Who will partner Leona Maguire will be key part of Europe’s Solheim Cup strategy

Rob MacIntyre the only player on Europe’s Ryder Cup team who will play in this week’s French Open in Paris

Who will get to be Leona Maguire’s partner this time around? For, as the 28-year-old Cavan golfer heads into her second Solheim Cup – the match against the United States starts at Finca Cortesin in southern Spain on Friday – a key part of European captain Suzann Pettersen’s strategy will come down to who to pair with Maguire in the foursomes and fourballs.

Maguire played all five sessions on her debut in Toledo two years ago, winning 4½ points in being Europe’s top points winner, but three of her four partnerships (two in foursomes, one in fourballs) was with Mel Reid, who is not on the team this time.

Perhaps Georgia Hall will get the nod. Hall paired up with Maguire in the first day’s afternoon fourballs at the Inverness Club (when Reid was rested) and defeated Brittany Altomare and Yealimi Noh.

Europe are chasing a historic hat-trick of wins in the Solheim Cup and head into this week’s match with a team which captain Suzann Pettersen described as “almost scary” with the eight players who qualified automatically all ranked inside the top 40 on the Rolex world rankings.


Indeed, USA captain Stacy Lewis has observed of Europe’s strong hand: “It’s like a broken record every year that the US is better on paper than Europe, and Europe has somehow come back and won every time. (Or) at least the two . . . . I just think Europe is really, really strong. They have got all the momentum in this event right now.”

Maguire was the only player from either side to play all five sessions in Toledo, because of the rich vein of form she found. Given the physical demands of the undulating Finca Cortesin course it may be that Pettersen will try to give players a rest in one session. The schedule will see four foursomes and four fourballs on Friday and Saturday, before the 12 singles on Sunday.

The European and US teams each had their first practice days on Monday in what will be a long week and which will extend into a two-week festival of golf in Europe with next week’s Ryder Cup following in back-to-back weeks in Rome.

Only one of Europe’s Ryder Cup team has opted to play in this week’s French Open in Paris, with Rob MacIntyre preferring to play his way into the match.

Certainly the BMW PGA Championship – even though won by New Zealander Ryan Fox – provided Europe’s captain Luke Donald with optimism ahead of next week’s trip to Rome with all 12 members of his team making the cut and seven of them finishing inside the top 10, including Rory McIlroy who survived the cut on the mark and leapfrogged his way to finish in tied-seventh.

“The weekend was great. I struggled a little bit Thursday and Friday but I’ve been saying it’s not too far away. I was 16th in Ireland (at the Irish Open), not a fair reflection of how I actually played. I played well, just a couple of water balls on the back nine on Sunday (at The K Club). It’s been two solid weeks and definitely things to improve and to work on, but everything’s heading in the right direction,” said McIlroy.

Europe’s 12 men departed Wentworth to do their own things – McIlroy heading to Mykonos for a stag, Viktor Hovland home to Norway to “relax and practice a little bit, just maintain some things” and MacIntyre the only one moving on to the French Open – and then getting fully into team mode on meeting up again in Rome next Monday.

The French Open at the National Golf Club has three Irish players in the field, with Mark Power receiving a sponsor’s invitation. Power made an impressive professional debut on a similar invite to the Irish Open (tied-33rd) and then successfully came through the DP World Tour qualifying school stage one in Austria last week.

Power is joined in the field by his old Walker Cup partner John Murphy and European Open champion Tom McKibbin.

There are four Irish players in action in the Swiss Challenge at Folgensbourg on the Challenge Tour, with Conor Purcell, Jonny Caldwell, Daniel Mulligan and Dermot McElroy all in the field.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times