The 18th playing of The Solheim Cup begins on Friday at Spain’s Finca Cortesín. It’s the first time the team match-play competition has been played on Spanish soil, and the first time many of the players have seen the resort-style course set in the Estepona Mountains. As practice rounds began on Monday, it became clear that this year’s edition will be even more demanding for players thanks to the hills and elevation changes they will face across potential 36-hole days on Friday and Saturday. The first tee atmosphere, which tests the nerves of rookies and veterans alike, will have the additional pressure element of a risk-reward decision. As Jamie Kennedy’s walk-through of the short par-4 explained, pulling driver might be obvious during fourball sessions, but won’t be such a simple decision during foursomes and singles matches. Enough about Finca Cortesín though! Let’s get into the real narratives here.

Team USA

Where in the world is Danielle Kang’s bag?

Drama arrived early for Danielle Kang when her golf bag was lost in transit. (It’s still lost, as of Tuesday evening.) It’s a nightmare start to the week for Kang, who is making her fourth Solheim Cup appearance. A small silver lining: her custom, one-of-one Scotty Cameron “DK Special” putter was in a separate case from her golf bag. Even more good news is that Titleist will have a complete replacement set to her in time for practice on Wednesday. Whether you point the finger at the airline (not a good week for you, Transavia), scratch your head about not using AirTags, or wonder why there wasn’t a chartered flight for Team USA, it’s a major bummer that this type of scramble is happening during one of the biggest weeks of the year.

(*UPDATE – The bag was located and delivered to Danielle on Wednesday. One less mystery to solve.)

Captainess America

There haven’t been many positive takeaways from Lexi Thompson’s 2023 season. She ranks in the top 50 in only one Strokes Gained category (Putting), and after starting the year ranked 6th in the world she’s fallen all the way to 26th, her lowest ranking in a decade. When the year’s bright spot is a T-19 finish two weeks ago at the Kroger Queen City Championship, it’s probably time to lower expectations for her performance this week. Lexi’s social media game is peaking at the right time, though, with Instagram stories featuring a patriotic manicure and a weightlifting video with the American flag in the background. Let’s hope patriotism is good for a few points.

The Rookies

Allisen Corpuz, Cheyenne Knight, Andrea Lee, Lilia Vu, and Rose Zhang will all be playing in their first Solheim Cup. That group combined for 3 wins and 3 majors in 2023, and Captain Stacy Lewis has to be hoping the group’s impressive play carries through this week. While there’s nothing that can truly prepare the rookies for what they’ll face in this environment, the group does boast a solid amount of national team experience representing from their junior and amateur days. Lee (2014) and Zhang (2018) were Junior Ryder Cup participants, and Corpuz (2021), Lee (2016, 2018), Vu (2018), and Zhang (2021, 2022) all competed in Curtis Cups.

Team Europe

A New Swedish Pancake Zone

Linn Grant, Caroline Hedwall, Anna Nordqvist, Madelene Sagström, and Maja Stark represent a strong Swedish contingent for team Europe, giving captain Suzann Pettersen a mix of young talent and steely veterans. The surprise pick: Hedwall, who didn’t make the 2021 team and currently ranks 122nd in the world. Pettersen has gone out on a bit of a limb for Hedwall, leaning on her past contributions which include being a part of three winning teams as well as a flawless 2013, when she became the only player to ever go 5-0. Hedwall did get some match-play reps earlier this year when she played in the International Crown as a replacement for Grant, who couldn’t travel to the United States due to vaccine regulations.

Homefield Advantage

This week marks Carlota Ciganda’s sixth consecutive Solheim Cup appearance. That’s an impressive streak, and she’ll get to celebrate the accomplishment with crowds of her fellow Spaniards, including a large contingent of family and close friends. Ciganda is the type of player who really hates to lose; any point taken off her will be well-earned by the Americans. Her snail-like pace can also be used to Team Europe’s advantage. If I’m Suzann Pettersen, I’m putting her off the tee first on Friday. Not only will it be a raucous start to the event, but Ciganda can then take a leisurely stroll around the course, basking in the home-country attention and frustrating her competition without worry of another disqualification.

Double Duty

While Ciganda’s streak of six consecutive Solheim Cup appearances is certainly impressive, Anna Nordqvist would probably like to note that this is her eighth consecutive Cup as a player AND she’ll also be working overtime as a Vice Captain. Three LPGA top-10s in 2023, including a T3 at the KPMG Women’s PGA and an impressive T16 at the AIG Women’s Open, secured her spot on the playing roster. Look for her to shepherd the rookies around Finca Cortesín while adding some more wins to her 14-10-3 career record.

This piece originally appeared in The Fried Egg newsletter. Subscribe for free and receive golf news and insight every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.