To borrow a phrase used in many different sports, the U.S. Solheim Cup team had its back against the wall.
Team Europe held a 10½-5½ lead over the Americans going into the 12 final singles matches Aug. 18 at the Colorado Golf Club in Parker.
The Europeans needed to harvest 3½ points out of a possible 12 in the singles competition to assure themselves of a tie, which would retain the Solheim Cup. Four points would earn a Team Europe victory for the first time on American soil, and that's just what happened.
Twice the United States has won 8½ points in singles matches on the final day. In 2007 the Americans were trailing 8½-7½ but rallied to capture the Cup, 16-12, and in 2002 Team USA trailed by two points but rallied in singles with 8½ points to win.
The Americans didn’t give the home country fans a lot to cheer about in the afternoon foursome competition, losing all four matches. The Europeans played much better to put themselves in an almost unbeatable position heading into the final day.
“That’s what we’ve been saying all week,” said Spain’s Azahara Munoz. “The better we play the quieter the crowds are. And to be honest, every time I hear ‘USA, USA’, I sing in my head ‘Europe’. So I’m thinking they are cheering for me. I think it (the lead) is more comfortable but I wouldn’t say that. The Americans are 12 amazing players. They could all beat us and win the Cup. Everybody just needs to win their point. If everybody wins their point, then we get this done.”
The Americans need to collect nine points to keep their unbeaten home record alive.
However, the Europeans celebrated at the conclusion of the final Aug. 17 afternoon match like they had already won the Cup but they did sweep the Four-ball competition in dramatic fashion with a chip-in by Beatriz Recari.
“As frustrating as it is, we just got to get it tomorrow,” said Michelle Wie. “I just got to bring my A-plus game.”
There is something positive that the U.S. can bring to the course Aug. 18. There have been four times in the history of the Solheim Cup that a team has won the Saturday afternoon session outright but none of those teams went on the win the Cup.
For the second consecutive day there was a controversy in the four-ball matches.
On Aug. 16, Europe’s Carlota Ciganda mishit her second shot on the par 15 second hole into a lateral water hazard. After a 30-minute delay, Cignada was allowed to drop the ball approximately 40 yards behind the equidistant point instead of the required two club lengths on either side of the hazard. Officials later said the ruling was incorrect. However, Ciganda and Suzann Pettersen halved the hole and stalled the momentum of Stacy Lewis and Lexi Thompson, who hit shots onto the green before the delay. Cignada and Pettersen eventually garnered a point with a 2 and 1 victory.
“It felt like more than five minutes had passed until they had found that golf ball,” said Lewis, who argued with officials whom she said would not listen to her. “Then I was questioning where they were dropping it. We were putting our fate with the officials, that they were going to get it right. So all that happens 20 whatever minutes later and we lose all the momentum. The matches behind us lost momentum. I think that was the most unfortunate part.
“It’s disappointing just the way it was handled, all the scenarios, that there are a bunch of officials around and somehow in 27 minutes nobody stepped up and say ‘hey this is wrong.’ ”
Thompson and Paula Creamer were involved in another controversial incident Aug. 17 on the No. 7 green in their match against European Solheim rookies Jodi Ewart-Shadoff and Charley Hull. A putt was conceded to Creamer but she tried to putt anyway to show Thompson the line. Creamer was tapped on the shoulder and the Europeans would not let her putt even though the putt would have been legal.
“Things happen out here,” said Creamer. “You should kind of know the rules of match play for sure when you’re out here but at the same time Jodi and Charley apologized for what happened. Lexi made the putt and that kind of put an end to that.”
The Europeans held a 5-3 lead after two rounds Aug. 16 and the team that has led after the first day has won nine of the 11 Solheim Cups.
Team USA, however, trimmed the deficit with a 2½-1½ win in the morning foursomes matches.
Lewis and Creamer earned a 1-up win over Europe’s Azahara Munoz and Karine Icher for one of the United States’ wins and Wie and Brittany Lang earned a point with a 2 and 1 triumph over Suzann Pettersen and Beatrix Recari. Americans Brittany Lincicome and Lizette Salas halved with Catriona Matthew and Caroline Masson.
Anna Nordqvist from Sweden carded a hole-in-one on the 180-yard par 3 17th hole, which wrapped up a 2 and 1 win for her and partner Caroline Hedwall over Morgan Pressel and Jessica Korda.
“Obviously it was a great shot and just to see it really go in, I mean there’s no words for it,” said Nordqvist. “It’s not many times that you can actually hole out and make a hole-in-one to actually win the match.”