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Solheim Cup gets underway in Iowa as U.S. women seek repeat victory over Europe

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — If the last Solheim Cup was any indication, golf fans should be in for a treat this weekend in Iowa.

In 2015 in Germany, the Americans rallied from 8 1/2 points down to beat Europe 14 1/2 to 13 1/2 — the biggest rally in the history of the biennial event that began in 1990.

Play got underway Friday morning at Des Moines Golf and Country Club with a U.S. pairing of Christie Kerr and Lexi Thompson taking on Europe’s Mel Reid and Charley Hull.

North Texan Gerina Piller, one of the heroes of America’s 2015 victory, was paired with Stacy Lewis against Europeans Karine Icher and Catriona Matthew.

The Americans hold a 9-5 advantage in the series, winning three straight from 1994-98 and from 2005-09. But Europe has had the upper hand of late, winning in 2011 and 2013 before the U.S. prevailed two years ago.

Here are some things to watch as play kicks off:

THE COURSE

The par-72, 6,894-yard course, located roughly 10 miles from Iowa’s capital, is the second-longest in Solheim Cup history behind the Colorado Golf Club in 2013. The front nine figures to have its fair share of birdie opportunities, while the back nine could be much stingier. It also rained quite a bit Tuesday and Wednesday, softening the course that suffered through drought-like conditions all summer. “The greens are a lot more receptive than they thought it would be,” European captain Annika Sorenstam said. “Earlier on, the ball was rolling in the fairways, but now they won’t. So it’s going to add some distance to it.”

WIE’S JOURNEY

American Michelle Wie has been a member of every U.S. Solheim Cup team since she was 19. But after a dismal 2016 in which she made just 13 of 25 cuts, Wie needed a strong start to this season to make the team on points. She did just that, finishing in the top five seven times and tying for third at the Women’s British Open two weeks ago. “This year, more so than any other year, it’s more special to me just because of what I had to do to get here,” Wie said. “I clawed my way up here. I made my way on to the team. And for me this year it’s just so much more special because it’s already a victory for me just to be here, just to be part of this experience.”

ALTERNATES

Paula Creamer became the first alternate in Solheim Cup history to earn a spot on a 12-player team after Jessica Korda withdrew because of a forearm injury. But the Europeans were also forced to bring in another player, Catriona Matthew, after Suzann Pettersen withdrew because of a back injury. Pettersen will take Matthew’s spot as a vice captain. “Obviously was disappointed when I didn’t (earn a spot). But I’m very excited to be playing now,” the 47-year-old Matthew said. I’m “upset for Suzann not playing, but excited for myself to be playing now.”

CAREFREE AMERICAN ROOKIES

If U.S. rookies Danielle Kang and Angel Yin are nervous about the prospect of playing in front of packed galleries cheering them on for every shot, they weren’t showing it earlier this week during a relaxed and jovial press conference. Yin, 18, said she was mistaken for a junior player and remarked that “it means a lot, from Junior Solheim to two years later I’m playing the adult Solheim. The big Solheim.” Upon hearing that, Kang, 24, turned to her younger teammate and said, “Adult Solheim? Really?”

ROAD TRIP

The Europeans have traditionally struggled when the U.S. hosts the tournament, winning just once in seven tries in America. But that lone win came during their last trip to America four years ago — and it was a big one. Europe routed the U.S. 18-10 in Colorado.

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