DUNSANY, Ireland -- Even the bookmakers on the European side of the pond think the United States will win its fourth consecutive Solheim Cup this week at Killeen Castle. If you have a few extra euros, pounds, dollars or gold bullion to wager, jump on those odds. Based on recent form, the European side is coming into this competition playing better golf than the Americans.
Yes, the U.S. side has won the last three Solheim Cups. Yes, the Yanks have an 8-3 lead overall. And yes, the Americans have seven top-20 players in the Rolex Rankings compared to one for Europe. But here is why the Cup is coming back across the Atlantic to reside until the 2013 competition in at Colorado GC.
• It's a home game. All of Europe's victories have come on friendly soil, winning twice in Scotland and once in Sweden. While they are 0-6 on American soil, they are 3-2 in Europe. And they know the course. Suzann Pettersen won the Ladies Irish Open at Killeen Castle a few weeks ago with teammates Azahara Munoz and Melissa Reid tied for second. In fact, the entire European team finished in the top 20.
• The pride factor. Europe bristles at the idea that players from Asia need to be added to the Solheim Cup in order to make it more competitive. Even those who are LPGA members, like Sophie Gustafson, Catriona Matthew and Karen Stupples, have an intense pride in the Ladies European Tour. Much like the men in the Ryder Cup, they play with a chip on their shoulder and captain Alison Nicholas will use perceived disrespect as a motivational tool.
(Related: Meet the European squad)
• Who's on form? Only two Americans have won LPGA events this year -- Brittany Linciome (twice) and Stacy Lewis (the Kraft Nabisco Championship). Three Europeans have won on the LPGA -- Pettersen (twice), Sandra Gal and Maria Hjorth. In addition, Solheim Cup rookies Christal Boeljon, Caroline Hedwall and Melissa Reid have won this year on the LET, as has Matthew. More Europeans are close to peak form now than Americans.
• The weather. Since the Americans arrived on Monday, all four seasons have made an appearance in Ireland. Mentally, the U.S. side is preparing itself for wind, rain and cold. And those are conditions that the European team is much more experienced with. "The weather is just what we expected," said Morgan Pressel, playing in her third Cup for the United States. "It doesn't get this cold in Florida all year."
Certainly, the margin of error is very slim for Europe. Its top players -- Pettersen, Gustafson, Hjorth, Matthew, Laura Davies and Anna Nordqvist -- must inspire the other six on their side, who have played a combined one Solheim Cup. To win, Europe will need a true team effort.
"Everybody is a key player," said Annika Sorenstam, an assistant captain for Europe and the competition's all-time points leader with 24. "Everybody needs a point and a half to win. The sooner you get in front the better. Just get in front and stay there."
The Europeans have dominated in four-ball and foursomes play while they have struggled in the Sunday singles matches. While history says European needs to have a lead going into single to win, this is the strongest team they have fielded since winning in a romp at Barseback, Sweden, in 2003.
And that could be the ultimate reason why Europe will win this year: They will do better in the singles than they have in the past. This is an underrated and dangerous team. And when play is completed Sunday afternoon, the Solheim Cup will join the Ryder Cup and the Walker Cup on this side of the Atlantic -- and everyone will be anticipating the rematch in Colorado in 2013.
-- Ron Sirak
(Photo: Andy Lyons/Getty Images)