America's humiliation might be the best thing to happen to the Solheim Cup
U.S. Solheim Cup teams have taken to accessorizing like tweens, but last week their rah-rah pride was no match for a businesslike Europe, which rolled to a record 18--10 victory at Colorado Golf Club, outside Denver. This was not good news if you have a concession for red-white-and-blue hair ribbons, but the Americans' loss and the chippiness that colored the competition, are a welcome development.
Four years ago the U.S. won a third straight Cup, running its record to 8--3 in the biennial event. With the Ladies European Tour's schedule contracting and Asia increasingly producing the best players, it was fashionable to forecast the end of the Solheim. Now Europe has won two straight and for the first time planted its flag on American soil. Such defeats stimulate interest in these international events; for 60 years no one cared about the Ryder Cup ... until the U.S. starting losing.
This Solheim will be remembered for controversial rulings, charges of gamesmanship and, most of all, the play of a crop of young Euros. "It's massive for the Solheim Cup," said Europe's leader, Suzann Pettersen, 32, who woofed postmatch: "We took it to them, and they couldn't answer."
Especially on Saturday, one of the most entertaining days in the Solheim's 23-year history. It began with an LPGA press release noting that Spain's Carlota Ciganda, 23, had been given an incorrect drop the day before, an incident that left Stacy Lewis, of the Republic of Texas, chewing out a rules official. Then, during the morning foursomes, Anna Nordqvist of Sweden, 26, won with an ace on the 17th hole. Michelle Wie, a buzz-building captain's pick, led a rally that brought the U.S. to within a point, but the competition turned during the afternoon four-ball. European captain Liselotte Neumann sent out five of her six rookies, including Charley Hull, 17, and Jodi Ewart, 25, in the lead match. These upstarts produced such fine golf that America's darling, Paula Creamer, and 18-year-old Lexi Thompson shot 31 on the front nine but trailed, ultimately losing on 18.
Hull impressed with her swing and demeanor, and even played through a brouhaha on the 7th hole created by Europe's vice captain, Annika Sorenstam, who instructed Ewart's caddie to concede a putt to Creamer so she wouldn't show Thompson the break. Assistants are not allowed to give advice, but officials determined this did not qualify as such. (Thompson made the birdie putt.) Still, Sorenstam's intrusion was a breach of etiquette. The hard feelings intensified when Wie drained a putt on 16 and pranced to the next tee. But the European team of Caroline Hedwall, 24, and Caroline Masson, 24, hadn't putted out yet. They halved the hole and then, deliciously, won the match. Wie apologized on Twitter. By then Europe had swept to a daunting 10½--5½ lead.
Sunday's singles saw Hedwall become the first player in Solheim history to go 5--0, while England's Hull dismantled Creamer 5 and 4. Earlier, Hull had given the Euros their unofficial motto when she asked Neumann, "When am I supposed to get nervous?"
The Americans should be worried. They might have taken the battle of patriotic manicures, but they're going to have a helluva time breaking Europe's winning streak.
The FedEx Cup playoffs begin on Thursday at the Barclays in Jersey City, and while 125 men have a shot at the $10 million bonus, history shows that it's vital to be in the top 20
Going into Playoff
DARREN CARROLL FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED
Mostly Blue Brittany Lincicome and team U.S. were all made up with no one to goad after an 18--10 drubbing by the Europeans.