Annika Sorenstam has admitted she expects hostility from an American crowd towards Suzann Pettersen at next year’s Solheim Cup but Europe’s new captain hopes to divert the narrative away from the controversy of 2015.
Sorenstam was confirmed in her post in California on Wednesday and Europe will look to claim back the Solheim Cup when facing the United States in Iowa next August.
Victory for the US in Germany was seriously overshadowed by a final-day row involving Pettersen and Alison Lee.
All square at the 17th hole, Lee missed a birdie putt to win the hole and picked up her ball rather than completing the 18-inch putt she had left to hole out, stating she heard Team Europe concede her the putt. Pettersen and her partner Charley Hull said they did not in fact concede the putt, resulting in the Americans’ loss of the hole and the Europeans went one-up with one hole to play. The Norwegian was widely criticised for poor sportsmanship, which triggered an effusive apology the following morning.
When asked whether the home crowd will remember that affair, Sorenstam admitted: “Absolutely, they will bring it up. I don’t know about being prepared for it but I am expecting it to come up on a regular basis, yes.”
The 10-time major winner added: “I think my role is to make sure that it isn’t something we dwell on. It is done, it is in the past. We were all there, we know what it was like and we don’t want to go through that again. We want to put it behind us and move on; that will be one of my roles.
“We are not going to hide from it but it is time to move on. There have been incidents in the Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup before but we have moved on. I feel like Suzann addressed it, after it was finished. She took a lot of the blame, we cleared it and moved on so I don’t think there is more to be discussed about it.”
Sorenstam’s decorated status in women’s golf is such that she could basically choose when to assume the captaincy. She has played in eight Solheim Cups. “I was always hoping to get this opportunity,” said the 45-year-old. “I have been asked a few times, I was always honoured and flattered but I didn’t feel like I was ready. Seeing what it takes, seeing the commitment, I knew in my mind I couldn’t fulfil that. I still had my foot in the game.
“People might ask why 2017 is my year and I say it just fits my schedule, for a lot of reasons. My kids are a little older, I am established in my new role in business and I feel like I have the time to commit. This is something that I hoped would happen and I think it is going to work out beautifully.”
Sorenstam certainly knows the landscape; she has played on the LPGA Tour in the United States since 1994 and is based in Orlando. “We won in Colorado in 2013 and that was a breakthrough for us,” she added. “Before, we hadn’t won in the US and it can get manifested in your brain. But not now, we know we can do that. That has to help.”The first major of the ladies season, the Ana Inspiration Championship, gets underway in California on Thursday.
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