2021 Solheim Cup Preview
CATRIONA MATTHEW’S European team head to Inverness Club in Ohio to defend the Solheim Cup won in such dramatic fashion at Gleneagles two years ago. The team will include four rookies and will be led by Women’s Open champion Anna Nordqvist.
Suzann Pettersen chose the most incredible way to bring the curtain down on her playing career when she holed the putt that won the Solheim Cup for Europe in 2019 and then announced that she was done.
Europe won the last three singles matches to seal a sensational 14½-13½ Solheim Cup victory over the United States at Gleneagles.
Bronte Law, who moments earlier won her match on the 17th, sprinted up the 18th fairway to join the celebrations after wildcard pick 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 Europe captain Catriona 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."
Pettersen later confirmed her retirement from the game, adding: "This is the perfect end to my career.”
Norwegian 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 in 2019, Matthew gave the 38-year-old world number 665 a surprise ninth Solheim Cup appearance.
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. 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.
Pettersen later admitted she did not know her putt was to win the trophy. "It was a blur," she said. "I didn't know. I was just trying to make a birdie."
It was Europe’s third home victory from three matches played in Scotland and 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 match perfectly 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, 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 Stacy Lewis, bogeyed the next, Europe had a levelling point. Spain's Carlota Ciganda picked up the first European point when she birdied the last to beat Danielle Kang.
That point was quickly followed by two more. England's Georgia Hall and France's Celine Boutier, who combined to win three points on the opening two days, made it four wins from four this week with 2&1 victories. Hall beat world number three Lexi Thompson and was immediately embraced by Matthew and Europe vice-captain Laura Davies.
They all then waited for Boutier, who was playing in the match behind, and there were more joyous hugs as thousands of fans celebrated round the green. However, Angel Yin was never behind in her 2&1 victory over Azahara Munoz, while Brittany Altomare crushed Jodi Ewart Shadoff 5&4 to pick up another American point.
Jessica Korda, who was unbeaten in the competition, said: "Unfortunately we didn't get the win but what a day for women's golf."
US captain Juli Inkster said: "Europe played great and we tip our hat to them but now we move on to Toledo for the 2021 Solheim Cup."
The 2021 Solheim Cup
Matthew announced her six captain’s picks for this year’s contest at the conclusion of the Women’s Open at Carnoustie. They went to Mel Reid, Leona Maguire, Celine Boutier, Matilda Castren, Nanna Koerstz Madsen and Madelene Sagstrom.
Charley Hull and Georgia Hall qualified automatically along with Carlota Ciganda, Nordqvist, Emily Kristine Pedersen and 2020 Open champion Sophia Popov.
Maguire is the first player from Ireland to represent Europe in the contest. "Leona has had a fantastic year and has a real grittiness. She's a good match player and will be solid, one of those never give-up players," said Matthew.
Maguire, a former world amateur number one, finished joint 13th at the Women's Open.
Nordqvist will make her seventh consecutive appearance, while Hall, 25, who was runner-up at this year's Women's Open, will be making her third appearance. Hull, like Ciganda, will be playing in the event for the fifth time.
The Europeans face a formidable challenge with world number one Nelly Korda leading the US challenge in the biennial event. The 23-year-old is the emerging star of the women's game after winning her first major at the Women's PGA in June and backing that up with gold at the Tokyo Olympic Games.
She will be joined by her sister Jessica, Austin Ernst, Ally Ewing, Danielle Kang, Megan Khang, Jennifer Kupcho, Lizette Salas and Lexi Thompson.
US captain Pat Hurst selected Brittany Altomare, Mina Harigae and Yealimi Noh as her captain’s picks.
Altomare will make her second appearance ollowing her 2-1-1 performance at Gleneagles in 2019. Harigae and Noh will make their Solheim Cup debuts.
“This was an incredibly difficult decision, but I’m very happy to have Brittany, Mina and Yealimi as my picks for Team USA,” said Hurst. “Brittany proved that she’s the ultimate team player in 2019 and really came through for us at Gleneagles. Mina and Yealimi have played so well over the last two years, and just because they’re Solheim Cup rookies on paper doesn’t mean they’re rookies inside the ropes. I have no doubt they’ll be great competitors at Inverness.”
Solheim Cup Teams:
Europe: Celine Boutier, Matilda Castren, Carlota Ciganda, Georgia Hall, Charley Hull, Nanna Koerstz Madsen, Leona Maguire, Anna Nordqvist, Emily Kristine Pedersen, Sophia Popov, Mel Reid, Madelene Sagstrom.
USA: Brittany Altomare, Austin Ernst, Ally Ewing, Mina Harigae, Danielle Kang, Megan Khang, Jessica Korda, Nelly Korda, Jennifer Kupcho, Yealimi Noh, Lizette Salas, Lexi Thompson.
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