European team member Jodi-Ewart Shadoff celebrates with her caddie.
For the first time in the history of the Solheim Cup, a European Team has captured the Cup on American soil. Sweden’s Caroline Hedwall sank a 4-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole at Colorado Golf Club to capture a 1-up victory over Michelle Wie assuring the Europeans would retain the Cup for the first time since the biennial event began in 1990.
Less than 20 minutes later, European Solheim Cup veteran Catriona Matthew sank a par putt on the 18th hole to halve her match with Gerina Piller and earn the half-point that gave the Europeans back-to-back victories for the first time in the history of the event.
It had been a goal of the Europeans heading into this week to make history by winning on U.S. soil but they did more than that. The young group of Europeans delivered a dominating performance, as their 18-10 win marked the largest margin of victory in the history of the Solheim Cup.
“It's a fantastic feeling,” European Solheim Cup captain Liselotte Neumann said. “I just can't tell you how proud I am of all of them. They all really played so well. They just played tremendous golf. “
Perhaps it was only fitting that Hedwall secured the point that would retain the Cup for Europe since it also brought her record for the week to 5-0. The 24-year-old Swede is the only player in Solheim Cup history to earn five points in a single event. The previous record had been 4 ½ points, which was held by one of this year’s European assistant Solheim Cup captains, Carin Koch.
“I was told yesterday that no one had won five matches before, so I knew everything,” Hedwall said of what was on the line in her match. “But it was just a great moment and a lot of fun.”
The Europeans held a commanding five-point lead heading into Sunday’s singles matches after sweeping the Saturday afternoon four-ball matches 4-0. And the Americans knew that it would take a massive effort for them to get the Cup back, as they needed to win nine points out of the 12 singles matches.
U.S. Solheim Cup captain Meg Mallon sent out her top two American players in the first two matches of the day in order to try and get momentum on their side. Unfortunately for the U.S. team neither Stacy Lewis nor Paula Creamer was able to capture a full point. Creamer lost easily, 5&4, to 17-year-old rookie sensation Charley Hull, who may have delivered the breakout moment of her very young career.
“I didn't really feel that nervous, to be honest," said Hull, who was the youngest competitor ever in a Solheim Cup. "Because this is how I always look at golf -- I'm not going to die if I miss it. Just hit it, and find it, and hit it again."
Hull’s victory put the first point of the day on the board for Europe, which needed just 3 ½ points total on Sunday to retain the Cup. Anna Nordqvist then earned another critical half point by halving her match with Lewis, thanks in large part to her birdie on the 17th hole where she had made a hole-in-one on Saturday.
While the Americans only came away with a half-point from the first two matches of the day, they had started to get leads in many of the other matches providing a small glimmer of hope that perhaps a miracle may be possible. But in the end, it seemed that things mostly seemed to go the way of Europe.
Carlota Ciganda posted a 4&2 victory over Morgan Pressel, which was the first singles loss for Pressel in four Solheim Cup appearances, to pull the Europeans to within just one point from retaining the Cup.
Ciganda was just one of six rookies on the European squad this year and those rookies certainly stepped up in a huge fashion. Between the six of them, they combined to tally a total of 13 points for Europe this week.
“I want to give Lotta all the credit for having the guts to actually pick all the rookies, to pick the youngsters, to pick Charley,” said Suzann Pettersen, who was playing in her seventh Solheim Cup for Team Europe. “I mean, that could have been very controversial if she wouldn't deliver. And for her to do it and for Charley to step it up, it was just fantastic.”
Brittany Lang kept the U.S. hopes alive by capturing a point with her 2&1 victory over Azahara Munoz, but any momentum that the Americans had was then halted by Mother Nature.
Play was suspended at 5:20 p.m. local time due to lightning in the area. After nearly an hour delay, play resumed at 6:16 p.m. with the critical match between Hedwall and Wie on the 17th hole. The two players halved the par-3 17th to go to 18 all-square and that’s when Hedwall stepped up and delivered the big putt on 18, which seemed to happen often for the Europeans late in rounds throughout the week.
“The way we played 16, 17 and 18, I think really is what made the difference,” said Mallon. “It wasn't for lack of preparation, because we played this golf course quite a bit. So it wasn't like it was a surprise for us, it was just a matter of who dropped the putts on those holes and unfortunately it was the Europeans.”
There were a number of the European players standing on the side of the 18th green when Hedwall made her putt to secure the big 1-up victory and begin what would be a big celebratory party.
“It's massive for women's golf, it's massive for Solheim Cup, for us to be historical and win on American soil, in Colorado, in front of pretty much an All American crowd,” Pettersen said of the victory. “We took it to them and they couldn't answer.”
Now the Americans will have to set their sights to Germany in 2015 to see if they can end the first losing streak that they’ve had in Solheim Cup history.
“We had some bad breaks, but that's golf,” Creamer said. “If it comes to team bonding, this was the epitome of that. And going into Germany we have got two years to sit on this and four years since we have won the Cup and I can tell you we'll be ready to go.”