Solheim: Europe shocks U.S. with great finish

Suzann Pettersen of Europe celebrates holing a putt on the 15th green during her singles match against Michelle Wie on Day 3 of the 2011 Solheim Cup at Killeen Castle Golf Club on September 25, 2011. Pettersen would win the match 1 up.

Suzann Pettersen of Europe celebrates holing a putt on the 15th green during her singles match against Michelle Wie on Day 3 of the 2011 Solheim Cup at Killeen Castle Golf Club on September 25, 2011. Pettersen would win the match 1 up.

DUNSANY, Ireland — Alison Nicholas called it the best ever, and she might be right.

Even driving rain couldn’t dampen what might have been the greatest Solheim Cup since the match began in 1990.

Nicholas’s emotions swung every which way on a day that saw Europe finally win the Solheim Cup after eight years. Europe’s 15-13 victory gave the home team its first win since 2003.

“This is the best ever,” Nicholas said.

“I’ve been in agony all day but I’ve been trying to keep it in perspective. The players have had such heart and passion and purpose. I hand it to them. They’ve been unbelievable.

“They were up for it and they believed in themselves. They fought to the end. The rookies have done fantastic. It’s been a real team effort.”

Nicholas got off to the best of starts when she found herself 9-8 up after Cristie Kerr forfeited her singles match to Karen Stupples. Kerr had to pull out of the final session due to tendinitis in her right wrist.

Catriona Matthew got Europe on the board early to take the score to 10-8 with a comprehensive demolition of Paula Creamer to give Europe the momentum.

“When I saw the draw and knew who I was up against, I knew I’d have a tough game,” Matthew said. It didn’t prove that tough. Matthew was one-over par when the match ended. Creamer, meanwhile, was seven over for the 13 holes.

Sophie Gustafson added another point for Europe to take the home team to eleven points before Morgan Pressel staged a comeback to defeat Anna Nordqvist. Pressel was two down after eight but won five holes from the ninth to go on and take the match 2 and 1.

Europe’s chances seemed to slip when Laura Davies blew a one-hole advantage on the last hole to half with Juli Inkster to give the U.S. a valuable half.

Big wins by Brittany Lang and Christina Kim seemed to turn the tide towards the U.S. Lang took down Germany’s Sandra Gal 6 and 5 while Kim defeated Maria Hjorth 4 and 2.

Vicky Hurst and Christel Boeljon traded wins in the middle of the pack to offset points. Hurst overcame Mel Reid by two holes, while Boeljon defeated Brittany Lincicome by the same score.

On a knife-edge coming down the stretch, Europe appeared to be heading for defeat before pulling it out of the fire.

With just three matches left on the course and the match standing at 12.5-12.5, it looked as if the U.S. had the edge. Controversial pick Ryann O’Toole held a 2-up lead over Caroline Hedwall with two to play. Meanwhile Suzann Pettersen was one down to Michelle Wie with three to play and Angela Stanford was level with Azahara Munoz. Had the matches stayed that way, then the U.S. would have won the Cup.

However, what followed next was one of the most dramatic finishes in the history of golf. Pettersen birdied the last three holes to win 1 up to take Europe to 13.5 points and within reach of the Cup.

“I just seemed to be able to dig it out,” said Pettersen about getting her first Solheim singles win.

The U.S. could still have won the cup had O’Toole held her lead. However, Hedwall birdied the 17th to reduce the deficit to one hole going down the 18th.

O’Toole was set up to be the hero but was reduced to tears when she airmailed the green with her second shot. She duffed her chip and then ran her fourth shot past the flag. With Hedwall lying just eight feet away, she didn’t finish the hole.

Hedwall’s half guaranteed a European victory since Munoz had birdied the 17th to go 1 up. It meant Europe finally had its hands on the trophy Karsten Solheim donated to golf in 1990.

“It’s just incredible, absolutely incredible,” Nicholas said. “It was fantastic to watch. It can do nothing more than elevate women’s golf.”

More importantly, it should elevate European women’s golf.

“The Ladies European Tour has been doing really well. Hopefully people will invest a little bit more, and I just wish the players and everyone on my team go forward and upwards," Nicholas said.

Certainly the Solheim Cup should go onwards and upwards. The 12th Solheim Cup was a great advert for the women’s’ game.

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