U.S. rolls to Solheim Cup victory
Sunday, August 23, 2009
The United States didn’t want to be called the favorites at the Solheim Cup.
Winners has a much better ring to it.
Morgan Pressel delivered the clinching point with her 3-and-2 victory over Anna Nordqvist on Sunday, and the Americans won their third straight Solheim Cup with a 16-12 decision over Europe. After Nordqvist missed an 8-footer to keep the match going, Pressel’s teammates, who had been watching at the side of the green, leaped up and started celebrating.
“This is so important to us,” Pressel said, wiping away tears. “It’s not about pride. It’s not about money. It’s about country. It’s about our teammates.”
Michelle Wie, whose 3-0-1 record was the best of any American this week, grabbed a U.S. flag and held it aloft to cries of “Wheee!” from the crowd. As the last three matches finished, there were shrieks of joy when the next American joined the party, and new rounds of “U-S-A! U-S-A!”
When the last match was done, they ran around the 18th green hugging each other and waving American flags. The fans at Rich Harvest Farms, so boisterous all week, serenaded the players with more chants and applause.
“Most of the day, I didn’t think it was going to happen,” an emotional U.S. captain Beth Daniel said.
The Americans were heavy favorites this week. They had some of the top players in the world while four of Europe’s players were ranked 125th or lower. Annika Sorenstam, Europe’s anchor the last decade, is no longer playing. And the United States had won the last two Solheim Cups, and were unbeaten on U.S. soil.
But Europe captain Alison Nicholas pulled out every trick she could this week to inspire her team, including video messages from Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal, whose “Spanish Armada” was regarded as the greatest partnership in Ryder Cup history.
Midway through the afternoon, Europe was leading in six of the 12 matches.
“ ‘Get that red on the board, get that red on the board,’ that’s all I was thinking about,” Wie said.
Angela Stanford gave the Americans their first boost, beating Becky Brewerton, 5 and 4, to give the United States the first point of the day. Paula Creamer followed with a victory over Suzann Pettersen shortly after, and Wie rebounded to beat Helen Alfredsson 1 up.
Wie had been 3 up through six holes, but the former European captain made some clutch shots to even it after 11 holes.
“It was tough,” Wie said. “Helen’s the best. She’s just so tough to beat.”
Wie showed again that when she’s on, few can touch her. Her drive on the par-5 15th went 305 yards – no, that’s not a misprint – and she hit an eight iron to 20 feet. She two-putted for the birdie, and Alfredsson couldn’t make the putt to match her.
Wie went in heavy rough off the tee on 17 and had no choice but to punch out. She still had a chance to halve the hole, but her 20-footer stopped right at the edge of the cup.
“I did not want to go to 18,” Wie said, “but it came to that.”
She hit another booming drive, and was so amped up she started walking as soon as she hit it, leaving her tee stuck in the box. Her approach landed 25 feet below the hole, and she left it 2 feet short. Alfredsson’s 35-foot eagle putt was short, too, and Wie simply tapped in to win the match.
She screamed “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!” and pumped her fist before being bearhugged by Stanford.
“People have seen a different side of me,” said Wie, saddled with the expectations of being the female equivalent of Tiger Woods since she was in grade school. “This was just a lot of fun. There’s nothing to describe it.”
The biggest shift came when Juli Inkster and Brittany Lang turned around matches that appeared to be going in Europe’s win column, scratching out critical halves.
“It’s very tough. Once you lose a few games, the momentum starts going the wrong way for us,” said Catriona Matthew, who gave Europe one of its only two victories with a 3-and-2 win over Kristy McPherson.
Inkster, at 49 the oldest player and a captain’s pick, hit a solid shot into 12 feet on the par-3 16th. Then Gwladys Nowcera missed a 6-footer for par on the 17th, squaring it up.
“I had a great time, and I’m glad Beth and Meg thought enough of me to pick me,” said Inkster, who said after the match that this was her last Solheim Cup. “It’s a great ride.”
Davies was 3 up through 15 holes, and went to the 17th knowing the worst she could do was win a half point. But the four-time major champion, benched for the entire day Saturday, closed with back-to-back bogeys.
The United States won the singles 8-4, and Europe has won the singles matches only three times at the Solheim Cup.
“The girls have played well,” Nicholas said, choking up. “It was good fun, but it’s a disappointment.”