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BEDMINSTER, New Jersey (Reuters) - The U.S. women's Open at Trump National starting on Thursday features an intense sub-plot - the battle to qualify for next month's American Solheim Cup team against Europe.
At least 17 players are in the mix for the 10 automatic positions with eight qualifying from the Solheim Cup points list and two from the world rankings. U.S. captain Juli Inkster will have two wildcard selections to complete the 12-player squad.
Lexi Thompson, Stacy Lewis, Gerina Piller and Cristie Kerr – the top four on the points list – seem safe, followed by Jessica Korda and Women's PGA winner Danielle Kang.
Michelle Wie and last year's women's Open winner Brittany Lang are tied for the final two automatic spots with three events left for qualifying.
Leading for now off the rankings list are Brittany Lincicome and Mo Martin, but Austin Ernst and Lizette Salas lurk only 0.10 points behind Martin.
Angela Stafford, Marina Alex, Jennifer Song, Alison Lee and Angel Yin are also in the running to make the team.
“I'm looking at players that are playing well right now. I'm not looking at 2016,” Inkster said on Wednesday about her captain's picks. “Right now I think my top six are pretty set."
Cristie Kerr, in line for her ninth Solheim Cup, said playing in the Solheim Cup never gets old.
“There's nothing like it, standing on that first tee, teeing it up with a partner," the 39-year-old Kerr said.
Top-20 finishes earn points, with the U.S. women's Open and the final qualifying event, the Ricoh women's British Open, offering double points as majors.
This year’s Solheim Cup at Des Moines Golf and Country Club in Iowa on Aug. 18-20 will have a tough act to follow after the Americans' thrilling come-from-behind 14.5 to 13.5 win in Germany in 2015.
Trailing 10-6 going to Sunday, the U.S. team won the last five singles matches to claim the Cup for the ninth time to five for Europe.
Reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by Ed Osmond