Carlota Ciganda leads European Solheim Cup comeback: 2023 biggest stories

Carlota Ciganda

Carlota Ciganda after the Europeans retained the Solheim Cup.

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Ah, 2023. The year everything changed … again. For the second straight year, we left 2023 with a drastically different perspective of professional golf than we entered. Now, as we look back at the year that was — with LIV major championships, Ryder Cup controversies and oh so many other stories — we’re remembering the 15 biggest moments that defined the year in golf. Let’s get digging.

Biggest Golf Moments of 2023 …
No. 15: Viktor Hovland’s arrival 
No. 14: Fowler, Day back in the winner’s circle 
No. 13: Brian Harman’s Open rout 
No. 12: The Michael Block Party 
No. 11: Wyndham Clark’s breakout 
No. 10: Lilia Vu’s rise 
No. 9: LIV Golf’s OWGR snub 
No. 8: The players regain control 

Biggest golf moments of 2023: Carlota Ciganda leads European Solheim Cup comeback

Car-lo-ta Ci-gan-da. Car-lo-ta Ci-gan-da. Car-lo-ta Ci-gan-da

Sung to a beat from the White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army, it’s catchy. It’ll dance around in your head. And presumably, it was somewhere in Carlota Ciganda’s, too. A month ago, at the LPGA’s season-ending CME Group Tour Championship, after a year to end all years, Ciganda said she was tired. Gassed. In need of kicking up her feet somewhere comfy. 

But she had a pick-me-up better than sugar. 

“Yeah, you have to see some good shots and some good results,” Ciganda said, “but, yeah, I know I am capable of going low in any course.

“Yeah, I think I’m tired. I think it’s the end of the year and everyone is tired, so it’s hard to sometimes keep pushing. I do try to go and visualize all the good rounds I had this year, what I was thinking, feeling.

“For sure it helps a lot. I had my coach last week and this week, and that gives me confidence as well. So I think it is just, yeah, believing in myself and believing how good I am.”

At the Solheim Cup in September, things were never greater for the 33-year-old from Spain. 

For some time, Ciganda had been eyeing the biannual event, in her home country for the first time, at Finca Cortesin. It’d be a hoot to be among the European dozen, right? A home game. Then she qualified. But there was more. How about a win? Or three? Over the first two days? She did that, too. On Friday, in the afternoon, after the Americans had raced out to a 4-0 lead in the morning, Ciganda paired up with Linn Grant and gave her team a much-needed point. On Saturday, Ciganda led the Euros out of the tunnel, teamed with Emily Pedersen in the morning, won, then her and Grant were last off the tee in the afternoon, and they won again. Entering the Solheim’s final day, the Euros and the U.S. were all knotted up. But there was more. 

What if Ciganda clinched the thing? With the shot? In front of her people? 

And those people sung her name to the beat of an early 2000s rock song?

As Europe stole the Solheim Cup, here’s what it looked, sounded and felt like
By: Sean Zak

And she became a legend?  

Playing American star Nelly Korda in the penultimate match in Sunday singles, Ciganda battled, winning the 2nd, 3rd and 8th holes to go 3-up — then dropping the 9th, 10th and 15th to square things up. That 15th was wild. If you were watching Golf Channel coverage, you heard analyst Kay Cockerill say something about Carlota hitting “a cold shank” into the shrubbery. And she double-bogeyed. 

On 16, Suzann Pettersen found Ciganda. She whispered to her. Pettersen has a fun story herself. She won the Solheim Cup four years earlier with a dagger — then retired. A walk-off. This year, she was the Euro captain. And at this point, other matches were ending. The math was saying Ciganda could clinch it, but she was spiraling. Her captain, though, had a question: 

“Is this how you wanted it? It’s all yours.”  

Korda then hit to 3 feet on the par-4 16th. But Ciganda wedged one to 3. She jogged up the fairway. She high-fived her caddie, Alvaro Alonso. She lifted her arms to the crowd. On the green, Korda missed. Ciganda made. She went 1-up. More fist-pumping. 

Here, the Solheim was down to two matches. The score was 13-all. The Europeans, having won the previous Cup, could keep it if they just tied. (Yeah, that’s a little weird, but let’s continue.) The hole, the 17th, was a 145-yard, par-3. Ciganda took a 7-iron. She hit.

It dropped to a yard. Korda hit to the left of the green. 

The faithful started their chant: 

Solheim Cup’s ‘awkward’ finish could have been avoided. Here’s how
By: Alan Bastable

Car-lo-ta Ci-gan-da. Car-lo-ta Ci-gan-da. Car-lo-ta Ci-gan-da. 

They eventually quieted. Korda chipped on. Her ball grazed the cup. Korda putted. Ciganda was off to the side, watching. Korda made. She had her par. But Ciganda’s birdie putt would seal it. 

It fell. 


She dropped her putter. She saluted the crowd. She hugged Alonso. Her teammates came in. They hugged. They bounced. They celebrated on the green. One match remained, but it was over.

And then Golf Channel on-course analyst Karen Stupples found Ciganda amid the party afterward that included the Spanish monarchy and former hooper Pau Gasol. 

“I mean, it’s amazing,” Ciganda said at the time. “It’s been an amazing week. I love the support of all my family, friends; I have a lot of people here. To play in Spain is always special. The Solheim Cup, it’s just been an unbelievable week. I love the captain; I love Suzanne. I just really wanted to play good for her. Very happy to win the four points.”

Thing is, though, these moments also tend to snowball. One shot gives rise to another shot, which gives rise to another shot — which gives rise to wins, plural. On that Solheim Sunday, analysts Judy Rankin and Juli Inkster wondered whether that would happen for Ciganda, a two-time LPGA winner.

‘Is this how you wanted it? It’s all yours’: How Carlota Ciganda became legendary
By: Nick Piastowski

“I do know she is the type of personality, and I think you’ve seen it as she played and as the crowd welcomed her and then as she won,” Rankin said, “she’s the kind of personality that can really love it, really enjoy it. I’ve said it before, she’s had so many chances to win in women’s golf and hasn’t taken advantage often enough. This might be the game-changer. 

“She may be just a consistent winner from now on.” 

You never know. Memories like these linger. 

The songs, too. 

Car-lo-ta Ci-gan-da. 

Car-lo-ta Ci-gan-da. 

Car-lo-ta Ci-gan-da

“I mean, obviously an amazing week for me being in Spain,” Ciganda said at the time. “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.”

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