stars and stripes rallied to snatch a gripping 14.5-13.5 victory.
“It killed me mentally,” Pettersen conceded afterwards, but redemption came four years later at Glenagles when she drained the winning putt at Gleneagles. “It was absolute closure for me,” she told The Times. “A fairytale ending.”
But now a stacked European side, labelled the “strongest ever” by both 2018 Open champion Georgia Hall and the legendary Dame Laura Davies, aim to take down Stacy Lewis’s United States once more following a brilliant defence in Ohio two years ago.
The dynamic switches this year, though, from thriving as underdogs in 2021, while deprived of European supporters due to Covid restrictions, Europe aim to sizzle in the south of Spain as marginal favourites to inflict a third-straight loss on the Americans for the first time.
“She’s a lot calmer than I thought she was going to be,” says Davies, a vice-captain this week, on Europe’s leader. “She’s just friendly, a little bit fearsome now and again, but brings everyone together.
“The young players respect Suzann so much because of what she’s done, and when they see this lovely person greeting them and bringing them into the team room, I think they were surprised, number one, but number two, very, very pleased to be a part of her team and know how valued they are to her because it is, as she said, I think without doubt, the strongest European Solheim Cup team we've ever had in-depth. From 1 to 12, there’s not much in it.”
Pettersen boasts a formidable resume: two major championships, 21 victories on the Ladies European Tour and LPGA Tour and nine Solheim Cup appearances, including four victories and a personal record of 18-12-6. There is instant respect and admiration from her players, as Davies mentions. Pettersen has a wealth of options at her disposal, including this year’s Evian Championship winner Celine Boutier and four more top-20 ranked players, including Hull (8th), Linn Grant (15th), Georgia Hall (17th) and Leona Maguire (18th).
Europe edges the USA’s top-20 contingent, therefore, with Lilia Vu at No 2, Nelly Korda third, Allisen Corpuz ninth and Megan Khang 14th. Though 20-year-old sensation Rose Zhang serves as a wildcard. Already a winner on the LPGA Tour, the former Stanford star could be approaching exhaustion after a whirlwind debut season as a professional.
So depth and marginal gains will prove pivotal, but a clever change to Europe’s strategy from recent Solheim Cups appears to have bonded the group even closer, with Maguire and Boutier delighted with this year’ strategy.
“She’s obviously very competitive,” says Maguire, a two-time LPGA Tour winner. “She has an unbelievable record, so we really want to win for her.
“But she’s been great, she’s been very open, she’s been very transparent with everything this week, she’s been communicating a lot with what she’s thinking about pairings and different things. So, yeah, she’s trying to get all of our inputs and really wants what’s best for the team.”
While Boutier appreciates Pettersen’s approach to finding the perfect fit to the puzzle as Europe finalise their pairings.
“I definitely feel like it’s been nice to be able to voice our opinions and our thoughts on the pairings,” says the French player.
“I feel like it’s not always been the case in the past, but I feel like it’s very important that we feel comfortable with the choices that she ultimately decides to make.
“So I think it’s been nice to be kind of feeling a little bit more involved. I feel like, yeah, she’s definitely so competitive that I feel like she’s probably going to be more pumped up than us.”
8:10 a.m. local (7:10a.m. BST, 2:10 a.m. ET) — Lexi Thompson, Megan Khang (USA) vs. Linn Grant, Maja Stark
8:22 a.m. local (7:22 a.m. BST, 2:22 a.m. ET) — Danielle Kang, Andrea Lee (USA) vs. Celine Boutier, Georgia Hall
8:34 a.m. local (7:34 a.m. BST, 2:34 a.m. ET) — Nelly Korda, Allisen Corpuz (USA) vs. Leona Maguire, Anna Nordqvist
8:46 a.m. local (7:46 a.m. BST, 2:46 a.m. ET) — Ally Ewing, Cheyenne Knight (USA) vs. Charley Hull, Emily Pedersen