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Americans rely on Kerr and Wie for strong Solheim start

Kerr tees off at the 15th hole during the Championship Pro-Am in Mirabel
Kerr tees off at the 15th hole during the Championship Pro-Am in Mirabel

By Elspeth Burnside

DUNSANY, Ireland (Reuters) - American captain Rosie Jones has put her faith in big hitters Cristie Kerr and Michelle Wie in the opening series of foursomes as the U.S. begin their title defense of the Solheim Cup on Friday against Europe at Killeen Castle in Ireland.

Jones picked world number three Kerr and Wie, unbeaten on her debut two years ago, as her top pairing and they face the Swedish duo of Maria Hjorth and Anna Nordqvist.

"The course is playing very long after a week of rain," said Jones. "Michelle and Cristie are both great leaders. They've played together a lot and had success. I want them to get out fast and put up a point."

Paula Creamer and Brittany Lincicome, who hurt her right wrist landing a huge fish in Florida a couple of weeks ago, are in match two against England's Melissa Reid and Karen Stupples.

European captain Alison Nicholas opted for a blend of youth and experience as she paired up Catriona Matthew, a veteran of six Solheims, and rookie Azahara Munoz. They take on Stacy Lewis and Angela Stanford.

The final match will feature Europe's two longest hitters, Suzann Pettersen and Sophie Gustafson, against Brittany Lang and 51-year-old Juli Inkster.

Jones admitted that Nicholas sprung a surprise by sending out Pettersen, the world number two, in the last match.

"You got me there," she joked.

Laura Davies, who has played in every Solheim and needs one more point to overtake Annika Sorenstam as the all-time leading points scorer, was left out. The world number 88 is the lowest ranked of the European players.

(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)