European Captain Alison Nicholas and USA Captain Rosie Jones at the Opening Ceremony for the 2011 Solheim Cup at Killeen Castle. Photo Jenny Matthews/www.golffile.ieEuropean skipper Ali Nicholas scored a home run over US rival Rosie Jones before a ball was struck in the Solheim Cup.

Jones confessed that the canny home captain had out-foxed her by not putting world No 2 Suzann Pettersen out first in this morning’s opening foursomes at Killeen Castle.

After seeing the Norwegian superstar reserved for the anchor match, Jones confessed: “I was kind of going on what you have done before.  That didn’t work out, but it’s okay.  You got me there.  Strike one.”

Jones opted for firepower at the top of the order with big-hitting Hawaiian Michelle Wie and Cristie Kerr taking on Swedish pair Maria Hjorth and Anna Nordqvist.

But Nicholas spread her strength throughout the team with Pettersen paired in the final match with Swede Sophie Gustafson against veteran Juli Inkster, 51, and Brittany Lang.

The Americans are bidding for their fourth win on the trot and 9-3 lead in the fearsomely contested biennial matchplay tussle.

But Europe has huge strength in depth for the first time in years against an American side that has seven players in the world’s top 20 to Europe’s one.

Expecting a tough fight, Jones said: “We haven’t come here looking at rankings on paper. Both teams are equally strong and it’s always a disadvantage when you play overseas.”

The American side has won the last two matches by four-point margins but it’s Europe that boasts home advantage and a collection of in-form players.

Eight members of the European team have won a total of 12 tournaments this season, including four on the LPGA tour by Pettersen, twice, Germany’s Sandra Gal and Sweden’s Maria Hjorth.

In contrast, just two Americans have triumphed this year.

Back as skipper after slumping to a 16-12 defeat two years ago, Nicholas said: “I think it helps that this is my second time as captain.

“It was very close two years ago, we just didn’t hole enough putts. If we can play the same this week and get a little bit of luck then we can definitely win.”

The Americans have dominated the Solheim Cup thanks to their superiority in the singles.

But England’s Karen Stupples says Europe’s strength in depth will make it a more even fight this time.

Stupples said: “I think traditionally in the past the top players have had to have had a lot of pressure, because they know that their points are big.

“But this year we’re all playing fairly well.  I think we have a better chance together as a team, so there’s not that same kind of pressure.  I think we’re going to do just fine.”

(Foursomes draw, US names first)

0740 Michelle Wie and Cristie Kerr versus Maria Hjorth (Sweden) and Anna Nordqvist (Sweden);

0752 Paula Creamer and Brittany Lincicome versus Karen Stupples (England) and Melissa Reid (England);

0804 Stacy Lewis and Angela Stanford versus Catriona Matthew (Scotland) and Azahara Muñoz (Spain);

0816 Brittany Lang and Juli Inkster versus Suzann Pettersen (Norway) and Sophie Gustafson (Sweden).