There was no miracle at Des Moines to erase all the previous comebacks as Julie Inkster’s USA rode their fourballs dominance all the way to retaining the Solheim Cup in comfort yesterday.
Not even the threat of thunderstorms and some resistance from the European team under Annika Sorenstam could breach the five point gap built in the afternoon sessions of the first two days.
In the end that margin wasn’t breached on the final day with the signles shared 6-6 for final score of 16 ½ to 11 ½ in the USA’s favour. Losing seven games out of eight in the fourballs proved absolutely fatal to Annika Sorenstam’s hopes of winning back the cup lost in dramatic fashion in Germany two years ago.
US skipper Julie Inkster played a blinder all weekend, and a loud but respectful Iowa crowd – they don’t get many big events out here but they embraced this one wholly – provided the inspiration.
Inkster is only the second Solheim Cup captain to secure back-to-back victories after Judy Rankin.
“It’s just an honor to captain this team and I’m really proud of the girls,” she said.
“They just bonded. They believed in each other. They played for the person behind them and in front of them. And they played some amazing golf.”
For a while on the final afternoon which started two hours before scheduled because of the weather concerns Europe seemed to be on the verge of getting the necessary momentum they needed to overhaul the USA’s biggest final day advantage since 1998.
However the faint hopes were extinguished quickly by Inkster’s top four players, who got two and a half points to take them to a point of what they needed.
The final day was not without drama, with an all-time classic match between Lexi Thompson and Anna Nordqvist equal to anything seen in the Solheim or Ryder Cups. But even after the stalwart resistance of Catriona Matthew produced a remarkable comeback win, it only delayed the US victory by half an hour.
Europe of course needed a fast start, not just to get the fabled “blue on the scoreboard” that would hopefully filter doubt across the course, but also because Inkster had opted to front-load her singles draw with four key players in the hope of quashing any possibility of a comeback.
That was not without risk, and certainly her choice of Lexi Thompson to lead out the US against Anna Nordqvist looked initially questionable. Thompson missed a tiddler to half the first and lost the first four holes, still trailing four-down at the turn.
However after a birdie putt finally dropped at 10, she holed a wedge from 112 yards at the 11th, and that proved the real turning point. The tall World No 2 played the first seven holes of the back nine in a scorching eight-under, and edged ahead at 16 with birdie three.
That wasn’t the end of the drama, however. Thompson missed another short putt to win on the short 17, and almost inevitably Nordqvist hit a brilliant second to a foot at the 18th to win that hole and halve one of the wildest games in Solheim Cup history.
When Nordqvist had led by four, Europe’s hopes of a comeback did not appear nearly as far-fetched as many supposed. They were up in six games on the course, and the US led in just one, although it was far too early to build up hopes, and Inkster’s strategy eventually bore fruit.
Gradually the US pulled into a position of safety. Georgia Hall had a fine scrap with Paula Creamer which fluctuated both ways until the young English player – the only one on either side to play all five sessions – three-putted the last to lose one down.
Cristie Kerr never had more than a two-up lead on Mel Reid, but the English player simply missed too many putts and lost 2 and 1.
With just one more full point required the US got it in underwhelming circumstances, Lisette Salas securing a half when she went dormie two against Jodi Ewart Shadoff in a game the American had controlled much of the way round.
The other half came from the youngest player on the team, Inkster’s bold wildcard pick Angel Yin, who holed a testing come-backer at the 18th for a par and a half against Karine Icher. Salas eventually completed her one-up win to secure the match outright for the US with four matches still out on the course.
Caroline Masson of Germany, one of the best performers for Europe, comfortably defeated Michelle Wie 4 and 2, while Spain’s Carlota Ciganda belatedly won her first point beating Brittany Lincicome 4 and 3.
Charley Hull, who had sat out all of Saturday’s play with a wrist problem played well for a one-hole victory over Brittany Lang, while rookie Madelene Sagstrom pulled off a 3 and 2 victory over fellow debutant Austin Ernst.
But the Americans swept up the last two points through Gerina Piller and Daneille Kang to complete their handsome victory.