Solheim Cup Power Rankings: Nelly Korda, Danielle Kang headline the field at Inverness

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Team USA's Nelly Korda practices ahead of the Solheim Cup this weekend. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The Solheim Cup, one of the few LPGA Tour events to remain on schedule amid the COVID-19 pandemic, is upon us. This year marks the 17th edition of the Cup, with the first one played in 1990 at Lake Nona Golf Club in Orlando, Fla.

Twenty-four players make up the field of the 12-on-12 team match between Europe and the United States, taking place in Toledo, Ohio this weekend.

Unlike most events, the Solheim Cup has three different formats. Four-ball, also known as best-ball, takes the best score of two teammates against the best score of the other team in the group. Foursomes, also known as alternate shot, has players hitting every other stroke, as in the player hitting a tee shot won’t hit again until their playing partner hits their second shot. The first two days are the same — a morning session of foursomes, followed by afternoon four-ball.

On Labor Day, the golfers will compete in singles, with 12 groups teeing off for one-on-one play. The first team to 14.5 points wins, and each match is worth one point. The tiebreaker goes to the reigning Cup champion. Europe won last year’s competition on a dramatic putt by Suzann Pettersen on the final hole at Gleneagles. The U.S. is 8-1 at home in Solheim history.

The power rankings rely on recent form, past Solheim experience and results on the LPGA Tour. It is not a measurement of who the best player is overall, but rather who the best golfers are entering the first round Saturday at Inverness Club.

1. Nelly Korda

Age: 23
Solheim Cup appearances: 2019
Record: 3-0-1; Four-Ball:0-0-1; Foursomes: 2-0-0; Singles: 1-0-0
Career LPGA wins: 6
World Ranking: 1
Made the team: First on U.S. Solheim Cup Points List
Notable recent finishes: Wins at KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, Meijer LPGA Classic, Gainbridge LPGA, Gold Medal at Olympics, T-2 Lotte Championship, T-3 ANA Inspiration

Nelly Korda is a no-doubter at the top of the rankings. Her scoring average of 69.02 in 2021 is the best on the LPGA Tour by .576, ahead of Hall of Famer and 2016 Rio gold medalist Inbee Park. The Solheim Cup gives Korda another opportunity to add to her golden season. The American team has a fierce weapon in Korda’s foursome dominance alongside sister Jessica (more on that below). Following a missed cut at the U.S. Women’s Open in June, Nelly has averaged an eighth-place finish over her last six starts (including three majors and the Olympics) and claimed three victories. Her resume speaks for itself.

2. Danielle Kang

Age: 28
Solheim Cup appearances: 2017, 2019
Record: 4-4-0; Four-Ball: 2-1-0; Foursomes: 1-2-0; Singles: 1-1-0
Career LPGA wins: 5
World Ranking: 8
Made the team: Second on U.S. Solheim Cup Points List
Notable recent finishes: Wins at 2020 Drive On Championship at Inverness Club, 2020 Marathon Classic, Second at Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions, T-5 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, Round of Eight at Bank of Hope LPGA Match Play

Kang finished with 14 top-10 finishes over the 33 starts she made during the 2021 Solheim qualification period, good enough for 42.4 percent. For her 10-year LPGA career, that average is 19 percent. Her steady hand will be crucial to the United States’ campaign. Juli Inkster, Solheim Cup captain in 2019, trusted Kang to be the first off in Sunday singles that year, and she lost to Carlota Ciganda only on the last hole. As winner of the 2020 Vare Trophy (awarded to the player with the lowest scoring average that season) at Inverness, the host course, Kang earns second-place honors even though she recently missed the cut at the AIG Women’s Open.

3. Anna Nordqvist

Age: 34
Solheim Cup appearances: 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019
Record: 12-9-2; Four-Ball: 4-2-0; Foursomes: 6-5-0; Singles: 2-2-2
Career LPGA wins: 9
World Ranking: 16
Made the team: First Rolex World Ranking Spot
Notable recent finishes: Win at 2021 AIG Women’s Open, fifth Meijer LPGA Classic

Winning a major in the final tournament before the Solheim Cup is one way to revitalize your stock. Overall, Nordqvist has had a subdued season, but she displayed her match play acumen at the Bank of Hope LPGA Matchplay by advancing out of pool play to the Round of 16. She also has the most experience of any golfer playing for the Cup. Six members of Team Europe finished in the top 20 at the AIG Women’s Open, with Nordqvist leading the charge. The Swede will continue to lead Europe as they look for an upset on American soil this week.

4. Jessica Korda

Age: 28
Solheim Cup appearances: 2013, 2019
Record: 4-2-2; Four-Ball:0-1-1; Foursomes: 3-1-0; Singles: 1-0-1
Career LPGA wins: 6
World Ranking: 18
Made the team: Sixth on U.S. Solheim Cup Points List
Notable recent finishes: Win at Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions, second at Hugel-Air Premia LA Open, third at Pure Silk Championship

Korda gets a boost from the dynamo duo she forms with her sister Nelly in foursomes. In 2019, they beat Caroline Masson and Jodi Ewart Shadoff 6-and-4 on Friday, then took down Carlota Ciganda and Bronte Law 6-and-5 on Saturday. At the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational, the LPGA’s team event, the Korda sisters played four rounds of foursomes. They shot 68 and 68 in 2019, then 65 and 66 in 2021. Korda’s victory to open the 2021 season was her first since the 2018 Honda LPGA Thailand. She defeated Kang in a playoff after a third-round 60, the fifth 60 in LPGA history. Korda has the third-best scoring average of the 24 Solheim players (70.02), and it’s the best of her 11-year LPGA career.

5. Ally Ewing

Age: 28
Solheim Cup appearances: 2019
Record: 1-3-0; Four-Ball:1-1-0; Foursomes: 0-1-0; Singles: 0-1-0
Career LPGA wins: 2
World Ranking: 22
Made the team: Third on U.S. Solheim Cup Points List
Notable recent finishes: Win at Bank of Hope LPGA Match Play, T-6 Meijer LPGA Classic, Sixth at Trust Golf Women’s Scottish Open

Ewing left the 2019 Solheim Cup with the last name McDonald. Since getting married in May of last year, she has emerged as a new player. Ewing won the 2020 Drive On Championship at Reynolds Lake Oconee by outdueling Kang on Sunday for her maiden victory. She followed that up this year by taking down Solheim Team Europe major champion Sophia Popov in the only match-play tournament on the LPGA schedule. Ewing’s record at Gleneagles does not reflect what we’ve come to expect of her in 2021.

6. Leona Maguire

Age: 26
World ranking: 45
Solheim Cup appearances: Rookie
Career LPGA Wins: 0
Made the team: Captain’s Pick
Notable recent finishes: Second at Meijer LPGA Classic, T-2 Lotte Championship, T-6 Amundi Evian Championship, T-13 AIG Women’s Open

The first Irishwoman to ever play in a Solheim Cup is quiet by nature but is roaring into the competition. She has the fourth-best scoring average on the LPGA Tour this season (69.94) and the second-best in the Solheim, trailing only Nelly Korda. Maguire hasn’t finished outside the top 15 over her last seven starts. She lost to Korda in at the Meijer LPGA Classic but not because of her own play — Maguire shot a 66 on Sunday. The world’s longest reigning No. 1 amateur found her form in time to be a force for Team Europe captain Catriona Matthew this week.

7. Matilda Castren

Age: 26
World ranking: 47
Solheim Cup appearances: Rookie
Career LPGA wins: 1
Made the team: Captain’s Pick
Notable recent finishes: Win at LPGA Mediheal Championship, LET’s Gant Ladies Open, second at Volunteers of America Classic

Despite being one of two Team Europe players to win on the LPGA Tour in 2021, Castren made this team by the skin of her teeth. In order to qualify for Team Europe, players have to be a member of the Ladies European Tour. Castren, who qualified for the LPGA via the Q-Series in 2019, came out of nowhere to win the LPGA Mediheal Championship in her 15th career LPGA start. She had one top-10 finish before that victory and didn’t have LET membership. Her only avenue to securing it before Solheim was to win a tournament on the tour. In her first of four possible opportunities, Castren won the Gant Ladies Open. Outside of a missed cut at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, she hasn’t finished outside the top 20 on the LPGA since winning in the Bay Area.

8. Lizette Salas

Age: 32
World Ranking: 14
Solheim Cup appearances: 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019
Record: 6-6-2; Four-Ball: 2-3-0; Foursomes: 1-3-1; Singles: 3-0-1
Career LPGA wins: 0
Made the team: First from Rolex World Rankings
Notable recent finishes: Second at KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, T-2 AIG Women’s Open, T-6 Meijer LPGA Classic

Salas went blow-for-blow with Nelly Korda at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, her second of three runner-ups at a major over the last three seasons. The oldest player on the American roster said she nearly retired during the offseason but is feeling like herself again after the duel at Atlanta Athletic Club. The second-place finish also put her back on track for the Solheim, as she was 45th in the Rolex World Rankings before the tournament.

9. Georgia Hall

Age: 25
World Ranking: 29
Solheim Cup appearances: 2017, 2019
Record: 6-3-0; Four-Ball: 1-2-0; Foursomes: 4-0-0; Singles: 1-1-0
Career LPGA wins: 2
Made the team: Second on LET Points List
Notable recent finishes: Win 2020 Cambia Portland Classic, T-2 AIG Women’s Open, T-6 Amundi Evian Championship, T-6 Meijer LPGA Classic

A Sunday 67 vaulted the 2018 Ricoh Women’s British Open champion into T-2 in her homeland’s major, rounding out a pair of top-10 finishes in the last two majors ahead of the Solheim Cup. In addition to her perfect run alongside Celine Boutier at Gleneagles in 2019, Hall leads the LPGA in birdies this season. She’s finished inside the top 6 in three of her last six LPGA starts.

10. Lexi Thompson

Age: 26
World Ranking: 12
Solheim Cup appearances: 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019
Record: 5-4-6; Four-Ball:2-2-3; Foursomes: 2-2-3; Singles: 1-1-2
Career LPGA wins: 11
Made the team: Fourth on U.S. Solheim Cup Points List
Notable recent finishes: T-2 Kia Classic, T-2 Gainbridge LPGA, Third at U.S. Women’s Open

Thompson is making her fifth Solheim appearance at just 26, tying her with Salas for the most experience on the American roster. The ever consistent Thompson leads the LPGA in greens in regulation this season (78.1 percent) and holds the third-highest career percentage in the recorded history of the stat on the LPGA Tour (75.5 percent). It was a crucial part of her seven-year win streak that broke in the shortened 2020 season. Thompson hasn’t been in contention since a heartbreaking finish at the U.S. Women’s Open, losing a five-shot lead on the back nine. Her T-20 at the AIG Women’s Open was her best finish since early June. She’s also the longest hitter on Team USA (279.4 yards).

11. Charley Hull

Age: 25
Solheim Cup appearances: 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019
Record: 9-3-3; Four-Ball: 3-2-1; Foursomes: 4-0-0; Singles: 2-1-1
Career LPGA wins: 1
World Ranking: 38
Made the team: Third Rolex World Ranking Spot
Notable recent finishes: Fifth at Trust Golf Women’s Scottish Open, T-8 LPGA Drive On Championship at Golden Ocala

Hull has finished in the top 25 in five of her last six starts, with the only outlier being the AIG Women’s Open, where she missed the cut. Though she missed out on the Bank of Hope match- play event, she holds a decisive 9-3-3 record in the format. She’s also tied with the Korda sisters for the most eagles on the LPGA Tour this season (10).

12. Austin Ernst

Age: 29
Solheim Cup appearances: 2017
Record: 2-2-0; Four-Ball: 1-0-0; Foursomes: 1-1-0; Singles: 0-1
Career LPGA wins: 3
World Ranking: 27
Made the team: Fifth on U.S. Solheim Cup Points List
Notable recent finishes: Wins at Drive On Championship at Golden Ocala and 2020 Walmart N.W. Arkansas Championship, T-7 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, T-5 Marathon LPGA Classic

It’s been an up-and-down season for the three-time LPGA winner. Outside of her three top-10 finishes, Ernst has four other top-25 finishes in 17 starts. She earned her way to Inverness Club as one of four Americans to win multiple tournaments since the 2019 Solheim Cup, alongside Nelly, Kang and Ewing. Ernst’s victory at the 2020 Walmart N.W. Arkansas Championship snapped a six-year winless streak.

Madelene Sagstrom is the second-longest hitter on Team Europe. (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

13. Madelene Sagstrom

Age: 28
Solheim Cup appearances: 2017
Record: 1-2-0; Four-Ball: 0-2-0; Foursomes: 0-0-0; Singles: 1-0-0
Career LPGA wins: 1
World Ranking: 48
Made the team: Captain’s Pick
Notable recent finishes: Win 2020 Gainbridge LPGA, T-2 AIG Women’s Open, T-15 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship

Sagstrom heads into the Solheim Cup on a streak of consistent play, culminating with her best finish of the year at the AIG Women’s Open. She’s made seven cuts in a row dating back to the U.S. Women’s Open in early June, with her worst result being a T-38. The Swede held the lead after the opening round of the Olympics before finishing T-20 in Tokyo. She’s the second-longest hitter on Team Europe, averaging 272.9 yards off the tee.

14. Celine Boutier

Age: 27
Solheim Cup appearances: 2019
Record: 4-0-0; Four-Ball:1-0-0; Foursomes: 2-0-0; Singles: 1-0-0
Career LPGA wins: 0
World Ranking: 66
Made the team: Captain’s Pick
Notable recent finishes: T-5 LPGA Mediheal Championship, T-7 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, T-7 Trust Golf Women’s Scottish Open

Boutier and Hall went a perfect 4-0-0 in the 2019 Solheim, partnering for all three team matches they played. The Frenchwoman shot the tournament record in San Francisco, closing with a 64 for her best finish of the year in June. Really, it was a missed three-foot putt on the 72nd hole at the Drive On Championship at Inverness Club that affected Boutier’s standing in these rankings.

15. Brittany Altomare

Age: 30
Solheim Cup appearances: 2019
Record: 2-1-1; Four-Ball:1-0-1; Foursomes: 0-1-0; Singles: 1-0
Career LPGA wins: 0
World Ranking: 54
Made the team: Captain’s Pick
Notable recent finishes: Advanced to round of 16 at Bank of Hope LPGA Match Play, T-3 at Meijer LPGA Classic, T-6 Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational

Altomare’s match-play skill is greater than what her stroke-play results have shown. The 30-year-old was dubbed “Jesus” in her Solheim debut at Gleneagles in 2019 because of her putting. In her Sunday singles match that year, she had the largest margin of victory of all of the 14 matches, beating three-time Solheim veteran Jodi Ewart Shadoff 5-and-4. She swept group play at the Bank of Hope LPGA Match Play, including over then-world No. 3 Sei Young Kim, displaying the match-play skill Hurst is leaning on with Altomare as a captain’s pick.

16. Yealimi Noh

Age: 20
Solheim Cup appearances: Rookie
Career LPGA wins: 0
World Ranking: 31
Made the team: Captain’s Pick
Notable recent finishes: Third at Amundi Evian Championship, T-3 Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational, T-7 Trust Golf Women’s Scottish Open, T-13 AIG Women’s Open

Noh made noise on the LPGA Tour in 2019. A fine for slow play affected her earlier this season, but her talent has reemerged recently thanks to work with her team. She finished in the top 15 in each of her last five starts, polishing her case for Team USA. Noh is the first golfer born in the 2000s to play in the Solheim Cup, highlighting the next generation on the LPGA Tour.

17. Carlota Ciganda

Age: 31
World Ranking: 41
Solheim Cup appearances: 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019
Record: 6-6-4; Four-Ball: 2-4-2; Foursomes: 1-2-1; Singles: 3-0-1
Career LPGA wins: 2
Made the team: Fourth Rolex World Ranking Spot
Notable recent finishes: T-7 HSBC Women’s World Championship, T-12 Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational

One of the pillars of the European team in recent years, Ciganda has been out of form in 2021. She’s had one top-10 finish in 18 starts, which translates to 5.6 percent and is nearly 15 percent less than her impressive career average of 20.4 percent. Her Sunday singles dominance will be a key factor for Team Europe as they look for their second win on American soil.

18. Sophia Popov

Age: 28
World Ranking: 30
Solheim Cup appearances: Rookie
Career LPGA wins: 1
Made the team: Second Rolex World Ranking Spot
Notable recent finishes: Win at 2020 AIG Women’s Open, Second at Bank of Hope LPGA Match Play

It’s been a challenging year for the feel-good story of the 2020 season. At the 2020 Drive On Championship at Inverness, Popov caddied for close friend Anne van Dam. She qualified for the AIG Women’s Open after a T-9 at the Marathon Classic, putting herself on the Solheim track.

How can one of two major champions on Team Europe be this low on the power rankings? Popov has made only three cuts in her last eight starts since her runner-up to Ewing in Las Vegas. Her best finish over that stretch was 41st at the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational. Team Europe hopes she can reclaim the form she displayed in the LPGA’s lone match-play event of the season.

Reid won the ShopRite LPGA Classic in New Jersey last year. (Michael Cohen/Getty Images)

20. Nanna Koerstz Madsen

Age: 26
Solheim Cup appearances: Rookie
Career LPGA wins: 0
World Ranking: 49
Made the team: Captain’s Pick
Notable recent finishes: T-3 ANA Inspiration, T-5 AIG Women’s Open

Koerstz Madsen made the team on the back of her top-5 finishes at two majors this season, getting the nod from Catriona Matthew to be a captain’s pick. The longest driver on Team Europe (275.8 yards), Madsen is seventh on the LPGA Tour in average distance off the tee in 2021. She nearly broke through as the first Dane to win on the LPGA Tour at the AIG Women’s Open, staying even with Nordqvist until a double-bogey on the final hole.

21. Jennifer Kupcho

Age: 24
Solheim Cup appearances: Rookie
Career LPGA wins: 0
World Ranking: 28
Made the team: Second from Rolex World Rankings
Notable recent finishes: Second at LPGA Drive On Championship at Golden Ocala, Third at ISPS Handa World Invitational, T-9 Marathon LPGA Classic

The heralded amateur, who won the first Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship in 2019, makes her Solheim debut. Kupcho nearly won the ISPS Handa World Invitational, succumbing to a bogey and falling out of playoff position on the last hole. She’s finished in the top 10 in three of her last seven starts but has struggled in the final three majors.

22. Mina Harigae

Age: 31
Solheim Cup appearances: Rookie
Career LPGA wins: 0
World Ranking: 62
Made the team: Captain’s Pick
Notable recent finishes: T-2 Marathon LPGA Classic, T-5 ISPS Handa World Invitational, T-13 AIG Women’s Open

The 11-year LPGA veteran is the second-oldest player on the American roster. Still searching for her first LPGA Tour victory, Harigae earned a captain’s nod due to her steady improvement over the two-year qualifying period. The California native set three career-best finishes over the last 11 months: T-4 at the 2020 Drive On Reynolds Lake Oconee last October, fourth at the CME Group Tour Championship and T-2 at the Marathon Classic. She finished T-6 at the Drive On Championship at Inverness in July 2020. With a revamped claw putting grip, Harigae is ninth in putts per green in regulation on the LPGA (1.76), up from 100th (1.82) in 2019.

23. Megan Khang

Age: 23
Solheim Cup appearances: 2019
Record: 0-2-1; Four-Ball:0-0-0; Foursomes: 0-2-0; Singles: 0-0-1
Career LPGA wins: 0
World Ranking: 37
Made the team: Seventh on U.S. Solheim Cup Points List
Notable recent finishes: T-4 U.S. Women’s Open, T-10 ANA Inspiration, T-8 Drive On Championship at Golden Ocala

Khang took the final spot on the U.S. Solheim Cup Points list with a steady diet of success at majors. A T-15 at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and a fifth-place finish at the 2020 U.S. Women’s Open put her in the top 15 in four of the last six LPGA majors. Khang will look to improve upon the half a point she earned in 2019. She can do that with her consistency on the fairways, where she’s hitting 79.9 percent this season for ninth-best on the LPGA Tour.

24. Emily Kristine Pedersen

Age: 25
Solheim Cup appearances: 2017
Record: 0-3-0; Four-Ball: 0-1-0; Foursomes: 0-1-0; Singles: 0-1-0
World Ranking: 67
Made the team: First on LET Points
Notable recent finishes: Four LET wins in 2020 (Tipsport Czech Women’s Open, Saudi Ladies International, Saudi Ladies Team International, Andalucia Costa Del Sol Open De España), T-5 Tokyo Olympics

Kristine Pedersen admitted she felt pressure in 2017 from being a captain’s pick of Annika Sorenstam, one of the greatest golfers of all time. At the Cup that year, she struggled to a 0-3-0 record. She’s the only player in the field this year who doesn’t compete primarily on the LPGA Tour, dropping her to the bottom of the power rankings but also giving her a chance for redemption.

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