Stuart Franklin

A first time holding the event in Spain. A first time Stacy Lewis and Suzann Pettersen are captaining their respective teams. A first time (potentially) that the Europeans could go back-to-back-to-back in beating the Americans in the biennial match since its inception in 1990. Suffice it to say, there are plenty of firsts on the line as the Solheim Cup takes place this week at Finca Cortesin. For a preview of what’s in store — and some insight into how things might play out on the Costa del Sol — our writers offer their takes on some of the most pressing questions heading into the matches.

What needs to break right for US captain Stacy Lewis and the American team to have a successful week?

They need points on the board — and early. Right now, the momentum is with Europe, having won the last two Solheim Cups and are going for a historic third straight. To keep that from happening, the US have to build a lead quickly, if only to keep the “are we going to lose again?!?” narrative from surfacing. That’s not as easy as it sounds — the US haven’t led after the first session since 2009. — Keely Levins

Lewis needs to stick to the analytically driven gameplan she’s been mapping out since being named captain. She’s invested a lot of time into trying to put data to use to give the Americans tiny edges that can add up. That will take some discipline to hold on to if her team starts slowing. Lewis also has to stick with her approach of simplifying things for her five rookies so that there are no surprises once they’re on the ground in Spain. — Kent Paisley

As with any team event, how the best players perform are the vital links between success and failure. Lewis is going to need stellar efforts from Lilia Vu (winner of two majors this year), Nelly Korda and one other. If they outplay their European equivalents (Celine Boutier, Carlota Ciganda and Charley Hull), the US will almost certainly win. If they don’t then they won’t. — John Huggan

Similarly, what must Suzann Pettersen do as Europe’s captain for the home team to three-peat?

The European skipper doesn’t sound like a captain who spends much time, if any, poring over statistics. When it comes to foursomes and fourball pairings, she is going with her gut. Given how inspirational the Norwegian was as a legendary Solheim Cup player over the years, following that path makes some sense. To be successful, all she needs to do is be herself. If her off-course acumen matches her on-course passion, she’ll do fine. But it’s a high-risk strategy, of course, if things go wrong, Pettersen will be an easy target for criticism. —JH

Suzann Pettersen. Stuart Franklin

Pettersen needs the same thing that has made the European team so tough to beat in recent history: really, really good putting. Impressive play on the greens made the Europeans impossible to beat two years ago at Inverness. If they show up putting like that in Spain, it’s their Cup again. — KL

She needs her team-building philosophy to pan out by seeing her captain’s picks succeed. Caroline Hedwall was picked very specifically to partner with fellow Swede Anna Nordqvist, the duo having rolled to wins during May’s International Crown. If Hedwall (122nd in the Rolex Rankings) or Emily Kristine Pedersen (121st) don’t deliver, the questions about Pettersen leaving Jodi Ewart Shadoff (52nd) off this roster will only get louder. — KP

Which side do you think is feeling more pressure?

Definitely the US team. Have we mentioned the Americans have never lost three straight Solheim Cups? This is a pattern they want to stop before it becomes a trend. — KL

I think this one is a tie. Yes, the Americans want to keep from losing three straight Solheim Cups, but the spectre of being the first European team to win three straight, and doing it while playing in Spain and looking like the slight favorites on paper, adds up to a fair bit of stress for the home side. On the other hand, the prospect of a third defeat in a row must fill the American players with dread. No matter what they say in the run-up to the matches, that thought hangs over them. Strangely, I thought of Lanny Wadkins and Tom Kite when I saw this question. Both played on the only US Walker Cup team to lose between 1938 and 1989 and even now that “disgrace” lingers in both, even though they achieved great things since. History can be a heavy load. — JH

Stuart Franklin

The US team, if only to turn down the heat heading into the 2024 Cup (there’s no off year between the matches so that the Solheim Cup can switch to even years and be off the same schedule as the Ryder Cup). In a reminder of how thin margins can be at Solheim, the Americans were a putt away from a three-peat in 2019 and now find themselves fending off a European chance at three in a row. Can you imagine the cauldron of pressure on the Americans if they head to the nation’s capital next year, trying to fend off a European four-peat? — KP

Which player will have the most impact on each team’s chances of winning?

For the Americans, I look at Nelly Korda. It’s not only for her consistent play as a top talent but also for her increased leadership role. With Thompson and Kang struggling heading into the Cup, Korda could be the room’s pulse. For Europe, Celine Boutier seems primed to have another dominant Cup after having a breakout season on the LPGA in 2023. I expect a stronger performance, and at least four sessions played compared to Boutier’s 1-1-1 2021 Cup. — KP

I’m an Ally Ewing fan. She’s not the best player on the American team, but she is exactly the sort of player every team needs — the ultra-reliable type who hits a lot of good shots if maybe not too many great shots. In match play, more often than not, that, alongside the elimination of the truly destructive shot, is what wins matches. For Europe, maybe the most vital player is Charley Hull. The still-young Englishwoman (just 27) has plenty of Solheim experience (this is her sixth start). And she arrives in Spain as the most in-form player on the home team. She clearly has the potential to provide the sort of inspiration that can drag teammates along with her. — JH

Celine Boutier. NurPhoto

Boutier is critical to Europe’s chances. The top-ranked European isn’t loud or flashy, but she is a point-scoring machine. If her teammates see her steadily tallying up points, it’ll help give them the confidence to do so, too. If she’s struggling, this team will feel it. As for the Americans, Danielle Kang is one to watch. She’s fiercely competitive and combines her own energy with that of the crowd to become a force on the golf course. This is her fourth Solheim Cup and being a road game for the US, Kang is just the type of experienced player needed to lead the way in Spain. —KL

There are eight rookies making their debut at Finca Cortesin. Who will fare best?

All of the rookies are LPGA winners, so it feels like just about any of them could have a fantastic week. But I think Rose Zhang will be one to score the most points. She has proven herself in team play, going 7-0-2 in her two Curtis Cup appearances, and has a steady, confident demeanour that should carry her well through the week. She also has that intangible star quality and hasn’t done anything huge since winning her pro debut back in June. It feels like she’s due for some fireworks, and they could go off in Spain. —KL

Linn Grant’s consistency is a skill that translates well to match play, which we saw earlier this year in the LPGA event in Las Vegas when she finished in third alongside Leona Maguire. European rookies also have more room to succeed given bigger pool of veteran teammates to pair them with, making adjusting to this one-of-a-kind competition more manageable compared to the Americans. — KP

You’ve got to love Grant’s game. No, American will look at her and think: “Boy she seems nervous.” For that reason alone, I can see Grant winning more games than she loses. But it’s a close-run thing. Grant’s Swedish compatriot, Maja Stark has the potential to be just as important to the European cause. If she can handle the occasion that is. Her more volatile makes her a question mark that could go either way. — JH

Who do you think wins and what will that win mean for that team?

You have to give the edge to Europe, but only an edge. These are two closely matched teams. As ever in match play, it will come down to who holes the vital putts at just the right times. For the Americans, the singular prospect of beating a comparable and highly motivated side on foreign soil and in front of a crowd that will surely do the visitors few favours is something that should be enough to get the blood flowing. — JH

The US are going to win this one. Yes, there are five rookies on the team, but in this case, that might be a good thing. They don’t have the scar tissue of being part of the America’s recent losses. And though they are young, they have more depth than the Europeans with no one ranked outside the top 45 in the world compared to just nine of Europe’s players ranking so high (and two outside the top 110). It’s a long week — depth matters. — KL

I like Europe’s chances, with the score something similar to the 15-13 result from 2021. It just feels like their experience and history of playing with each other will prove the difference-maker as Europe close the gap in the overall standings to a 10-8 US lead. — KP