Pettersen Holes Winning Putt for Europe in Dramatic Solheim Cup
EYEBROWS were raised when Europe’s Solheim Cup captain Catriona Matthew handed a wild-card to Suzann Pettersen. It was hardly surprising. The Norwegian had barely played any golf for almost two years and had missed the cut in the only two events in which she had competed. But it turned out that Matthew knew exactly what she was doing as Pettersen holed the putt that gave Europe a thrilling victory at Gleneagles. And then announced her retirement.
Europe won the last three singles matches to seal a sensational 14½-13½ Solheim Cup victory.
In scenes that brought back memories of Phil Price skipping down the 18th after defeating Phil Mickelson at The Belfry in 2002 to watch Paul McGinley secure victory for Europe, Bronte Law, who moments earlier won her match on the 17th, sprinted up the final fairway to join the celebrations as Pettersen holed an eight-foot putt on the last to win the trophy.
"She got a bit of stick for getting that pick, but it shows she was the right one," said Matthew. "For it to come down to the last game was amazing. I could barely watch, it's far worse watching. Everyone will remember that final putt, but we had to get there. It's been a great week, with great performances throughout the team."
???????? EUROPEAN SUPERSTARS ????????@suzannpettersen for the @2019solheimcup????— Ladies European Tour (@LETgolf) September 15, 2019
Incredible scenes, simply incredible. @SolheimCupEuro have won the Solheim Cup. Let the celebrations begin ????????#TeamEurope pic.twitter.com/Rf4IeaBKct
It was a thrilling climax to an event that had been watched by 90,000 people, who had witnessed some gut-wrenching drama over all three days. Pettersen was originally selected as a vice-captain after taking time out of the game in November 2017 to have a baby. But after returning to play earlier this year, Matthew gave the 38-year-old world number 665 a surprise ninth Solheim Cup appearance. And she repaid her captain's faith on the final green.
American Marina Alex missed a 10-foot putt to halve her match with Pettersen to earn a 14th point that would have seen the US retain the trophy. While Pettersen sized up what she thought would be a putt to win her match to put Europe on 13½ points, Law was sealing that point back on the 17th. And that meant a Pettersen birdie would seal the win, while a miss would have seen the US reach 14 points and retain the cup, but the Norwegian held her nerve to spark wild celebrations on the green.
She later admitted she did not know her putt was to win the trophy. "It really was a big blur," she said. "I didn't know. I was just trying to make a birdie. This is the perfect end to my career," she added, confirming her retirement from the game. "It was a fantastic moment," said Matthew. "All 12 players played their hearts out. We wouldn't have won it if it wasn't for all of us.”
Pettersen said: "It doesn't get any better. The home of golf, Scotland, big crowds, Beany [Matthew] being here and from just up the street."
Law said the home support had been "the 13th member of the team. This is nothing I've ever experienced in my life. They were screaming all day and it made a massive difference. You can hear them rooting for you and it makes a massive difference. It gives you that pep in your step and keeps you going when you make mistakes.
"And when I made those mistakes I just listened to the crowd, they were cheering me all the way around. I was trying to do the maths but I couldn't remember whether it was 14½ points or 14 to win, so I just thought 'win your point and the rest will be taken care of'. And Suzann took care of it."
This is a third home victory from three matches played in Scotland and is Europe's sixth out of 16 editions of the Solheim Cup.
They led 4½-3½ after day one's alternate shot foursomes and fourballs but the US won Saturday's matches by the same margin to leave the Solheim Cup evenly poised at 8-8 going into Sunday's 12 singles matches.
And the trophy looked set to be heading back to the US after both Korda sisters won matches from behind. Nelly Korda was three down after nine holes but four birdies on the back nine saw her beat Caroline Hedwall two up. Jessica Korda also trailed early on but three birdies in five holes from the 12th saw her complete a 3&2 victory over Germany's Caroline Masson and put the US 12-11 ahead.
England's Charley Hull, who was one up playing the last, hit a poor chip that cost her the win over Megan Khang and when Dutchwoman Anne van Dam missed a putt on the last to hand Lizette Salas another point, the US were 13½-11½ ahead.
However, Sweden's Anna Nordqvist was four up against Morgan Pressel and she halved the 15th to draw Europe to within a point. Law then won the par-five 16th with a birdie and when Ally McDonald, a late replacement for the injured Stacey Lewis, bogeyed the next, Europe had a levelling point.
This was a memorable three days and, hopefully, it will help to breathe new life into the Ladies European Tour. But let’s not pretend that everything is perfect. Nobody could have scripted it better - you always want to see a team match being decided in such a manner, and, in general, the it was played in good spirit, with fans from both sides cheering on their respective favourites while behaving themselves around this magnificent golf course. And in Pettersen, Europe surely have a future captain.
But, and it remains a big but, the pace of play was positively funereal. It took almost three hours for the four ball matches to cover the front nine, and almost five-and-a-half hours to complete 18 holes. And that is too slow. Even at this level, players must be put on the clock, they must be told to get a move on and, if they fail to respond, they must be penalised.
For the moment, however, let’s just celebrate a famous victory, achieved on the same course upon which McGinley’s team inflicted such a crushing victory on the USA in 2014. Perhaps there is a case to be made for bringing all home Solheim Cup and Ryder Cup matches back to Gleneagles on a permanent basis. Even the weather was kind.
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