This Solheim Cup Was The Very Best of Team Golf
WHAT is it about team golf? You simply could not have made up the ending for the Solheim Cup in Spain. And if you had, nobody would have believed you.
It was a contest that had everything. Controversy. A hole in one. A world-class golfer hitting a stone-cold shank. An incredible fightback. A result that could have gone either way. And, on Spanish soil, a home golfer going unbeaten and holing the putt that ensured Europe would retain the trophy.
Carlota Ciganda has won on both the LPGA Tour and the Ladies European Tour but not even she could have dreamt about the way she would play over the course of three days.
She sat out the morning session on Friday and looked on as the USA enjoyed a clean sweep, winning 4-0. It looked like a long way back for a much-fancied European team.
But, under the inspired captaincy of Suzann Pettersen, these 12 incredible women gradually clawed their way back into the contest and by close of play on Saturday night, remarkably, they were tied at eight all.
Taking the trophy three times in a row (2019, 2021, 2023) marks a European team record, although it has been achieved twice previously by the United States (1994, 1996, 1998 and 2005, 2007, 2009).
The teams had started Sunday's singles with defending champions Europe needing to reach 14 points and the US requiring 14½ to take the cup.
However, despite a strong start, the momentum of the match appeared to swing towards the Americans, who claimed a 13-11 advantage until a stunning fightback from Sweden's Caroline Hedwall reignited European hopes.
The world number number 121 won five of the last six holes in her match to defeat Ally Ewing and bring Europe back to 13-12 down.
That and Maja Stark's triumph by 2&1 laid the foundations for Ciganda to secure a tie on the 17th green, as Europe took three points from the final four matches still out on the course.
"I would like to give some extra credit to Caroline Hedwall. I feel like she had the crucial point. She teed it nicely up for Carlota to just bring it home on 16 and 17," said Pettersen.
"Both Stacy [Lewis] and I knew this was going to come down to the wire. I mean, we were tied going into today, and like it has over the last couple of Solheims, it usually comes down to one match, one putt here or one shot there.”
But this was Ciganda’s day. In front of a fervent home crowd, the 33-year-old birdied the 16th to draw level with Nelly Korda in the penultimate singles match before playing a sensational iron shot into two feet on the par-three 17th, as the King of Spain, Felipe VI, watched on from the side of the green.
With Korda failing to land her ball on the putting surface, Ciganda's approach sparked wild celebrations from her European team-mates, which only intensified, when the American was unable to chip in and her opponent tapped in for a birdie.
"I don't really remember much about what happened. It was pretty close. I think it was probably two feet, two and a half. I hit a really good shot, and I made the putt, and I don't know what I did," Ciganda said.
"I just went crazy, and I just have flashes of just hugging everyone, going crazy, and I don't really know what I did.
"It is very, very special to play here in front of my home crowd, family, lots of friends. It's very special to hear my name so much on all the holes; I just can't thank them enough.”
And now it is over to the men in the Ryder Cup and, boy, do they have a hard act to follow.
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