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Solheim Cup matches begin Friday

EDINA, Minn., Sept. 19 (UPI) -- Current U.S. Open champion Juli Inkster and Laura Diaz will be the first American pairing on the course Friday when the United States begins its attempt to regain the Solheim Cup.

With the Ryder Cup just a week away, the top women golfers in the world open their seventh international tournament Friday at Interlachen Country Club. The Americans will be trying to reclaim the Solheim Cup along with some respect.

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The Europeans are looking to retain the title they won two years ago at Loch Lomond in Scotland while the United States is trying to remain perfect at home, having claimed the first three matches held on American soil.

The event gets under way Friday with four foursome matches and four four-ball matches. The same format will be used Saturday, with 12 singles matches closing the tournament Sunday.

Inkster and Diaz will team in the opening foursome match against Europe's Laura Davies and Paula Marti.

Americans Beth Daniel and Wendy Ward will then take on Iben Tinning and Raquel Carriedo, Europe; Kelly Robbins and Pat Hurst will meet Helen Alfredsson and Suzann Pettersen; and Meg Mallon and Kelli Kuehne will play superstar Annika Sorenstam and Carin Koch.

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Americans Rosie Jones, Michele Redman, Christie Kerr and Emilee Klein will sit out the first morning of action while the Europeans on the sideline will be Sophie Gustafson, Maria Hjorth, Mhairi McKay and Karine Icher.

Of the 26 LPGA Tour events this season, only six have been won by Americans, and they've heard about it all year. Sorenstam has eight titles by herself to go along with a pair of victories by her teammates Solheim Cup teammates.

"I have an awful lot of respect for European players, most of whom I know and some of whom I am looking forward to getting to know a little bit and watching them play," said American captain Patty Sheehan.

She may not be looking forward to seeing Sorenstam, who is the first player to win eight LPGA Tour titles in consecutive seasons since Nancy Lopez from 1978-79. She also has won twice in Europe.

"I am glad she is on my side," European captain Dale Reid said. "At least I don't have to worry about putting one of my players out against No. 1 in the world, so it's a nice feeling to have.

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"The way the girl is playing at the moment, it's like she is on another planet this year."

At just 31, Sorenstam already has qualified for the Hall of Fame with 39 LPGA Tour victories. She also is the only women in history to break 60 in a competitive round, so what's missing?

"Well, the European team has not won on American soil," said Sorenstam, who had a hole-in-one during a practice round Wednesday. "So if I can put that on my resume, then it would make it a little more complete."

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