Call it karma. Call it righting a wrong. Use whatever cosmic terms you want, but the U.S. Solheim Cup team completed the biggest comeback in the history of the biennial matches, rallying from a 10-6 deficit to defeat the European team for a 14.5-13.5 victory at Golf Club St. Leon-Rot in Germany.
There’s no doubt the American team was motivated by controversy at the tail end of a match that resumed after play was called due to darkness on Saturday night.
With her match all square through 16 holes, Alison Lee, teaming with Brittany Lincicome, missed an 8-foot birdie putt to win the 17th hole in a fourball match against European opponents Suzann Pettersen and Charley Hull. Pettersen and Hull had started walking toward the 18th tee. Walking referee Dan Maselli had started to announce the hole had been halved in pars when Lee scooped up her par putt, believing she had heard a concession from one of her opponents. She hadn’t. Pettersen noticed, calling a penalty on Lee for picking up a putt that hadn’t been given. With the penalty, the Europeans won that hole and the last from the shellshocked Americans to set up a 10-6 European edge for the final session.
The Americans rallied in the final session of 12 singles matches, making 70 birdies between them, in claiming 8 1/2 out of 12 possible points to secure a victory by the thinnest of margins.
The U.S. comeback faced two critical roadblocks along the way.
With the Europeans already at 13.5 points, Gerina Piller was 1 up in her match against German Caroline Masson. Masson had missed her birdie putt to square the match and lock up the European retention of the cup by halving the match. Piller needed to sink a 10-foot par putt to secure the full point for the match and allow the American rally to continue. American captain Juli Inkster couldn’t even watch the putt. It fell in the heart of the cup.
Then it was up to Angela Stanford, who had been winless in her prior nine Solheim Cup matches, to finish her match against Pettersen. Stanford drained a 40-foot birdie putt on the 16th to take a 2-up edge. A hole later, both she and Pettersen went long into the fringe with their approaches. When Pettersen couldn’t make her birdie bid, Stanford left her birdie putt just a foot beyond the hole. Pettersen conceded the par putt and the match.
All that was left was the winning point, which, at that point, had become somewhat academic.
Inkster’s captain’s pick, Paula Creamer, was 4 up in her match against German Sandra Gal on the green at the par-3 15th. Going first, Creamer lagged her birdie putt to gimme range, forcing Gal to make her 15-foot birdie putt to extend the match and preserve a potential tie. Gal missed. The U.S. had won.
The comeback from down 10-6 matches what the American Ryder Cup team did in beating the Europeans in 1999 at Brookline, Mass., and the European surge in 2012 at Medinah.
The U.S. also ended a two-match losing skid and an eight-year drought on European soil.
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