Stacy Lewis and Anna Nordqvist led off the Sunday singles matches and played all square to the 3rd hole. Then Nordqvist birdied, Lewis parred, and first blood flowed. More would follow. In the end, Team Europe just plain outplayed Team USA.
Team USA began the Sunday pairs matches faced with a serious deficit and needed to win 9 points to regain control of the Solheim Cup. The Europeans needed only 3.5 points to maintain control of the cup.
But no matter how it all came out, history was going to be made on Sunday at the Solheim. The Americans have never lost the Solheim playing on home ground. The Europeans have never won back-to-back matches. Nobody has ever won on Sunday coming from this far behind.
The tension was palpable. Directly behind Lewis and Nordqvist, Paula Creamer took the 2nd hole when Charley Hull bogied #2. Then Hull birdied #3, Creamer bogied, and that match was all square.
I’m not going to die if I hit a bad shot. I just find it and hit it again.
Charley Hull, explaining her game strategy in her post-round interview
Rookie Caroline Hedwall, playing against Michelle Wie, was the only player on either team who had the change to make a clean sweep of her matches. She came into the Sunday matches with a 4-0 record for the tournament. Carlota Cignada, playing against Morgan Pressel, had a red hot flat stick.
With 7 pairs on the course, the Europeans were leading in 4 matches, the Americans in 1. Only Gerina Piller, playing against Catriona Matthew, had been able to put some red on the board. It was a putting contest. Wei, Lewis, Lang, Creamer were getting close on their birdie putts, but close only counts in horseshoes and tiddlywinks.
With Lewis and Nordqvist making the turn and the anchor pair, Christie Kerr and Karine Icher on the 2nd hole, the matches were shifting back and forth at warp speed. Team Europe led in 3, Team USA led in 3, and 6 were all square. Then, in a flash, Team Europe led in 4, Team USA led in 4, and 4 matches were all square. The putting contest continued.
The American Solheim rookies, Lizette Salas, Gerina Piller, and Jessica Korda, were playing their hearts out. Salas, playing against Suzann Pettersen, Piller, playing against Catriona Matthew, and Korda, playing against Guilia Sergas, repeatedly drew cheers from a gallery that had been gathering and waiting for the day to begin since 7am.
This was not the first time Salas and Pettersen had gone head-to-head. Salas lost to Pettersen in a playoff at the Lotte Championship in April. Today offered an opportunity for redemption. Salas took the lead in their match on the 4th hole and held it until 13.
On the 13th hole, with Hull up by 5 and within 2 feet of the cup, Creamer holed her shot out of the bunker to tie the hole and extend a match that seemed all but finished. What a shot, Paula! And what a big, broad, captivating smile to go with it! They went to the 14th hole with Hull dormie. Almost simultaneously, Lewis birdied 14 and for the first time since they’d teed off, took the lead away from Nordqvist.
It’s just not over until it’s over in match play! Behind the leading pairs, Wie was leading Hedwall, Piller was 2 up on Matthew, and Salas was 1 up on Pettersen as Team USA was fighting hard for every hole in every match.
Paula Creamer was just plain outplayed by Charley Hull, who took the 14th hole to end the match and put the first Sunday point in the Team Europe column. Hull nibbled her finger and broke into tears when she realized she’d won. Creamer walked across the green and hugged her and then, off the green, signed a golf ball for the 17-year old rookie who had just defeated her. With 11 pairs still on the course, the score stood at Team Europe – 11.5, Team USA – 5.5.
Then Lewis and Nordqvist went all square on 17, after Lewis had been 1 up for the previous 3 holes. They halved 18 and the match which Lewis could have won at at least 4 times on missed birdie putts, ended all square, with Team Europe – 12.0, Team USA – 6.0. Ten pairs were still on the course.
Lang birdied 16 and went 2 up with 2 to go against Munoz. Directly behind them, Ciganda birdied 15 and went 3 up with 3 to go against Pressel, then birdied 16, won the match and put another point in the Team Europe column. Lang took 17 and put a point in the Team USA column. The score stood at Team Europe – 13, Team USA 7, with 8 pairs still on the course.
With Lizette Salas poised for a birdie putt on 15 that would have put her 1 up against Suzann Pettersen the #3 player in the world, a single long blast of the horn signaled dangerous weather and the Solheim slammed to a halt as black clouds laced with lightening came racing out of the western sky toward the course. The lightening passed and play resumed in the rain.
Salas and Wie both missed birdie putts that were pending before the weather delay and both matches continued all square. Hedwall, hoping to establish a 5-0 personal record for her Solheim matches, and Wie teed off at 18 all square.
Hedwall’s approach shot landed within 3 feet of the pin. Wie was 20 feet out, downhill. Her ball rolled past the cup. Hedwall’s ball ran straight and true.
With the European gallery standing greenside, arms locked, Hedwall defeated Michelle Wie and winning the Solheim for Team Europe.
The Solheim Cup was an amazing display of golfing excellence, of agonizing missed opportunities, of pure competition among the best of the best in women’s golf. The Europeans have taken the Cup home with them. The Americans will have another chance to bring it back in 2015, when the next Solheim Cup will be played at St Leon-Rot, Frankfurt, Germany. Start saving your pfennigs now. You can be there with me!