RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – The Spaniards, English and Swedes are lining up as a potentially formidable nucleus of this year’s European Solheim Cup team with qualifying intensifying at the ANA Inspiration.
Carlota Ciganda is off to a promising start this season. She tied for second at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup two weeks ago and finished third at the Honda Thailand on the Asian swing. Fellow Spaniard Azahara Munoz is regaining her form after suffering through some health issues and failing to make the team two years ago.
They were match-play dynamos when the Spaniards won the inaugural International Crown team event.
“This is probably the best my game’s been beginning the year,” said Ciganda, a two-time LPGA winner. “I worked hard in the offseason, with my coach in Phoenix, and in my training.”
Munoz, whose lone LPGA title came in match play, is coming off a tie for second at the Kia Classic. It’s among her four finishes of T-6 or better this year. It’s a strong statement about her recovery from Hashimoto’s Disease, which affected her thyroid and contributed to her failing to make the Euro Solheim Cup team two years ago. She played on the team in 2011, ’13 and ‘15
“Obviously, my goal is to make it, and if I keep playing like I’ve been playing, I will be there,” Munoz said. “It will be amazing. Missing the last one really hurt, but I’m not going to obsess about this. I know if I keep focusing on day to day, and tournament to tournament, things will work out. That’s the goal.”
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England’s Georgia Hall and Charley Hull should play central roles on this year’s team. Jodi Ewart Shadoff is looking to get back on the European team after playing in 2103. Bronte Law looks like a promising potential new addition. Law was the first player from Great Britain/Ireland to go 5-0 at the Curtis Cup. She helped the English make a hard run at winning the International Crown last fall.
Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist and Pernilla Lindberg are major championship winners in the mix.
Yes, it’s still early to speculate on who will make the team that goes to Scotland for the biennial matches in September, but qualifying is more intense this week, with points ratcheted up in the year’s first major championship.
European captain Catriona Matthew is back at her Scottish home watching to see what develops.
“A big week in a major can boost your chances,” Matthew said in a telephone interview. “Obviously, with more points available, it can make a difference in the rankings.”
Like United States’ captain Juli Inkster, Matthew is looking at the possibility a batch of new faces making the team.
If the European roster was finalized today, at least two Euros would make their first Solheim Cup roster (Lindberg and The Netherlands’ Anne Van Dam) with the prospect of even more, given Matthew has four captain’s picks compared to Inkster’s two.
France’s Celine Boutier and Law are serious candidates to make their first team as captain’s picks if they don’t qualify. Boutier won the ISPS Handa Vic Open in February.
“Obviously, the season’s just getting going, but I think things are looking very good for our team,” Matthew said. “We are trending in the right direction.”
If the European team were finalized today, Van Dam, Hall and Hull would make it as the top three off the LET points list. Ciganda, Munoz, Anna Nordqvist, Caroline Masson and Lindberg would make it off the Rolex Women’s World Rankings list.
“We have a lot of players playing well right now,” Ciganda said.