Scotland’s Catriona Matthew made history as she secured the half Europe needed to win the Solheim Cup on American soil for the first time.
On a dramatic final day in Colorado, play was suspended for an hour with Europe just one point away from retaining the trophy because of the threat of lightning.
When play resumed, Sweden’s Caroline Hedwall sank a birdie putt on the 18th to secure a one-up victory against Michelle Wie which put Europe 14-7 ahead, ensuring they kept the trophy they won in Ireland in 2011.
And moments later Matthew claimed a half in her match against Gerina Piller to ensure they won the cup outright.
“I was shaking. My knees were shaking. I knew if I got a half we would win it outright,” Matthew, who won the Open in 2009, told Sky Sports.
“It beats that. Any time you can celebrate with your 11 team-mates it makes it more exciting, more fun.”
The brilliant 17-year-old Charley Hull claimed the first point of the Solheim Cup singles at Colorado yesterday as Europe closed in on a first victory on US soil.
The defending champions led 10½ – 5½ on Saturday night and needed just 3 ½ points from the 12 singles to retain the Cup.
Facing Paula Creamer in the second match, Hull, the youngest ever Solheim Cup player, won by 5 and 4 and had five birdies to win two points from her three matches.
A nice touch at the end of the match was Hull getting Creamer to sign a ball. “I’ve got a friend at home who’s a big fan so I thought I’d ask,” said the teenager who must have won a bundle of new fans over the past three days.
“I wasn’t too nervous. It’s always the way I look at golf, I’m not going to die if I hit a bad shot.”
Saturday had seen one of the most amazing sessions in Solheim Cup history and, with a clean sweep in Saturday’s fourballs, Europe surged into a 10½-5½ lead and the finish line for a first win in the US loomed.
The whitewash was all the more remarkable in that European captain Liselotte Neumann rested three of her top players – Catriona Matthew, Suzann Pettersen and Anna Nordqvist – and threw in five of her six rookies.
But they came up trumps, none more so than Hull. Off the course, the girl from Woburn exudes innocent charm, as though she’s not quite sure what is going on around her. But she certainly knows what to do once she stands on the tee.
All square with Jodi Ewart-Shadoff in the top fourball against the formidable Paula Creamer and 18-year-old Lexi Thompson, Hull pulled out one of the shots of her young life.
A little bit of needle crept into the match at the seventh hole over the timing of a concession of a Creamer putt. It looked quite nasty at one stage and it certainly added spice to the contest in the 90-degree heat.
Thompson, the youngest-ever US Solheim player, was eight feet from the pin – Hull knocked it inside. Thompson missed and Hull holed to put her side one up and on the road to victory.
“Hers just didn’t break,” reflected Hull. “I was actually pretty nervous to be honest. But I holed it and it was a good feeling. Yeah, I really liked it.
“I think because we are both young we have no fear and so we both went straight at it.”
In the second match, Carlota Ciganda, who has been very patchy, pulled out another European masterstroke, hitting her second shot to ten feet for a birdie at the 18th to secure another final-green win.
It happened again in the final match, Karine Icher holing a monster birdie putt from the back of the 18th green to make it 4-0 for the ebullient visitors. By Saturday evening, the mute button had been pressed. The chants of “USA, USA” had been well and truly silenced.
The most outstanding player in the first two days for Europe was Caroline Hedwall, who played in every session and won every match. No one has ever won five out of five.
In her morning foursomes, her match ended in a fashion that summed up an extraordinary day for Europe – playing partner Nordqvist had a hole in one at the 17th to cap a 2&1 win over Morgan Pressel and Jessica Korda.
In the same series, Matthew made her first contribution with a terrific ten-foot birdie putt at the 18th to earn a vital half point alongside the German rookie, Caroline Masson. For Neumann, a five-point lead going into the 12 singles – Europe needed 3½ points to retain the Cup and four to win it outright – was way beyond her wildest dreams.
“It’s awesome,” said the Swede, who lives in America but is a passionate European. “It was a fantastic afternoon and these girls played their hearts out.
“We did such a gutsy thing. You can hope and wish, but I never imagined it would be like this going into the singles.”
Of course, she also had to be cautious. Europe’s men came back from 10-6 down on the final day to win the Ryder Cup at Medinah a year ago and US captain Meg Mallon stacked her top players at the head of the singles order.
On Saturday evening, Mallon, one of the most popular people in the game, was shell-shocked. She reckoned the Europeans had made putts and her side hadn’t.
“It was shocking to see us lose all four matches in the afternoon,” she said. But those shocks were set to continue.