Sep
25
2011
Twenty Minutes to Second Best for U.S.; Charging Euros Win!
By Stephanie Wei under Solheim Cup

The Charge of the Fight Brigade

Congrats to the European squad for their impressive victory over the Americans at the Solheim Cup.

It was looking like the Americans were going to pull off an unlikely victory about a half-hour earlier. Europe and U.S. were tied at 12 1/2 points apiece.

Michelle Wie rolled in a clutch 15-footer on 17, putting some pressure on Suzann Pettersen, who had thrown a dart to roughly four feet (Wie had also made a clutch putt on 15 to go 1-up, but Pettersen responded with a birdie on 16.); rookie extraordinaire Ryann O’Toole was 2-up with two to play over Caroline Hedwall; Angela Stanford had just squared up her match against Azahara Munoz.

The U.S. needed 14 points to retain the Cup, while Europe demanded 14 1/2. The odds were leaning toward the Americans. In an ideal world, O’Toole was supposed to close out Hedwall and either Wie or Stanford would halve their match.

In quickly turned the wrong direction for the Americans and the momentum swung to the Europeans.

I was surprised the Wie/Pettersen match went to the 18th hole. Wie had looked lost with the putter and struggled in the previous matches, but she put up a good fight against the intimidating Pettersen, who has notched two LPGA victories this season. With the match all square on 18, Pettersen hit first, knocking it to eight feet. Wie pushed her approach into the bunker, followed with a decent shot out to roughly three feet.

Confidence, passion and fist-pump

But was there ever a question Pettersen would miss her birdie putt? Not in my mind. As soon as the ball disappeared, the Norwegian dropped her putter and raised her arms in the air and celebrated with vibrant fist-pumps.

Munoz knocked it to three feet on 17.

Now all eyes were on the American rookie, who only had 10 LPGA starts under her belt going into the biennial matches between the U.S. and Europe.

O’Toole went into Sunday singles with an impressive 2-1-0 record (win-halve-loss). She shut down the naysayers and skeptics that understandably questioned captain Rosie Jones’ wild pick. She had played and composed herself like a steely veteran — until the last two holes when she couldn’t close out Hedwall. All credit to the rookie (and Hedwall for not giving up).

O’Toole hit an errant drive on 17, causing her to lose the hole. She found the fairway on 18, but airmailed the green into the gallery. Meanwhile, Hedwall had stiffed her approach to about eight feet. O’Toole seemed to rush her chip and chunked it — just a foot more and it probably would have been perfect. Her second chip had to go in the hole, but she didn’t play the break high enough and it rolled 10 feet past.

Euros finish in flourish

The Europeans charged the green and the celebration commenced.

On the other side, O’Toole was consoled by her teammates. It was perhaps too much pressure for O’Toole, who likely had never experienced the weight of her team and country leaning on her. Ryann should hold her head up high and judging from what we saw this week she’ll play in many more Solheim Cups.

What happened to the Munoz/Stanford match? Stanford conceded the putt to Munoz, giving the Spaniard a 1-up lead with one to play. Golf Channel’s coverage cut out after the Europeans celebrated on 18 with Hedwall’s victory over O’Toole. Apparently Munoz and Stanford still played the final hole, but they conceded each other’s birdie putts and Munoz won 1-up.

Cristie Kerr is taking a lot of heat perhaps overdoing it and playing all previous four matches even though the tendinitis in her wrist had flared up as early as Thursday. Kerr tried to warm up, but it was too painful and she was forced to withdraw, forfeiting the point to Karen Stupples. I don’t think we should blame Kerr for “playing too hard” or Jones for putting Kerr in the line-up in every match despite knowing Kerr was hurting.

Kerr is a fierce competitor and with several key members of the American squad struggling, she wanted to play for her team — they needed her. Yes, I realize they also needed her in the singles, but Kerr’s intentions were good and her wrist/arm was probably nearly broken if she withdrew. Not many are fans of Kerr and she’s well known for her moody disposition, but if you didn’t feel bad for her when you saw bawling, then you’re heartless and/or have no concept of sport or a competitor’s mindset.

Well played by the Europeans and Americans. Hats off, ladies. Oh, and the final tally? Europe 15, USA 13.

(Tophoto via Matt Cooper’s Twitter; AP Photos/Peter Morrison)