IT ALL began to unravel for the USA when Catriona Matthew trounced Paula Creamer by 6 and 5 in the top singles match at Killeen Castle.
After a thrilling final day turnaround and the most gripping finale you could imagine, Europe went on to win the Solhiem Cup by 15-13 in Ireland two years ago.
On the eve of Europe’s defence of the cup in Colorado, Creamer is still hurting. “That’s Sunday was one of the toughest things I have ever had to go through,” said the 27-year-old who drips red, white and blue.
“It was such a tough loss for me. I didn’t have my A game that day, Catriona played awesome and I felt like I had let the team down. Being first out in singles you have the lead job and that’s to get a point up there on the board as soon as you can. I’m ready to do that this week.”
The prospect of becoming the first US team to lose at home is providing both motivation and pressure for Meg Mallon’s team. It’s up to the Europeans to make them quiver in their shoes.
Stacy Lewis, who was so impressive in winning the Ricoh Women’s British Open at St Andrews two weeks ago, is another with painful memories of Ireland and with Solheim wounds to heal.
Lewis only managed one point – she lost her opening foursomes to Matthew and Azahara Munoz – and she said: “Two years ago changed me as a person and a golfer. I realised now that what you do affects other people. I don’t think I would be the player I am today if it hadn’t been for the experience of Killeen Castle.
“Ireland was my first Solheim and it is a huge difference playing here at home. Already the crowds have been chanting for us and there is red, white and blue everywhere. Our team is so pumped up.”
Matthew, a veteran of six contests, is equally excited. “It is going to be a real thriller and it will all come down to which side holes the most putts,” she said. “We have a really good team spirit and now we’re all just looking forward to getting started.”
From all the Americans, there is a feeling of genuine affection for Mallon, a four-time major champion, but the captain has come in for criticism on social media for choosing Michelle Wie as one of her wild cards.
At No 82 in the world, Wie is the lowest-ranked US player. But the former teen prodigy, who has been mired in controversy throughout her career, is just grateful to have been given the nod.
“I haven’t read anything – Meg told me not to,” said the 23-year-old. “I know there’s a lot of controversy but there always is with Solheim picks. Critics can say what they want but I know that the girls on my team want me here. When Meg told me I’d been picked I cried so hard that my contacts popped out. Being here for a third Solheim is a dream come true”
Wie was also not afraid to address her peculiar putting style – bending at the waist, her top half flips down like a desk lid and it appears both awkward and, in the long term, not the best for her back.
“A lot of people have talked about my putting stance but I honestly don’t care how I look as long as I make putts,” she said. “Give any professional golfer the choice between holing putts and looking cool and I’m pretty sure everyone is going to choose making the putts.”
For European captain Liselotte Neumann, the biggest gamble among her four wild selections was 17-year-old Charley Hull. The Woburn teenager is a rookie on Tour but has already had four second places from eight starts and she did help Great Britain and Ireland win the Curtis Cup at Nairn last year.
At No 147 in the world, Hull is the lowest-ranked player on either side, but Neumann is confident that the youngster will be an asset rather than a liability.
“I captained her in the Junior Solheim Cup two years ago and, even as a 15-year-old, she was very impressive,” said the Swede. “Charley’s got a great attitude and doesn’t seem scared. She makes lots of birdies and the stats show she shoots in the 60s 30 per cent of the time, which is great.”
Talking of the Junior Solheim, there was disappointment for the European team captained by Scot Janice Moodie. In the two-day contest at nearby Inverness GolfClub, the USA won 14½- 9½.
But it is the main event that really matters. Europe trail 4-8 in the overall standings and, before Ireland, there was a feeling that the USA were becoming too dominant and perhaps a US v Asia match would be more attractive and a more even contest.
But, with Matthew very much the spearhead, Killeen Castle altered the thinking and now the Americans are having to overcome the fear of losing for a first time on home ground.
For the Europeans, the greatest inspiration is the opportunity to make history.