The sight from the first tee at Finca Cortesin is enticing, the temptation to take out driver and let it rip an exhilarating thought.
It’s where the heart and head collide. The thrill of trying to drive a green on the 280 yards par four that is temptingly within reach for the longer hitters, or the pragmatism to lay up and let the wedge do its job.
You see, the first hole here for the Solheim Cup was actually the original fourth. It has a large expanse of water between tee and green and the fairway hugs the lake down the right.
And, quite rightly, the bright spark who had the idea to make it the opening tee shot at this 18th edition of biennial match was backed up by the finance required and the input of designer Cabell B Robinson to make it happen, with a couple of grandstands providing additional infrastructure to the hillocks to offer fans a close-up view of a risk-reward tee shot, or a tamer (more sensible?) play to the fairway. It’s a wonderful opening hole.
Both ways, both strategies, work. And after the days of practice rounds when players have had a go and perhaps encountered second thoughts, the moment of truth will arrive on Friday morning with the opening day sessions of morning foursomes and afternoon fourballs.
“We will have the honour on the first tee all week, so that’s an opportunity for us to put some pressure on Team Europe to start right out of the gate,” said former Solheim Cup player turned television commentator Morgan Pressel, who is here this week in her role as a US vice-captain to Stacy Lewis.
The players have tried and some have failed and a few had succeeded in reaching the green in practice. It’s a different story entirely when the scorecard is in play and the numbers matter. As Pressel added, backtracking a little, “players who maybe can’t get there, they all have been like, ‘oh, I could just get up-and-down [from the fairway] and make birdie with a wedge’. I don’t think it’s a deterrent in that sense.”
Certainly, the first tee shot has been on the minds of players and captains and pretty much everyone. Aggression versus a conservative play. No right. No wrong.
“I don’t know if we’ve been trying to lay a strategy flat, because for some people it’s very [reachable]; for others, it might be out their reach to be comfortable to go for the [green] in one. I think you’re going to see both. I have just told the players, ‘let’s talk this through’. I mean, we had a drivable par four in 2017 in Des Moines which didn’t really turn in Europe’s favour,” said European captain Suzann Pettersen, adding: “I just want the team to at least talk through what we’re thinking, at least have some kind of strategy in mind when they step up on that first tee.”
The strategy in play will certainly make for some interesting first tee viewing. A more conservative approach may be in play in the foursomes; expect greater fireworks – and more aggressive plays – in the fourballs where there will effectively be second chances if a tee shot finds a watery grave.