The first two days of the 2015 Solheim Cup were dominated by the European team who were looking to win the bi-annual matches for the third consecutive time.
The European team had taken a commanding 10-6 lead after the completion of the four-ball matches on Sunday morning. They had, however, stirred up a hornet’s nest of controversy after an ugly incident in the match between European stars, Suzann Pettersen and Charley Hull and the American tandem of Brittany Lincicome and Solheim rookie, .
The match was tied as the players played the 17th hole. Lee missed a short putt for birdie and her ball finished a foot and a half behind the hole. Pettersen and Hall were walking off the green to the next tee giving the impression that were conceding the short putt to Lee.
When Lee raked the ball back to herself, Pettersen went to the match referee and said that they had never conceded the putt. It is the Rules of Match Play that your opponent must verbally concede a putt so since the Europeans had not done so; Pettersen and Hull were awarded the hole.
When both teams parred the 18th hole, the Europeans had a 1-up victory in the match but Pettersen had lost a great deal of respect with an act that will surely follow her, for the rest of her career.
19-year old Hull and 20-year old Lee were both in tears as they walked off the final green and the U.S. team was clearly incensed. U.S. Captain, Juli Inkster, said: “There’s no way they could ever justify that. I don’t care what you say; you just don’t do that to your peers. I don’t know if my team needed to be fired up anymore, but they were real fired up.”
Pettersen was certainly within the rules doing what she did but it was one of the most un-sportsmanlike actions in the history of the game and goes completely against what the Solheim Cup stands for.
The 10-6 deficit the U.S. team was faced with as they headed into the singles matches meant they would have to win 8.5 of the 12 points available, to take the Cup home.
The first match on the course ended in a tie when Lexi Thompson and Spain’s Carlota Ciganda of Spain were all square after 18 holes. That precious half point that each player earned put the European team just that much closer to three-peating.
Early wins by Americans: Lee, Morgan Pressel, Michelle Wie, Lizette Salas and Cristie Kerr closed the gap. Kerr was especially brilliant in her match with Hull making an amazing 9 birdies in an 11 hole stretch that saw her win 3 and 2.
France’s Karine Icher beat Lincicome while England’s Melissa Reid bested American Brittany Lang, closing the margin again. When Anna Nordqvist of Sweden beat America’s best player, Stacy Lewis, it meant that the Europeans need half a point in the remaining matches to retain the Cup.
They would not get it.
In a match filled with irony and ending with poetic justice, Angela Stanford would beat Pettersen 2 and 1. Stanford had lost 9 consecutive Solheim Cup matches before her win against the Norwegian.
The pivotal match was between American, Gerina Piller and German, Caroline Masson. Piller was 1-up playing the 18th hole but missed the green to the right while Masson hit a beautiful approach shot to within 12 feet of the hole. If this match was halved it would mean that Europe would retain the Cup. Piller chipped 9 feet past the hole but when Masson missed her birdie putt Piller made hers’ for a par, cementing the victory. Not one of the U.S. team’s marquee stars, Piller, was a leader this week and finished with an unbeaten, 3-0-1 record.
In the day’s final match, American Paula Creamer defeated Germany’s Sandra Gal, 4 and 3, to complete the biggest comeback in the 14 event history of the Solheim Cup. The final score was 14.5 points to 13.5.
It was a fitting end to a day that began with one person’s churlish behavior but ended with a stirring comeback and superb golf.