Euros win Solheim on U.S. soil
PARKER, Colo. -- Even with six rookies on her team, captain Liselotte Neumann told the Europeans this was their time to make history in the Solheim Cup.
All she wanted was for them to prove they could win in America.
They gave her so much more.
Caroline Hedwall became the first player in Solheim Cup history to win five matches, and the final point was for more than the 24-year-old Swede. She stuck her approach on the 435-yard 18th hole into 4 feet for a birdie that gave her a 1-up win over Michelle Wie and assured Europe of keeping the cup.
"I'm still shaking," Hedwall said. "It's just amazing."
Moments later, Catriona Matthew holed a 5-foot par putt to halve her match and give Europe the outright win on the seventh try in America.
And it only got better.
Even as the celebration played out across Colorado Golf Club, tears rushing over the European stickers on their cheeks, Neumann's crew kept battling for half-points until the very end. The Solheim Cup ended when Cristie Kerr and Karine Icher reached the 18th green -- the scene of this great outdoor party -- and conceding each other birdies to get on with the celebration.
That final half-point put Europe in the record books again -- 18-10, the biggest blowout since this competition began in 1990.
"It was really fun to see Caroline get her fifth point this week, making some history on the team," Neumann said. "Winning here for the first time, making more history. ... I'm sure we'll go have a drink or two and do some dancing and singing tonight."
The Americans have an 8-5 lead in the series, though this is the first time they have lost back-to-back in the Solheim Cup. The Americans are without the Solheim Cup, the Ryder Cup, the Walker Cup and the Curtis Cup, the four biggest team events between both sides of the Atlantic.
U.S. captain Meg Mallon, gracious to the end, could only point to a poor performances on the slick greens -- and her team's inability to close. Over the final three-hole stretch, Europe had a 17-10 advantage in holes won.
"The way we played 16, 17 and 18 I think is what really made the difference," Mallon said. "It wasn't for lack of preparation because we played this golf course quite a bit. So it wasn't like a surprise for us. It was just a matter of who dropped the putts on those holes. And unfortunately, it was the Europeans."
And she didn't get much help from her best players.
Stacy Lewis, the highest-ranked American coming off a Women's Open Championship title at St. Andrews, went 1-2-1 for the week. Paula Creamer was 1-3 and was blown out by a 17-year-old Charley Hull in Sunday singles. Angela Stanford was the other player without a point this week, going 0-4. Cristie Kerr, the most experienced American on the team, went 1-2-1.
Europe's rookies were 12-5-2, with Hull stealing the show. The English teenager showed no fear, at one point asking Neumann, "When am I supposed to be nervous?"
"I didn't really feel that nervous, to be honest," Hull said. "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."
It really was that simple.
"It's a fantastic feeling right now," Neumann said. "I'm so proud of them. They played such good golf this week. They just played tremendous golf."
Hull, the youngest player in Solheim Cup history, capped her amazing week by demolishing Creamer in a match that set the tone for Europe. Another rookie, Carlota Ciganda, handed Morgan Pressel her first lost in singles in four appearances to go 3-0 for the week.
Not even a one-hour delay due to lightning in the area could damper this European celebration. Suzann Pettersen was lining up her putt on the 16th hole when she heard the cheers from the 18th, got the news that Hedwall won her match and began pumping her fist.
Matthew holed the winning the putt, but the Europeans really won Saturday afternoon when they swept the fourballs matches to build a 10½-5½ lead, matching the largest margin going into Sunday.
Raucous cheering on the first tee raised American hopes of the greatest comeback in Solheim Cup history.
Once they got on the golf course, it was a hopeless cause.
Mallon stacked some of her best players at the top of the lineup with hopes of filling the leaderboard with red scores and building momentum. Europe was ahead early four of the opening five matches.
Brittany Lang delivered a point, though she had a tussle with Azahara Munoz until winning on the 17th.
Lewis, in the opening match, didn't take her first lead against Anna Nordqvist until driving the green on the par-4 14th for a birdie. But the closing stretch belonged to Europe, as it had all week. Lewis missed an 8-foot birdie on the 16th for a chance to go 2 up, and the Swede found more magic on the 17th. One day after her hole-in-one, she holed a 20-foot birdie putt to square the match, and Lewis had to make a 7-foot par to get a half-point.
Ciganda, the Spanish rookie who couldn't break 80 in her opening fourballs match, finished with five straight birdies to pull away from Pressel.
Europe's biggest boost came from its youngest star.
Hull, playing as if she had been here many times before, dropped in a 45-foot birdie putt on No. 6 to take her first lead, and she demoralized Creamer from there, 5 and 4. Creamer has not made it beyond the 14th hole in singles losses the last two Solheim Cups.
Hull only showed her age at the end. She took a marker from her bag and asked Creamer if she could sign a golf ball for a friend back home.
"He's a big fan, so I thought I might as well get one," Hull said.
By the end of the week, the Americans had reasons to ask for the autographs.