One of the penultimate events on the LPGA tour takes place this weekend at the Des Moines Golf and Country Club in Iowa.
The Solheim Cup, pitting the best of U.S. women’s golfers against those from Team Europe, is like the Ryder Cup for men and just as pivotal.
Over the years, some great U.S. women golfers have taken part, including Beth Daniel, Betsy King, Nancy Lopez, Michelle Wie and Natalie Gulbis. On the European side, Laura Davies, Lora Fairclough, Diana Luna and Janice Moodie represented their countries well too.
This year’s congregation will pit the best from America against a host of players from different countries in Europe in four-ball and heads-up match competition over three days. The U.S. team is looking to defend its 2015 title in the biennial event, last played in Germany. Overall, the USA has won nine and Europe five events since it was first staged in 1990.
Being that women’s golf, like men’s, is a global game, we looked at the Rolex Standings to find 23 great golfers from 20 different countries spanning the breadth of the globe (some have multiple; in no particular order).
20. Lexi Thompson, Cristie Kerr And Stacy Lewis – USA
Team USA has a great chance to defend this weekend, with three of the top 20 golfers in the Rolex World rankings likely to take part. Leading the charge will be world no. 2 Lexi Thompson. The 22-year-old Floridian is having a great season on the tour, with eight top-10 finishes including a solo second at the ANA Inspiration (a major on the LPGA) which she won in 2014 when it was the Kraft Nabisco Championship. Kerr is the seasoned vet of this trio at 39 and is ranked 14th in the world. She will be playing in her ninth Solheim Cup and has a 15-14-5 overall record. Lewis is the 19th ranked player in the world and brings a 4-7-1 career mark to this year’s event. She recently tied for seventh at the Women’s British Open and has six top-10 finishes on the tour this year.
19. So Yeon Ryu And Sung Hyun Park – Korea
Of all the nations not represented at the Solheim Cup, Korea is the most powerful on the world rankings list. Of the top 25 female golfers on the Rolex World Rankings list, 11 hail from the Southeast Asian country. The two best are world no. 1 So Yeon Ryu and no. 4 ranked Sung Hyun Park. Ryu, who turned professional 10 years ago, is having a heck of a year on the LPGA tour, with a win at the ANA Inspiration (her second career major victory) and another at the Arkansas Championship. Ryu also tied for third at the U.S. Women’s Open to keep her status as no. 1 intact. Youngster Hyun Park has also enjoyed a stellar breakout year, winning the U.S. Women’s Open for her first major and first win on the main LPGA tour (she has won 10 times on the LPGA of Korea Tour).
18. Arya Jutanugarn – Thailand
There aren’t many more accomplished 21-year-old golfers, male or female, than Thailand’s own Ariya Jutanugarn. Ranked third globally behind So Yeon Ryu and Lexi Thompson, Jutanugarn blazed a huge trail earlier this season, but has been a bit of disappointment of late. However, she was the LPGA Player of the Year and the tour’s money leader in 2016 and followed that up with nine top-10 results in her first 13 events this season. She had two solo seconds and won her sixth LPGA Tour event, the Manulife Classic in Cambridge, Ontario. Jutanugarn won her first major, the British Women’s Open, as part of her monster 2016 campaign. She was also fourth at the 2016 ANA Inspiration, third at the Women’s PGA and T9 at the Evian (the LPGA’s fifth major).
17. Lydia Ko – New Zealand
Even though it seems she’s been on the LPGA Tour forever, Lydia Ko is still just 20. The 2014 LPGA Rookie of the Year and 2015 Player of the Year is currently ranked fifth in the world and has won 14 times on the tour already, including two majors, the Evian Championship in 2015 (the youngest ever to do so) and the ANA Inspiration last year. This year, the 5th-ranked player in the world started off like a house on fire, but has cooled a bit since. Ko has seven top-10s, all achieved before the end of June, her best finish a tie for second at the Lotte Championship. Her results in the 2017 majors leave a little to be desired, as she finished T11 at the ANA, T59 at the Women’s PGA, T33 at the U.S. Women’s Open and T59 at the British Women’s Open.
16. Shanshan Feng – China
Feng is the first golfer from China to compete on the LPGA Tour, having joined in 2008. Feng, currently ranked sixth in the Rolex rankings, has seven wins on the tour, including the 2012 Women’s PGA Championship, which was also her first win on the LPGA Tour. All in all, it’s been a good year for the native of Guangzhou, with a win at the Volvik Championship on the docket. Feng has only missed the cut twice and has six top-10 finishes to her credit. She recently placed T7 at the Women’s British Open and T7 at the U.S. Women’s Open. Feng also has the distinction of winning a bronze at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
15. Brooke Henderson – Canada
Hailing from Smiths Falls in Eastern Ontario, Brooke Henderson was cause celebre in Canada after winning her first major, the Women’s PGA Championship, in 2016. This year, the 19-year-old has had a great follow-up and is currently ranked 10th on the Rolex Rankings. After a bit of a sluggish start to the 2017 season, Henderson won the Meijer LPGA Classic and then nearly defended her Women’s PGA Championship with a solo second at that event two weeks later. Next week she will tee it up with the world’s best at the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in Ottawa. Henderson has four wins on the LPGA Tour, tying her with Lorie Kane for second among Canadians and four back of leader Sandra Post.
14. Anna Nordqvist – Sweden
High on Team Europe captain Annika Sorenstam’s list of selections for the Solheim Cup is 13th ranked countrywoman Anna Nordqvist. She is the highest ranked member of the team at 13th and is having quite a year on the LPGA Tour. The native of Eskilstuna, Sweden kicked things off with a win at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup in March, her seventh on the circuit. Nordqvist has won a major, the LPGA Championship in 2009 and this year she finished T7 at the British Women’s Open (which she’s done three times) and was T11 at the ANA Inspiration. This will be Nordqvist’s fifth Solheim Cup, where she has an overall record of 8-7-1, including a 2-2 mark in 2015.
13. Minjee Lee – Australia
Youth is served on the LPGA Tour and is not limited to just one or two countries. Perth, Australia calls 21-year-old Minjee Lee a native daughter and she has represented her city and country well. Currently ranked 18th in the world, Lee has had a fairly successful 2017, despite not winning an event yet. She has seven top 10s, highlighted by a tie for third at the ANA Inspiration and a T2 at the LPGA Volvik Championship. Lee boosted her international profile with two of her three LPGA Tour wins in 2016. The first was at the Lotte Championship in April and the second at the Blue Bay LPGA tournament in October. Before turning pro, Lee was a top ranked amateur, including a no. 1 ranking in 2014.
12. Carlota Ciganda – Spain
In golf terms, Carlota Ciganda is the female version of Sergio Garcia. Ciganda, like Garcia, is a Spaniard from Pamplona who started golfing at age 5 and is now the 21st ranked woman golfer on the planet. She is also a member of Team Europe for the Solheim Cup and brings a pretty solid 4-1-2 record into the 2017 iteration. She was 3-0 in her first go around at the team event, beating American Morgan Pressel 4&2 in her singles match. Last year, Ciganda was 1-1-2, including a half with top-ranked American Lexi Thompson. On the LPGA Tour, Ciganda has two wins, both in the fall of 2016 and this year she has four top-10 finishes, including a tie for fifth at the U.S. Women’s Open.
11. Harukyo Nomura – Japan
If Harukyo Nomura needs inspiration to do great things on the LPGA Tour, she can watch countryman Hideki Matsuyama’s successful weekly assault on the PGA Tour’s events. In her own right, Nomura has been a great boon to her country on the LPGA circuit, winning three events in the last two years, including this year’s Volunteers of America Texas Shootout in a playoff over veteran American star Cristie Kerr. Currently the 22nd ranked player in the world, Nomura has had an up-and-down year on the loop, starting with a tie for third in the Women’s Australian Open, but followed up by mostly middling finishes and no top-10s in any of the majors. However, she’s only missed the cut once, early in July at the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic.
10. Suzann Pettersen – Norway
The relatively young European Team at the Solheim Cup will benefit from the years of experience that 36-year-old Norwegian Suzann Pettersen brings to the table. Pettersen, ranked 23rd in the world, turned pro in 2000 and has 15 wins on the LPGA Tour (including two majors at the LPGA Championship in 2007 and Evian Championship in 2013), as well as seven Ladies European Tour victories. This year’s Solheim Cup will also be Pettersen’s ninth and her record speaks for itself at an admirable 16-11-6, gaining 19 points for her teams. She is especially adept at Fourball matches, recording a 8-2-1 mark. As for her individual achievements on the tour this year, Pettersen has four top-10 finishes, including a tie for third at the ANA Inspiration.
9. Charley Hull – England
In 2013, at the tender age of 17, England’s Charley Hull became the youngest player ever to compete at the Solheim Cup. Hull went 2-1 that year, including a resounding 5&4 defeat of American Paula Creamer in singles play. She followed it up with a stellar 4-1 record in 2015, losing only to veteran Cristie Kerr in singles play (3&2). Now 21, Hull is a veteran and quite successful member of Team Europe, boasting an overall record of 6-2. Hull turned pro in 2013 and set the Ladies European Tour on fire, reeling off five straight second-place finishes and earning Rookie of the Year honors. Ranked 26th in the world, Hull has one LPGA Tour win to her credit, the 2016 CME Group Tour Championship, beating list-mate Ryu So-Yeon.
8. Karine Icher – France
Karine Icher isn’t the only French national plying her trade on either the Ladies European Tour or the LPGA Tour, but she is the most highly decorated and most consistent. The 38-year-old native of Chateauroux is ranked 43rd in the world and has been named for the fourth time to the Solheim Cup European Team. Icher is 5-4-1 overall since her first Solheim in 2002 and was 2-1 in 2015, beating Brittany Lincicome 3&2 in singles. She doesn’t have a LPGA Tour victory yet, but has five on the LET. In major competition, Icher has three top-10s, 14 top-25s and has made 35 of 56 cuts in her career. Her best finish this year was a tie for fourth at the Kia Classic, followed by a solo 10th place finish at the ANA Inspiration.
7. Caroline Masson – Germany
Annika Sorenstam has a lot of experience to draw on for her team at the Solheim Cup, including world 49th ranked German Caroline Masson. The Gladbeck born golfer will compete in her third Solheim Cup this year, bringing a 2-3-2 record to the table. She has had the best success at Fourball competition going 2-1-1. Ranked 49th in the Rolex Standings, Masson comes into the Solheim on a high, with a tie for third at the British Women’s Open earlier this month and a top-10 (T9) at the Ladies Scottish Open before that. Masson won her first career pro tournament at the South African Women’s Open in 2012 and broke through for her inaugural LPGA Tour victory at the Manulife Classic in 2016, beating Solheim Cup teammate Karine Icher and Australian Minjee Lee by one stroke.
6. Teresa Lu – Taiwan
Even though she is the 33rd ranked women’s golfer in the world, Teresa Lu isn’t playing on the LPGA Tour, focusing instead on the LPGA Tour of Japan. The Taipei native does have one LPGA Tour win, the Mizuno Classic in 2013, which is co-sanctioned by the LPGA and Japanese LPGA. Otherwise Lu has 13 other LPGA of Japan Tour wins, the latest being the Nicherie Ladies tournament in June. The 29-year-old Taiwanese, who has been playing regularly in Japan since 2010, earned USD $130,000 for the victory and moved up to second on the 2017 JLPGA money list with winnings of just under $500,000 (USD).
5. Aditi Ashok – India
South Asia doesn’t have a whole lot of representation in women’s golf, with only six players currently teeing it up professionally. Aditi Ashok, 19, of Bangalore, is the best of them and comes in at a respectable no. 91 on the women’s world golf rankings. She was the first Indian (and youngest to do so) to win the European Tour School in 2016 at age 18, securing her card for that season. She won the 2016 Hero Women’s Indian Open and followed it up with a triumph at the Qatar Ladies Open, winning Ladies European Tour Rookie of the Year. She’s been on a bit of a rollercoaster in the 2017 LPGA Tour season, with her best finish a tie for eighth at the Marathon Classic in July.
4. Catriona Matthew – Scotland
The home of golf does have quite a women’s contingent playing professionally, however, Catriona Matthew is the only one currently ranked in the top 100 in the world at no. 97. At age 47, the Edinburgh born Matthew is one of the oldest competitors on the LPGA and Ladies European Tours. She turned pro in 1995 and won her first event on the LET at the McDonald’s WPGA Championship. Matthew won her first major at the 2009 Women’s British Open, beating Australian star Karrie Webb by three strokes. In all, Matthew has four LPGA Tour wins and six Ladies European Tour victories. Matthew wasn’t selected for duty at the Solheim Cup, however, she has made seven career appearances, forging a respectable 12-9-8 record, including a sterling 5-1-1 in singles matches.
3. Nanna Koerstz Madsen – Denmark
Considering she only plays on the Ladies European Tour, Danish 22-year-old Nanna Koerstz Madsen has done quite well for herself. She is currently the highest rated golfer from Denmark on the Rolex Standings, coming in at no. 103. After earning her LET card in 2015, she finished ninth in the Order of Merit, with six top-10 finishes to her credit. Madsen finally broke through for a victory in 2016, winning the Tipsport Golf Masters event, as well as recording four other top-10 finishes. In addition to her activity on the Ladies European Tour, Madsen also took part in the 2016 Summer Olympics and plays on the LPGA’s developmental Symetra Tour, where she currently is first in the money and has won three times in 2017.
2. Gaby Lopez – Mexico
Even though she has only been a pro for two years, Mexican Gaby Lopez is close to cracking the top 100 in the Rolex Standings. Currently ranked 108th in the world, Lopez has had the kind of year that can best be described as topsy-turvy. She made the cut in her first three tournaments, then was cut in three straight. Lopez then only missed the cut in one of her next nine events and posted two top-10 finishes and a top-30 at the Women’s PGA Championship (T29). That run was followed by another three missed cuts, including the Women’s U.S. Open and Women’s British Open. Lopez also competed in the 2016 Rio Olympics, placing 31st and before she turned pro was a finalist at the 2015 NCAA Division I championship with the University of Arkansas.
1. Lee-Anne Pace – South Africa
LPGA Tour veteran Pace started her journey to the Ladies European and LPGA Tours by honing her craft at the NCAA level with Murray State and the University of Tulsa. The 36-year-old native of Paarl turned pro in 2005 and qualified for the LPGA Tour in 2007, but lost her card at the end of the year. Pace didn’t let that get her down, instead focusing on the LET, where she would eventually win her first event in 2010, along with four others to top the order of merit and win Player of the Year honors. She would win four more events on the Ladies European Tour, before finally winning a LPGA Tour event, the Blue Bay LPGA in October 2014. Pace has never won a major and is currently ranked 86th in the Rolex Rankings.