A CONTROVERSIAL call by Europe’s Suzann Pettersen and a dramatic comeback victory for the USA. It was some final day at the Solheim Cup at St Leon-Rot in Germany.
Europe’s dream of a third successive victory was denied by a team of feisty American battlers. Ahead 10-6 and needing just four points from the 12 singles to retain the trophy, the home side could only manage 3½ and the final score was a tantalising 14½-13½ in favour of the USA.
It was exactly the same singles day turnaround that Europe famously secured at the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah.
The day started in controversy. Three of the fourballs had been held over from Saturday because of bad light. After the restart, Scot Catriona Matthew and Karine Icher won a point for Europe and Stacy Lewis and Gerina Piller claimed a win for the USA.
In the final match on the course, Pettersen and Charley Hull were all square with Alison Lee and Brittany Lincicome with two holes to play.
But, at the 17th, Lee hit her birdie effort just past the hole. Assuming she had been given the second putt she picked up her ball.
But the Europeans hadn’t conceded and, playing by the rules, Pettersen claimed the hole for a one-hole lead. They went on to take a point that left a bad taste – and not just in the US camp.
Lee, the only newcomer from either side, left the course in tears, but she was consoled by her team-mates. “Alison, you did nothing wrong. Let’s use this motivate us,” Lewis told her.
Hull was also in tears at the end of the match, and European vice-captain Maria McBride commented: “This is not how it is meant to be.”
Laura Davies, commentating on Sky TV and a veteran of 12 Solheims, lambasted her former team-mate. “I’m disgusted,” she said. “How Suzann can justify that I will never know. Charley is in tears and that shows it is wrong. I’m friends with Suzann but you do not do something like that to a fellow professional. Poor Alison. She has been wronged by one of the senior players in golf. Suzann has let herself and her team down and I’m so pleased I am not in that team.”
But Carin Koch, the European captain, backed Pettersen’s decision. “Alison broke the rules and we play by the rules,” she said.
USA captain Juli Inkster had a very different opinion. “I can’t believe it,” she said. “It’s not right to do that to your peers. It’s disrespectful. But if that’s the way they want to win.
“The thing is they didn’t need to do it, they’re winning anyway. I just don’t get it. I expected Carin to step in.”
So the stage was set for the singles, and the USA did find the motivation to pull off a remarkable victory.
Europe came close, Piller had to hole a 12-foot par putt at the 18th to stop Europe from winning the cup and Cristie Kerr, three down after four holes against Hull, won six of the next eight holes and claimed a 3 and 2 win.
Paula Creamer, in the final match, had the honour of clinching the cup and finally breaking European hearts with a 4 and 3 victory over Sandra Gal.
Inkster was joyous. “I am so proud of my team,” she said. “They all played great golf and showed great heart. I didn’t really need to motivate them, they were just all so determined to get the cup back.”
In the singles, Icher struck the first blow for Europe with a 3 and 2 win over Lincicome and Carlota Ciganda added another half-point against Lexi Thompson in a classy top match that shared 14 birdies.
But then the tide began to turn, with all the lower-order matches turning red. Morgan Pressel claimed the first full point for the Americans with a final-hole win over Matthew, who had only lost one of her seven previous Solheim singles matches and had already contributed three points to the cause.
Europe hit back when Melissa Reid claimed a 2 and 1 win over Brittany Lang. It was an emotional win for the 28-year-old as her mother, Joy, was killed in a traffic accident while watching her daughter play in a tournament in Germany in 2012.
“I knew we needed this point,” said the English girl after hugging her father, Brian, who survived the car crash. “It’s huge. I have a lot of credit to give to my family.”
Lee then got a smile on her face with a 3 and 1 win over Gwladys Nocera and more points followed for the USA from Piller, Michelle Wie, Lizette Salas, Angela Stanford, Kerr and, finally, Creamer.
Piller’s point was crucial. “I looked up at the scoreboard before I hit that final putt and I saw they had 13 ½ points and I knew it was over if I missed it,” she said. “This will give me so much confidence.”
It was the USA’s first win since 2009 and they now have an overall 9-5 lead.
SOLDHEIM CUP SINGLES RESULTS
(Gbr & Irl unless stated)
Lexi Thompson (USA) halved with Carlota Ciganda (Spa)
Morgan Pressel (USA) bt Catriona Matthew 2 up
Brittany Lincicome (USA) lost to Karine Icher (Fra) 3 & 2
Brittany Lang (USA) lost to Melissa Reid 2 & 1
Alison Lee (USA) bt Gwladys Nocera (Fra) 3 & 1
Gerina Piller (USA) bt Caroline Masson (Ger) 1 up
Stacy Lewis (USA) lost to Anna Nordqvist (Swe) 2 & 1
Lizette Salas (USA) bt Azahara Munoz (Spa) 3 & 1
Angela Stanford (USA) bt Suzann Pettersen (Nor) 3 & 2
Cristie Kerr (USA) bt Charley Hull 3 & 2
Michelle Wie (USA) bt Caroline Hedwall (Swe) 6 & 4
Paula Creamer (USA) bt Sandra Gal (Ger) 4 & 3.