One half point was all America needed.
Lizette Salas was down early but led Europe’s Anne van Dam late, and when van Dam missed her birdie putt on the 18th the U.S. led Europe 13.5-11.5, meaning the Americans, with three matches left on the course, were just a half point away from retaining the Solheim Cup — one half point.
Thirty minutes later, much had changed in Scotland.
Anna Nordqvist finally finished off Morgan Pressel to win her match, Bronte Law played lights out late to win hers and veteran Suzann Pettersen struck the final blow in the form of a cold-blooded dagger. A stunning and epic finish, all of which happened in less than 30 minutes, had taken place in western Scotland.
Pettersen’s birdie on the 18th, an uphill 8-footer to beat Marina Alex, gave Europe a 14.5-13.5 victory and its first win in the event since 2013. Pettersen dropped her putter, bent her knees and threw her arms into the air as her teammates rushed the green. The comeback was complete. Had she missed, it would have been a tie, and the Americas would have kept the Cup.
“I mean, can you ask for more?” Pettersen said. “The last putt to win the Cup, when it’s that close? History was just made.”
The drama unfolded slowly on Sunday at Gleneagles.
Tied 8-8 heading into the final day of the Solheim Cup, America and Europe traded blows as the scoreboard started to scatter U.S. red and European blue. U.S. captain Juli Inkster, in classic Juli Inkster fashion, said it perfectly: “The math is simple.” Whichever team won the majority of the 12 singles matches won the Solheim Cup.
As matches finished, the race started to take shape, but the result was far from clear. When American Angel Yin closed out Azahara Munoz 2 and 1 it tied the match 11-11 (three wins for the U.S. and three for Europe) yet the six matches remaining were still split — three in favor of the U.S. and three for Europe.
Jessica Korda put the next point on the board for the U.S. All square through 11 against Caroline Masson, Korda won 12 and 13 with birdies, lost the 14th and then won the 15th and 16th — the finishing touch a birdie putt to win the match 3 and 2 and put the U.S. up 12-11. Megan Khang and Charley Hull then halved their match. Hull birdied the par-5 16th to take a 1-up lead, but Khang answered with a birdie on 18 to tie the match and earn a half point each.
Salas’ pivotal point came shortly later. It made it 13.5-11.5 in favor of the U.S., meaning the Americans, with three matches left on the course, were just a half point away from retaining the Cup. Inkster was minutes away from her third straight Solheim Cup win, and America, with six rookies, was on the verge of winning on away soil and in Scotland for the first time … but that celebration never came.
Nordqvist was well in control of her match with American Morgan Pressel and eventually won 4 and 3, making it the first time the Swede beat Pressel in three Solheim Cup singles matches. That cut the lead to one point.
Two matches were left on the course. Law and Ally McDonald were all square through 15, and Pettersen and Alex were all square through 17. Law struck first. She birdied the 16th to go 1 up and then found the green on the par-3 17th as McDonald hit into the bunker behind the green.
Up ahead Pettersen missed the fairway on the par-5 18th, but both players laid up and had wedges into the green. Alex hit her approach to about 15 feet, but Pettersen landed hers behind the hole, and it almost went in as it spun back. But the stakes were raised before Pettersen would get her chance to putt. McDonald failed to get up and down from the bunker and made bogey, losing 2 and 1 to Law and tying the match at 13.5 apiece. Alex missed her birdie putt. Pettersen did not.
“You know what, Suzann made a great putt,” Inkster said. “And you know, the Solheim Cup doesn’t come down to that putt, but she made it today.”
Pettersen’s teammates rushed the green when she sunk the putt as the U.S. roster watched in disbelief.
Pettersen, for what it’s worth, took an unlikely path to this Solheim Cup. She’s 38 and was one of four captain’s picks. Due to the birth of her first child she’s played in just three stroke-play events in the last two years. She found closure on Sunday, saying she is now retiring.
“The end for my, at least, Solheim career, and also a nice ‘The end’ for professional career,” she said. “It doesn’t get any better.”
Sunday singles results
Carlota Ciganda (EUR) def. Danielle Kang 1 up
Nelly Korda (USA) def. Caroline Hedwall 2 up
Georgia Hall (EUR) def. Lexi Thompson 2 and 1
Celine Boutier (EUR) def. Annie Park 2 and 1
Angel Yin (USA) def. Azahara Munoz 2 and 1
Megan Khang (USA) and Charley Hull, halved
Lizette Salas (USA) def. Anne van Dam 1 up
Jessica Korda (USA) def. Caroline Masson 3 and 2
Brittany Altomare (USA) def. Jodi Ewart Shadoff 5 and 4
Suzann Pettersen (EUR) def. Marina Alex 1 up
Bronte Law (EUR) def. Ally McDonald 2 and 1
Anna Nordqvist (EUR) def. Morgan Pressel 4 and 3