Annika's Europe Look to Reclaim Solheim Cup Two Years after Controversial Finish
Charley Hull and Suzann Pettersen can expect a hostile reaction from the crowd when they tee it up for Europe at Des Moines Golf and Country Club in the Solheim Cup this week. American fans have long memories, and still haven't forgiven the pair for an unfortunate incident when the cup was contested in Germany two years ago.
On the 17th green of the fourball match between Hull and Pettersen for Europe and Brittany Lincicome and Alison Lee for the United States, it was all square when Lee had a putt to win the hole. She missed and left her ball 18 inches from the cup. Lee picked up her ball, whereupon Hull and Pettersen pointed out that the putt had not been conceded. The match referee awarded the hole to Europe and they went on to win by two holes.
It was a turning point in the match. Europe took a four-point lead into the final-day singles, but the incident had angered the Americans, and their captain Juli Inkster, to such an extent, that they used it to inspire themselves to a stunning fightback. And inkster is leading the Americans once again. She has a long memory.
Hull insists that she and Pettersen did nothing wrong. Besides, she knows full well that if the crowd singles her out for special attention it is because they know that she is such a formidable Solheim Cup player. In her two appearances, she has won six points from a possible eight. She has come a long way since her debut, when she asked her opponent, Paula Creamer, to autograph her ball.
“I like getting booed on the first tee,” she said. “I actually prefer it to having the crowd cheering me on. That’s why I like the Solheim best when it’s in America. I like having the crowd against me and being the underdog. It helps to get me going, to go out there and show them we can play a bit.”
Hull explained what took place on that 17th green. “Everybody says I was walking off the green, and that I was conceding the putt by walking away,” she said. “But I was standing near the bunker and then walking towards Suzann saying, ‘Don’t give it to her, don’t give it to her’. Then Suzann said, ‘She’s picked it up’.”
There was a little more context than that, as anybody who has played matchplay will appreciate. Gamesmanship is often applied in matches. You might, concede a few three-footers early on and later on, especially in a tight match, ask an opponent to putt one from half that distance. It can be unsettling.
Earlier in the round the Americans forced Hull to putt out from an unmissable distance. Hull said to Pettersen: “Right, from now on we’ll make them putt everything as well.”
The Americans played with anger in the Sunday singles, and the result was never in doubt, winning the match by a point.
This time around the United States have nine players inside the world top 50; Europe has eight. The United States include three rookies, Europe four.
Europe are led by Annika Sorenstam, one of the greatest female golfers of all time. She has already been likened to Paul McGinley, who led Europe to victory with such aplomb at Gleneagles in 2014. It promises to be a fascinating encounter.
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