DUNSANY, Ireland -- The 12-strong team representing the golfing subset also known as "American members of the LPGA Tour" will win the Solheim Cup at Killeen Castle because, well, they nearly always do.
So far, in fact, Uncle Sam's nieces have a more than 70 percent success rate in their biennial battles with teams of European-born LET members. In comparison with its corresponding old world counterpart across the pond, the LPGA Tour's home contingent is bigger, stronger and better, advantages that have historically and consistently seen the Americans start as favorites and finish victorious.
Sometimes it's just that simple: the team with the most good players wins. And this time round, as so often before, that accolade belongs to the visitors here in Ireland. Yes, the last third of non-playing skipper Rosie Jones' side looks more than a little vulnerable -- a pair of callow rookies, a 51-year old part-time assistant captain and a player who failed to record even one qualifying point in 2011 -- but the potency of the leading eight more than makes up for any perceived weakness down the order.
The mind goes back to 1987, when exactly half of Tony Jacklin's European Ryder Cup side that would win for the first time on American soil was made up of either past or future major champions. The other six men were, it goes without saying, highly competent players. But they were also a step or two below the level of their more illustrious teammates. So it is with Rosie Jones' side.
(Related: Meet the U.S. squad)
Jacklin's tactics over those three historic days were to ride his stars to the point of near exhaustion, build a lead through the foursomes and fourballs, then hang on grimly in the singles. One gets the feeling that Jones will adopt a similar approach, even if the Solheim rules differ from the Ryder Cup in that every player must make at least one appearance before the 12-head-to-head matches on the final day.
Then again, even a quick look at the past singles records of the two sides reveals an 18-6-3 record for the Americans against a relatively poor 11-18-5 for the Europeans. Given that history tends to repeat even on the golf course, parity -- or something close to it -- may well be enough of a Sunday morning target for the visitors to all but guarantee ultimate victory. Even the star of the European side, World No. 2 Suzann Pettersen, acknowledged as much.
"A good recipe for us is to be at least even or ahead going into Sunday," admitted the 30-year old Norwegian, a veteran of five previous Solheim contests. "Then we've just got to go out and believe in ourselves and believe we can do it."
The U.S. side also has one more "secret" weapon up its collective sleeve in the shape of a "spy" in the European camp. Whisper it, but one of captain Alison Nicholas' two assistant captains is actually an American citizen. Of course, her name is Annika Sorenstam and she has, in her former life as a Swede, scored more points -- 24 -- than anyone else wearing a European uniform in this very competition. So perhaps we can give her the benefit of any doubt.
More seriously, by almost every statistical measure the American side is superior. Major champions? More. LPGA tournament wins? More. Solheim rookies? Less. So it all adds up to a ninth U.S. victory in this 12th Solheim Cup. Let's hope the final score is close though. The matches, if they are to continue in their present trans-Atlantic form, need to be at least competitive. The Americans by four, it says here.
-- John Huggan
(Photo: Andy Lyons/Getty Images)