The Solheim Cup unfortunately took a back seat to other sporting events this past weekend. But if you watched each day’s action, you were treated to all the emotion and excitement that was possible. The Solheim Cup is a competition between the United States LPGA Tour and the Ladies European Tour. The competition and format is similar to the men’s Ryder Cup competition that also is held every two years at alternating sites between Europe and the United States. This year the three day event was hosted in Germany at Golf Club St. Leon Rot, which is near Heidelberg. The crowds were large and very boisterous in their support of their respective teams.
This year’s team was captained by Julie Inkster, who played on the first Solheim Cup winning US team in 1990. The US squad had very strong veteran leadership headed by Stacy Lewis, Christy Kerr, Michelle Wie and Brittainy Lang. Lexi Thompson and Alison Lee headed a strong group of one time and rookie competitors into battle in Germany. The European’s had won the last two events and this year’s team was strong and favored to keep the Cup, especially with the event being played on a partisan home crowd in Germany.
The European’s built a 10 to 6 lead during the first two days of competition in the Foursome and FourBall matches. Most of the matches were close, but Europe made the clutch shots and putts and the US couldn’t.
Unfortunately, the story of the 2015 Solheim Cup will be remembered for the incident that occurred on the 17th green during the 2nd day afternoon FourBall match between Alison Lee and Brittainy Lang verses Suzann Pettersen and Charley Hull. Alison missed a 10 foot putt to win the hole and the ball rolled about a foot and a half past the hole. Upon missing the putt, Charley and her caddy turned their backs and started walking off the green and to the next tee. Suzann was at the far end of the green and watching the action. It appeared to all watching and the actions of the players that the putt was conceded and the hole was halved and they would go to the last hole all square. However, when Alison picked up her ball, Suzann informed the Rules Official that she and Charley had not conceded the putt. Because she had picked up the ball and not finished, by the Rules of Golf, the US had lost the hole. The Rules Official, upon reviewing all the circumstances, had to rule the hole won by the European’s. Now there are rules that always should be adhered to and unwritten rules of etiquette and sportsmanship that supersede the strict following of the rules. Suzann was totally focused on winning the match and at the time didn’t grasp the significance of what happened and the circumstances that led up to Alison picking her ball up. She was steadfast in her resolve and insisted the rule be upheld. It appeared that at the time and afterward European team members, the captain, and assistant captains conferred with her and to make sure she wanted to keep that decision and attitude. Julie Inkster during an interview before the single matches was pressed into giving her take on the whole incident and finally concluded with a frustrating, “It’s just BS”.
So maybe the US team received motivation from the poor sportsmanship or a rousing pep talk from Captain Inkster, but the US team came out playing inspired golf. I could go over each match, but I will highlight one hole that proved to be the deciding and most dramatic of the entire three days. Going into the 12 single matches, the Europeans held a commanding 10 to 6 lead. To retain the Cup, they needed only four points out of 12 to cause a tie and since they had won the previous time, they would keep the Cup. The European’s started strong and halfway through it looked hopeless, but the US rallied and with four matches left on the course the score was US 10 ½ and Europe 13 ½ . So just a half point in one of the final four matches would keep the Solheim Cup in the Europeans hands. The three of the four matches were strongly in the US favor, so it was up to Gerina Pillar to at least tie the last hole to secure a 1 up victory over Caroline Masson of Germany. On the 18th hole, Caroline hit her second shot first and hit a wonderful shot to about 10 feet. Gerina pushed her second in heavy rough ppin high on a bank close to the green. She probably did as good as could be expected with the difficulty of the shot and hit it just inside of Caroline’s ball. Caroline had a putt to retain the Cup and her putt slide by on the right. Now Gerina had a tough 9 foot putt to tie the hole and win her match. The other three matches were all 2, 3, and 4 up with the same amount of holes to play. So she and everyone else knew that this was going to determine the outcome. After much deliberation, she made the putt dead-center. There was so much pressure and I was so glad that she was able to deliver in the clutch.
Too bad this great event and the drama that unfolded in Germany, was not seen by most of the golf population. If you get a chance to see the highlights or a replay of the final round, you will not be disappointed. Suzann Pettersen is a type A personality and a fighter on the course. At the moment she was caught up in the battle and didn’t see the big picture. The next day she wrote a well thought out apology that I totally believe. Hope we remember the great comeback and play of the American’s and not Suzann temporary lapse of sportsmanship.