A look at some of the main talking points as Europe retained the Solheim Cup with a 15-13 victory over the United States at Inverness Club in Ohio.
It would not be a Solheim Cup without a rules controversy and we duly had one in the opening fourballs with a contentious incident involving Madelene Sagstrom and Nelly Korda.
Korda’s eagle putt on the 13th stopped on the edge of the hole, but her ball was swiftly picked up by Sagstrom, conceding a birdie. However, the Swede was deemed to have not waited long enough and world No 1 Korda was credited with an eagle to win the hole and move one up, duly going on to win the match 1up alongside Ally Ewing.
Madelene Sagstrom picked up Nelly Korda’s eagle putt before waiting the full 10 seconds to see if it would fall into the hole, seeing Team USA awarded the hole
Under Rule 13.3, if any part of the ball is overhanging the lip, the player is allowed a ‘reasonable time’ to reach the hole and then 10 seconds to see if the ball would drop. Sagstrom, playing partner Nanna Koerstz Madsen and Europe captain Catriona Matthew argued that the ball was not going to drop in, but the ruling of the on-course official was confirmed.
A strict interpretation of the rule probably meant the decision was correct, but the American duo did not instigate the intervention and there were suggestions that, as it may not have been in the spirit of the game, they could have allowed Europe to win the next hole – as has happened occasionally in football when teams have allowed opponents to walk in a goal – and level the match up once again.
An emotional Sagstrom questions the decision to award the eagle at the par-five 13th to Team USA
Sagstrom was visibly upset by the incident, along with some subsequent shouts from spectators, and spoke about letting the team down, but was quickly sent back out on the course the next morning by Matthew in the opening foursomes alongside Georgia Hall, producing a battling performance as the pair lost on the 18th to Danielle Kang and Austin Ernst.
The 28-year-old was also put out second in the singles and few would begrudge her the 3&2 victory she claimed over Ewing.
“I was really happy Catriona decided to put me out first thing on Sunday morning, just showing that she believes in me, showing that the team has got my back. That was really nice,” Sagstrom said after her win. “It’s been a great week. The team has obviously done amazing [but] I haven’t really contributed until today.”
The rules incident marred an excellent opening day in which the home crowd were generally well behaved – and quiet at times with very few European fans in attendance as the visitors dominated – and was obviously not enjoyed by Sagstrom, but one thing it did do was generate a few additional headlines and publicity for the competition.
Nelly Korda sort of out of sorts
World No 1 Nelly Korda, fresh from her Olympic gold medal, claimed a point from that match against Sagstrom and Koerstz Madsen, but she had been beaten 1up alongside her sister Jessica in the morning foursomes by Mel Reid and Leona Maguire when the USA’s star pairing had been billed as strong favourites.
She then looked completely out of sorts alongside Ewing once again in Sunday’s foursomes as they were destroyed 5&4 by Reid and Maguire, playing some uncharacteristically poor shots.
Korda, who was undefeated at Gleneagles last time, was then rested for the afternoon fourballs amid suggestions her recent schedule had taken its toll, but USA captain Pat Hurst insisted that had always been the plan.
Nelly Korda and Ally Ewing fell further behind in their Sunday foursomes match against Mel Reid and Maguire after the world No 1 thinned a shot from the bunker into the penalty area
“I need my girls for the singles. That’s where they shine, and I needed them rested up for that,” she said.
Hurst’s decision worked out as Korda, despite appearing a little tired, claimed a singles point for the United States with a battling 1up victory over Georgia Hall.
“Coming into this week ranked No 1 is not easy. There’s definitely a lot more pressure on you,” she said afterwards.
“I legitimately played Evian, Olympics, British and then this, so theoretically I’m playing like four major golf courses in a row, so it’s definitely been a little mentally draining because you have to concentrate so much more on these hard golf courses and making sure you’re not making so many mistakes and taking your losses when you can. But it’s been a lot of fun.”
‘Superwoman’ Maguire makes her mark
Leona Maguire was the first Irish player to appear in the Solheim Cup as she made her debut, but the 26-year-old looked like a veteran as she stormed her way around the Inverness Club course and became the only player to feature in all five sessions.
Her pairing with Reid appeared an unlikely one at first, but they gelled perfectly together with some excellent performances, taking down the Korda sisters and then Nelly Korda and Ewing in the foursomes and then salvaging a vital half-point in the Sunday fourballs against Jennifer Kupcho and Lizette Salas.
Highlights of Reid and Maguire’s 5&4 victory over Nelly Korda and Ewing
Maguire also teamed up with Hall to beat Yealimi Noh and Brittany Altomare in Friday’s fourballs to go into the singles unbeaten, and earn her the label of “Superwoman” from Dottie Pepper ahead of her showdown with Kupcho.
She then cemented that tag as well as being labelled Europe’s MVP with four-and-a-half points – the most ever won by a rookie in the competition – as she demolished the previously impressive Kupcho 5&4 in the singles, taking control by winning four of the first seven holes with more brilliant golf.
Maguire says ‘she couldn’t have asked for a better week’ after completing an unbeaten Solheim Cup debut for Europe with a 5&4 victory over Jennifer Kupcho
The sight of Maguire fist pumping after holing crucial putts will be one of the defining images of the event and Reid was quick to pay tribute to her.
“She’s a fantastic player. My role was to kind of make her feel comfortable as someone who’s been on a few Solheim Cups, and just very, very impressed with her. That grit and determination is second to none, and it’s been an honour playing with her the last few days.”
The future is clearly bright for Ireland’s new golfing superstar.
Kupcho stars on Super Sunday
Kupcho was another rookie to take to the Solheim Cup like a duck to water – at least until her singles defeat to Maguire – as she picked up two-and-a-half points for the USA alongside Salas over the first two days.
The 24-year-old produced some superb shots on Sunday, holing lengthy birdie putts and chipping in for what appeared a crucial birdie at the 17th against Maguire and Reid, before Reid produced her sensational approach shot at the 18th.
Highlights of Lizette Salas and Kupcho’s 3&1 victory over Anna Nordqvist and Matilda Castren
Mina Harigae was another American to hole some monster putts on a day of brilliant golf which Trish Johnson described as one of the best ever.
“I’m trying to think if I’ve seen anything better, more dramatic or more exciting,” said the eight-time Solheim Cup player. “Chip shots going in from everywhere, putts being holed from everywhere, unexpectedly. People who look like they are going to lose the hole, end up winning the hole.
Highlights of Reid and Maguire’s halved match against Salas and Kupcho
“It’s been relentless all day long. And apart from maybe the last day at Gleneagles, I think that could be the best single day that I have even seen at a Solheim Cup.”
All-round quality the key for Europe
The European Solheim Cup teams in the past were often dominated by a few stars with several inexperienced players – at least in world and LPGA terms – making up the numbers.
This led to an over-reliance on the leading players as they were overworked over the opening two days, resulting in some jaded singles performances.
This year’s European team, however, possessed an all-round strength probably not seen before with a massive amount of LPGA Tour experience and plenty of victories, including majors, to their names.
As a result, Catriona Matthew was able to rotate her side to keep them relatively fresh for the singles which paid off as her team closed out the victory in the singles.
Europe vice-captain Laura Davies highlighted the team’s quality, saying: “There’s no superstars in this team. They are just 12 exceptionally good, great golfers that are going to win a lot of tournaments over the years. I think this is the strongest we have ever produced.”
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