By Neil Leverett
- Europe’s women golfers regain the Solheim Cup after 14 1/2 -15 1/2 victory over the USA at Gleneagles, Scotland
- Hosts win one of every three games in Sunday’s singles to clinch dramatic victory
- England’s Georgia Hall unbeaten throughout weekend, winning all four of her matches
GLENEAGLES, SCOTLAND – After Europe regained the Solheim Cup on a dramatic Sunday in Perthshire, how did Catriona Matthew’s side regain the biggest prize in the women’s game?
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As Suzann Pettersen sunk the winning putt on the 18th green of Gleneagles to seal a 14 1/2 points to 13 1/2 points win, Europe had achieved a feat that few had realistically expected the hosts to accomplish, in regaining the Solheim Cup this past weekend.
Following three days of drama-laden, relentless competition on the historic Perthshire course, the hosts had back in their possession the biggest prize in women’s golf. So how did Europe’s women do it?
Petterson guides Europe home
At 38-years-of-age, in her ninth Solheim Cup and having been on the end of a five-point defeat in Iowa in 2017, Pettersen held her nerve to convert from seven-feet to cue jubilant scenes around the final green of Gleneagles, when at many points on the Sunday, all had seemed lost.
On an afternoon of high drama, the projected result see-sawed to and fro, and when Europe did seem set to have a real chance going down to the final three matches, Charley Hull‘s meltdown at the last versus Megan Khang – needing just to halve the hole to grab a vital point – looked to have sealed a US win.
With Bronte Law coming back to win in the final holes however, and Anna Lundqvist cruising to a 4&3 win over Morgan Pressel, Law sealed an unlikely win on the 17th after McDonald failed to get up and down from a green-side bunker, leaving Pettersen – literal seconds later – to have her moment in the spotlight against the impressive Marina Alex.
The veteran Norwegian had struggled in the at times icy conditions over the weekend, but Pettersen battled to regain her 3UP lead she had earlier held to leave a putt to win the Solheim Cup.
As a two-major winner at both the PGA Championship in 2007 and Evian Championship six years ago, this was arguably her greatest moment, and having only just recently returned from maternity, Pettersen crowned her triumphant return in the most dramatic fashion.
Unbeatable Georgia Hall
The 2019 edition of the tournament will leave happy memories in the heads of most of Team Europe but especially one Georgia Hall, who formed the spine of the team over the three days.
Having surrendered her British Open title at Woburn last month, Gleneagles will etch itself as a rather more notable moment in the Bournemouth native’s mind, as Hall showed her class, taking away an unblemished card from Scotland.
Forming a formidable partnership with debutante Celine Boutier, the Anglo-French duo together claimed three points in both foursomes and also Saturday afternoon’s four-balls.
Taking the combined scalps of Lexi Thompson, Brittany Altomare, Lizette Salas, Ally McDonald and Angel Yin, Hall again beat world number three Thompson 2&1 in the singles after a nervy start, to lay the foundations for a rousing and memorable Sunday.
Playing in all but one match over the competition, captain Catriona Matthew knew how to get the best from from Hall in just her second Solheim Cup and having seen her class rise to the top over the final holes to close out the weekend, the Englishwoman can leave Gleneagles with more than just a slight grin on her face.
Rookie Boutier shines
On the subject of Boutier, the Frenchwoman’s efforts cannot be underestimated in finding Team Europe’s balance of youth and experience. As one of only two of her skipper’s rookies, the 25-year-old came of age.
Like Hall – winning all four of her matches – Boutier’s calm and elegant demeanour was a refreshing for a one who’s best major result was tied for 5th in US Open, but like many before her – also including brotherly Ryder Cup teammates – Boutier showed you don’t need to win a major title to indeed be a big-time player.
Herself suffering somewhat a stage-fright to begin her final day match against Annie Park, Boutier returned to her efficient weekend best over the back nine, to seal another of Europe’s prized singles wins.
2019 has professionally catapulted the Dallas-based woman inter the upper echelons of the golfing ranks, and as former Amateur number one, the Solheim Cup for Boutier could be a watershed moment.
The Spanish dynamic
Spain have often formed a important component in the wins of both respective Solheim and Ryder Cup wins for Europe, and this year’s edition of the former was no different in the form of Carlota Ciganda and Azahara Munoz.
With both ladies in their fourth Solheim Cup, Ciganda had endured a tough time on Friday and Saturday with partner law, as ‘Team Jelly’ Nelly Korda and Jessica Korda had thwarted the Pamplonan with their sisterly efforts.
Munoz however had enjoyed a far more fruitful opening two days with Hull, and took two victories into the singles to help her set up Europe’s final push for the line.
On the Sunday however, it was all-change, and as Munoz battled in vain against Yin, Ciganda put on a stirring comeback over the final four holes of her match against the dominant Danielle Kang, to seal victory on the final hole after a solid drive and superb second onto the dance floor.
Having been in the crucial opening game, Ciganda’s fortunes in the final hours of the competition swung the decision surely in Europe’s favour and after a somewhat a disbelieving Ciganda picked up her first win of the weekend, the Spaniard had not only set up the home win, but also continued Iberia’s prestigious lineage of team golf.
Of course, all the plaudits will go to captain Matthew, who on home Scottish soil, Edinburgh’s 50-year-old former British Open winner enjoyed arguably her greatest moment of her career as a winning Solheim Cup captain.
Where Swedish duo Annika Sorenstam and Carin Koch had both failed – albeit on US terra firma – in the last two editions, Matthew had reversed European fortunes in regaining the famed trophy.
The nerves may have become increasingly frayed as Sunday rolled on, but in typical fashion – as the Scot has so cannily selected her merry Gleneagles group – Matthew stayed cool under increasing scrutiny.
From Ciganda’s precious opening-match win to Lundqvist book-ending European victory in the final game, top to bottom, the 2019 Solheim Cup winning team were a class apart, ably steward.
Coming into the final day deadlocked at 8-8 may however, have not told the full story but as Sunday came to its dramatic crescendo, the right team had won. Skipper Matthew had led her charges to a most glorious and deserved victory.
The 2020 US Masters begins on April 9 at the Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, Georgia, USA.
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