Lexi Thompson in the opening pair for the United States at the Solheim Cup

Lexi Thompson in the opening pair for the United States at the Solheim Cup

Mark SchlabachSenior writer at ESPNSeptember 21, 2023 at 12:57 PM ET3 minutes to read

ANDALUSIA, Spain — Justin Thomas won’t be the only American golfer struggling under the microscope in an international team competition this month.

Lexi Thompson, one of the LPGA Tour’s biggest stars over the past 12 years, has struggled mightily this season, failing to make the cut in eight of her 11 starts.

US team captain Stacy Lewis still seems to have a lot of confidence in Thompson, who will be paired with Megan Khang in Friday’s opening match of the 18th Solheim Cup. Swedes Lin Grant and Maja Stark will be their European opponents in a four-way (alternate shot) match at Finca Cortesen.

American duo Daniel Kang and Andrea Lee will play in the second match with Frenchwoman Celine Potier and English Georgia Hall. World No. 3 golfer Nelly Korda and US Women’s Open winner Alison Corpuz will face Ireland’s Leona Maguire and Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist in the third match, followed by Allie Ewing and Cheyenne Knight with England’s Charlie Hall and Denmark’s Emily K. Pedersen in the final. .

Lewis and European team captain Susan Pietersen are yet to announce their doubles for the four-ball matches later on Friday. American juniors Rose Zhang, Lilia Fu, Jennifer Kupcho and Angel Yin are not scheduled to play in Friday morning’s session. Spain’s Carlota Ciganda, Sweden’s Madeleine Sagstrom, Caroline Hedwall and Scotland’s Gemma Dryburgh are competing to represent the Europeans.

Lewis said she planned to have each player compete in at least one match on Friday. Petersen doesn’t appear to be committed.

Fu is ranked second in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Ranking after winning two of the five major championships, the Chevron Championship and the AIG Women’s Open, last season.

“I don’t see anyone playing all five sessions,” Lewis said of Fu. “You’ll see it a lot, other than that first session. You can’t win two majors and sit on the sidelines for too long.”

That Thompson came out first for the Americans is most surprising. Lewis said she had received good reports about Thompson’s form from caddy and assistant captains since the team arrived in Spain on Monday. After having the worst season of her professional career, Thompson tied for 19th in her final LPGA Tour appearance at the Kroger Queen City Championship in early September.

“It’s almost every day, there are more and more people telling me that, and with the data and analytics that we have, their strokes have really picked up from practice over the last couple of days, and they’re off the charts now,” Lewis said. “I’ve been working hard over the last couple of months, and I thought it was only a matter of time. The driver looked great, just hitting the ball looks better than it has in a long time.”

Thompson, 28, is an 11-time winner on the LPGA Tour, and this is her sixth Solheim Cup appearance. With five starters on the US squad, Lewis expects to rely heavily on veterans like Thompson, Kang and Korda this weekend.

“Match play, putt play, you still have to play your game and play golf,” Thompson said. “But, yeah, maybe it wasn’t the year I wanted, but this week. I’m not focusing on the past. I’m here with my team this week and I’ll give it my best.”

Thompson had a 6-6-7 record in the last five Solheim Cups, earning 9 points for the United States. It has won 2½ out of a possible eight points in its last two matches.

Thompson made Team USA by being one of the highest-ranked players in the world rankings not eligible for the team.

Thomas, a two-time major champion, also struggled with his form last season. He has been named team captain by U.S. team captain Zach Johnson and will compete against Europe in next week’s Ryder Cup at Marco Simone’s in Italy.

“It’s like Justin Thomas said, any shot, any moment can change your game,” Kang said. “I can’t base a player’s entire career on how she’s been playing lately, can I?”

Kang and Lee may be busy with Boutier, the Evian Championship winner, and Hall. Pottier and Hull have gone 3-0-1 when playing together in the last two Solheim Cups.

Europe has won each of the last two Solheim Cups, including a 15-13 victory at the Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio, in 2021. The American team has not lost three in a row since the event’s inception in 1990. The Americans last topped a team outside the U.S. With a 14½-13½ win at St. Leon-Rot golf course in Germany in 2015.

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