U.S. hopefuls get sneak peek at Solheim Cup venue

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The U.S. Solheim Cup team is confident that Inverness Club will prove to be to their advantage in their bid to win back the cup in September.

U.S. captain Pat Hurst invited several Solheim Cup hopefuls to Inverness Club, the site of the upcoming match, to play a practice round Monday in Toledo, Ohio. Players included Cup veterans Brittany Altomare, Austin Ernst, Danielle Kang, Megan Khang, Jessica Korda, Brittany Lincicome, Lizette Salas and Angel Yin. Potential first-timers Mina Harigae, Cheyenne Knight and Jennifer Kupcho also took advantage of the opportunity to scope out the Donald Ross design.

Many prospective U.S. team members got a first look at Inverness last July when the course hosted the LPGA Drive On Championship in the LPGA’s return following the pandemic. Kang won that week, her first of back-to-back tour wins.

“It was a little different,” Kang told GolfChannel.com, comparing the course she encountered Monday to when she played it a year ago. “Right now, they’re leading up to where it’s going to be at for the Solheim Cup, so I don’t want to say it’s slower or anything. They’re getting ready.”

Altomare was one of the few players who was willing to divulge any feedback that the team provided to Captain Hurst in terms of setup. As Khang reiterated, they didn’t want to tip their hand to their European counterparts, who stole the cup away from the Americans for the first time since 2013 with their narrow victory at Gleaneagles in 2019.

“The Americans have some long hitters which I think is going to help. Especially if the greens are really firm, they’re going to have shorter clubs coming in,” Altomare said. “Our short games are really good, so if they can grow up the rough and make it difficult in that aspect, I think it’s going to be really challenging.”

While Khang says she expects the venue to play similar to when it hosted the Drive On, the Americans are hopeful they’ll be able to move a number of tees and increase the length of the rough, which they believe will be more challenging for the Europeans.

“I don’t know if I want to tell you in case any Europeans are listening, but we did give some input,” Khang said. “We’ll see what Pat and the staff can do given the weather conditions, but we are definitely looking at things to benefit us a little more.”

In addition to using the practice day as an opportunity to gauge setup options for the Solheim Cup, Captain Hurst also used the time to observe potential player pods. Hurst said in May she intended to keep the pod system that was previously used by Juli Inkster, who captained the last three U.S. Solheim Cup teams, though with a small tweak. Hurst is implementing a behavioral profile system to better group players for the competition.

In a possible pod preview on Monday, Khang, Kang, Ernst and Korda played together. Salas also joined the group, but she didn’t play because her clubs didn’t make it in time.

“Austin and Danielle, they whooped us for nine holes,” said Khang, who teamed up with Korda for the match. “It was good we could see there are birdies out there and it’s great to see right now, a couple months before Solheim Cup, the course is in such great shape and it’s only going to get better.”

The Americans expect a fun-but-tough test for the Solheim Cup, as the course will provide not only a number of birdie opportunities but also some unexpected bogeys. The scorecard features two par 3s and a single par 5 on the front nine. There is just a single par 3 and par 5 on the back.

“That golf course is a difficult track from tee to green and around the green,” Kang said. “There’s going to be a lot of back and forth and I think that’ll be fun.”

The Solheim Cup will be a lot more fun for whichever team comes out on top at Inverness.

The Americans are confident they’ll be able to shape the course to their advantage to win back the cup.