Surely Patty Sheehan, who will return next year as U.S. Solheim Cup captain, will store the lessons of Saturday afternoon in her memory bank.
Sheehan left four of her best players – Juli Inkster, Meg Mallon, Laura Diaz and Michele Redman – on the sidelines. The result was a 4-0 whitewashing by the Europeans.
European captain Dale Reid, sensing an emergency situation after a 3-1 victory margin by the United States in the Saturday morning foursomes, put Annika Sorenstam and Carin Koch in the lead group during afternoon four-ball competition.
Koch, raising her overall Solheim Cup record to 7-0, seemed more comfortable with Sorenstam, her Swedish countrywoman, than any other player. Although Americans Beth Daniel and Wendy Ward built a 2-up advantage through seven holes, the Europeans were about to unleash a hurricane.
Koch and Sorenstam birdied five of the next seven holes, including four in a row on 11 through 14, to overcome Daniel and Ward. The final margin was 4 and 3.
Said Ward, who had problems: “Poor Beth here was playing with one arm because her partner wasn’t playing very well.”
Countered Daniel: “That’s not true. They plain and simply made more putts than us. Carin made everything.”
Next came two surprise victories for the Europeans. Maria Hjorth and Iben Tinning weren’t supposed to beat Pat Hurst and Kelli Kuehne, but they did. Hurst and Kuehne made only two birdies and stumbled with three bogeys, which allowed the opportunistic Europeans to secure a 2-up victory. While Tinning had difficulty with her short game, Hjorth saved the team by sinking several crucial par-preserving putts.
A second surprise for the Europeans was provided by Karine Icher and Raquel Carriedo. They were decided underdogs to Americans Rosie Jones and Cristie Kerr, but they took the lead with Icher’s birdie on No. 2 and never surrendered it. Although Kerr birdied the 18th, Icher iced the 1-up triumph with a two-putt birdie on the par-5 hole.
In the final match, Europeans Laura Davies and Sophie Gustafson built a 3-up lead through 14 holes. Although Americans Kelly Robbins and Emilee Klein came charging back, a 1-up European victory was cemented when Davies saved her par with a delicate downhill chip shot from behind the 18th green, the ball finishing a few inches from the hole.
As the Europeans hooped and hollered, the ambushed Americans retreated to draw up a battle plan for their final-day heroics.