Sugar Grove, Ill. (AP) — The scoreboards around Rich Harvest Farms were awash in European blue and the holes beginning to dwindle.
one red point went up, and then another. Soon, one more. With chants of
"U-S-A! U-S-A!" echoing throughout the back nine, the momentum at the
Solheim Cup took a seismic shift.
Europe didn't stand a chance.
four minutes it seemed like you heard another roar, and based on the
volume of it, you could tell it was an American," Christina Kim said.
"It starts off with one, and it was just contagious. You just get a
little bit of that momentum, and you ride it out."
had been a close contest into a rout, the Americans won their third
straight Solheim Cup on Sunday with a 16-12 decision over Europe. The
Americans won the singles 8-4, raising their winning percentage over
the tournament to .608.
When Morgan Pressel delivered the
clinching point with her 3-and-2 victory over Anna Nordqvist, her
teammates — sitting near the green in anticipation — leaped up and the
party was on.
Michelle Wie, whose 3-0-1 record was the best of
any American this week, grabbed a U.S. flag and held it aloft to cries
of "Wheee!" from the crowd. There were new shrieks of joy as each
American arrived to join her teammates and, when it was all over, they
ran around the 18th green carrying flags and waving to the crowd that
had been so boisterous all week.
There were more smiles as they
passed around the crystal Solheim Cup at the closing ceremony, some
kissing it, others holding it up for the fans to see.
awesome, especially since it was such a hard-fought battle," captain
Beth Daniel said. "They had to dig deep, they really had to dig deep to
win this, and I'm so proud of each and every one of them."
Fittingly, Juli Inkster was at the center of the turnaround.
49, she's the oldest player in Solheim Cup history, with a daughter
who's only a few months younger than Wie. But she's the heart and the
soul of the U.S. team, and everyone on the team lobbied for Daniel to
make her a captain's pick — not that Daniel needed much convincing.
Inkster struggled most of the day, down 2 to Gwladys Nocera through 12 holes.
told us not to look at the board, but I have to look at the board and
it was not looking good," Inkster said. "I just kept chattering to
myself to say, `This is an important match, you've got to get at least
a half a point here. It's two holes. If you can't win two holes, then
you don't deserve to be out here.'"
Win them she did.
made birdies on 14 and 15, and evened the match with a solid shot into
12 feet on the par-3 16th. She actually went 1 up when Nocera missed a
6-footer for par on the 17th, but bogeyed 18.
Still, she'd gotten
the United States that half-point. It was quite a finish for what
Inkster insists will be her last week. She has 18 points, most by any
U.S. player at the Solheim Cup.
"Well, I'm not doing a Brett
Favre, but it is," said Inkster, who lowered the U.S. flag at the
closing ceremony, her daughters by her side. "I want to come out and
watch. These girls are great. They've got a lot of young talent, and it
needs to be passed down right now."
That talent is what made the Americans heavy favorites coming into the week.
had some of the top players in the world while four of Europe's players
were ranked 125th or lower. Annika Sorenstam, Europe's anchor the last
decade, is no longer playing. And the United States had won the last
two Solheim Cups, and was unbeaten on U.S. soil.
captain Alison Nicholas pulled out every trick she could this week to
inspire her team, including video messages from Seve Ballesteros and
Jose Maria Olazabal, whose "Spanish Armada" was regarded as the
greatest partnership in Ryder Cup history.
Midway through the afternoon, Europe was leading in six of the 12 matches.
"'Get that red on the board, get that red on the board,' that's all I was thinking about," Wie said.
Stanford gave the Americans their first boost, beating Becky Brewerton
5 and 4 to give the United States the first point of the day. Paula
Creamer followed with a victory over Suzann Pettersen shortly after,
and Wie rebounded to beat Helen Alfredsson 1 up.
Wie had been 3 up through six holes, but the former European captain made some clutch shots to even it after 11 holes.
"It was tough," Wie said. "Helen's the best. She's just so tough to beat."
showed again that when she's on, few can touch her. She needed only an
8-iron for her second shot on the par-5 15th — yes that's right, an
8-iron — and hit it to 20 feet. She two-putted for the birdie, and
Alfredsson couldn't make the putt to match her.
She lost the 17th
hole, and was so amped up after another booming drive on 18 that she
started walking as soon as she hit it, leaving her tee stuck in the
box. Her approach landed 25 feet below the hole, and she left it 2 feet
short. Alfredsson's 35-foot eagle putt was short, too, and Wie tapped
in to win the match.
She screamed "Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!" and pumped her fist before being bearhugged by Stanford.
have seen a different side of me," said Wie, saddled with the
expectations of being the female equivalent of Tiger Woods since she
was in grade school. "This was just a lot of fun. There's nothing to
And the fun was just beginning.
As Wie was
finishing, Inkster and Brittany Lang were turning around matches that
appeared to be going in Europe's win column, scratching out critical
Laura Davies was up 3 on Lang through 15 holes, and went
to 17 knowing the worst she could do was win a half point. But the
four-time major champion, benched for the entire day Saturday, closed
with back-to-back bogeys.
"I was obviously very disappointed
because it looked like it was going to be 6-all or 6 1/2 one way or
another," Davies said. "But now, as it turns out, it wasn't that
Not on the scoreboard, anyway.
"The girls have played well," Nicholas said, choking up. "It was good fun, but it's a disappointment."