Solheim Cup: The European Transformation is Complete

Sunday, with the Americans in dire straights down 10½ – 5½, I wrote that the Europeans were either going to coast to victory or the Americans were going to turn their dreams to toast. Well, I was wrong. The Europeans didn’t just coast to victory, they romped to victory.

But the funny thing about it was that the Americans’ ardent intentions to win 9 of Sunday’s 12 points was alive and well well into the afternoon. But finally, as each of the dominoes fell into place, the Europeans completed their transformation from doormats to dominance. 

This was no routine thrashing. This was well into record-breaking territory. The Europeans won 18 – 10, the largest margin of victory in Solheim Cup history. This was no victory bolstered by raucous, home partisans. This was the first victory ever on American soil. A monster victory. This was the first time in Solheim Cup history that a player won all five of her matches.

Caroline Hedwall seemingly could not miss a putt the first two days and there seemed to be no limit to their length. And there seemed to be no significant deviation from the dead center of the cup. No cheap, lucky ones, only smoothly rolled daggers to hearts of her American opponents.

“That’s just golf,” they would say. No, that’s just intention at its highest form of expression. You intend the putt to go in and it goes in. You see a line that would get it there. You feel a speed that will keep it on that line. And then you make the stroke and simply watch it go in. No defensive putts in her construct. Oh, she gave them some hope on Sunday with strangely uncharacteristic misses, but she was just teasing them. And Hedwall wasn’t the only heroine of this pageant.

Anna Nordqvist was supposed to be fodder for World No. 2, Stacy Lewis. Nordqvist may have been six-feet tall, but everyone knew that petite, gritty, Lewis could blow the doors off any of Nordqvists drives. But Nordqvist earned an improbable halve by maintaining a 1 UP lead virtually all match long until Lewis finally broke though to go up on 14. But Nordqvist managed to keep the lid on her until she birdied back to All Square on 17 and that’s how it ended. For Nordqvist to keep that match from going to American red for as long as she did and then tying Lewis up all the way to 18 was a significant blow to the American psyche. Had to be; Lewis was the big favorite.

Precious, 17-year-old, Charley Hull from England was supposed to swoon in the presence of the great Paula Creamer; she never had a chance. But Charley didn’t read the press clippings of one of the greatest and most popular players in the game. Creamer made a commanding statement with a birdie on 2, but then Charley birdied back on 3 and that was the beginning of the dismantling of Paula Creamer. Charley got her first lead on 6 and steadily increased it until the match ended on 14, 5&4. Another blow to the American psyche. How could Creamer lose to an insecure kid? Well, she couldn’t. But there was no insecure kid in that match (earning her a sponsors exemption into this week’s Canadian Open).

And what can we say about Carlota Ciganda, the human train wreck on Friday who ended up vindicating her selection as a Captain’s pick the rest of the event. This included her 4&2 victory over Morgan Pressel, another tough, experienced competitor who never led in the match. This wasn’t supposed to happen – couldn’t happen – Pressel is just so tenacious.

Gerina Piller led wily veteran Catriona Matthew 1 and 2 Up almost all day long, but the wily veteran managed to wear her down and win a halve.

Lizette Salas didn’t panic when she immediately went 1 Down to Suzann Pettersen on the first hole. She turned that around by the 4th hole, and she too led by 1 or 2 UP most of the day. But Pettersen turned the tide on the 16th and held on through 17 until Salas nipped her for the halve on 18. The advantage of Salas winning earlier as a blow to the psyche of the Europeans never materialized.

Up and coming Jessica Korda led virtually all day long until Italy’s Giulia Sergas made an improbable birdie putt on 18 for the halve. Korda was heavily favored over the journeywoman, Sergas.

Petite Jodi Ewart Shadoff didn’t have a chance against long-hitting, plays-men’s-minitours, Brittany Lincicome. And sure enough, Lincicome birdied for the lead right out of the box. Which lasted two holes and led into the All Square doldrums. Shadoff birdied 8 to go 1 UP, 13 to go 2 UP, 14 to go 3 UP and went on to dominate the dominator, 3&2.

The competitive, experienced hand of Angela Stanford was supposed to be a steadying influence and example for the young Americans. But Beatriz Recari had won two LPGA tournaments on the year and proved yet another, tenacious bulldog. She refused to let go of the lead she took on 6 and won 2&1.

This victory was so lopsided that only two Americans won their matches. Brittany Lang impressively took out Azahara Munoz from Spain, 2&1. Lang almost couldn’t miss a putt; she was like a machine. And Lexi Thompson was in full flight as she dispatched Germany’s Caroline Masson, 4&3. Don’t remember Masson? She led the Women’s British Open for a round a couple of years ago. Not some mystery woman.

The point of this extensive damage report is not to run down the effort or talent of my beloved Americans, but rather to make the case that the transformation of Europe into a bunch of ardent believers in themselves has been accomplished. They have transcended their sense of themselves as the poor sisters of the LPGA Tour. Oh, they may have always believed in their talent — look at how many have come to America to successfully play — but believing in it and being able to realize it in the pressure cooker of the Solheim Cup are two different things.

They did it first with the small steps of winning in Europe. But they just could not believe enough to get the job done over here. But now they have and the victory was so dominant in every way that their foray through the looking glass and into their wildest dreams has changed the landscape forever.

The Americans can no longer reassure themselves with the idea that they’re the best team on paper as they did this year. They can no longer patronizingly fritter holes away awaiting the collapse of their “lesser” foes. Those days are officially and emphatically over.

They have to stay connected to their greatness as players and not play a patient, daylong, rope-a-dope, defense. Their drives have to routinely get in play. Their approach shots have to never leave the flag. And their putts, even if they miss, have to make their opponents cringe in anticipation that they’re going in. That’s what happened to them this year.

But I know in the years to come that the Americans can turn it around and once again have the results be reflective of their extraordinary talents.

Why do I believe this is so? Because I’ve interviewed many of them. Because I’ve seen them play in person. And because they’re Americans.

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One Response to Solheim Cup: The European Transformation is Complete

  1. Dave Andrews says:

    Have enjoyed all your writing on the LPGA and the Solheim Cup. The results this week should serve as another wake up call to the women’s golf programs here in the United States.
    As Dottie Pepper was quoted as saying yesterday… “The rest of the world has caught us and passed us.”
    In the long run, the LPGA will only be as strong as its American players. If they aren’t winning events and contending for victories consistently, the tour’s prospects are not bright.