News & Opinion

Pettersen drops 2 stunners in Solheim Cup

It took only 30 minutes for the U.S. to go from winning the Solheim Cup to retaining the cup to losing it

GLENEAGLES, Scotland – It took only 30 minutes for the U.S. to go from winning the Solheim Cup to retaining the cup to losing it. Suzann Pettersen sank a 7-foot left-to-right birdie putt on the 18th hole at Gleneagles’ PGA Centenary Course for a 14½-13½ European victory Sunday.

It was the first victory by Europe’s top female professionals in their biennial series with the Americans since an 18-10 shocker at Colorado Golf Club in 2013.

Catriona Matthew, Solheim Cup
European captain Catriona Matthew, draped in the Scottish flag, enjoys getting her hands on the Solheim Cup.

After the winning putt dropped, Pettersen dropped another stunner.

“I think this is a perfect closure – the end for my at least Solheim career, and also a nice ‘the end’ for professional career,” said Pettersen, a 15-time winner on the LPGA who went 18-12-6 in nine Solheim Cups. “It doesn't get any better (scores).”

Pettersen had been a controversial captain’s pick by Catriona Matthew. Pettersen, 38, of Norway, had made only four LPGA starts – three missed cuts and a T-59 – since November 2017, because of time off for an injury and for the birth of her first child.

The end of the singles matches proved to be the most dramatic 30 minutes of the three-day matches.

“I could barely watch, actually,” European captain Catriona Matthew said. “It's far worse watching. When you're playing, you're kind of in the zone and in the moment, and you've got control over things. But watching, you just have to faith in the player that's there, and they're all good players. And I had confidence they were going to do it. But it comes down to that,” she said of Pettersen’s winning stroke.

With three of the 12 singles matches still on the course, the U.S. seemingly had a third consecutive victory for captain Juli Inkster in hand. The Americans needed only a halve in those final three matches to retain the cup.

With Europe’s Anna Nordqvist winning handily in an eventual 4-and-3 victory against Morgan Pressel, the cup seeming would come down to two matches: U.S. Solheim Cup rookie Ally McDonald versus European captain’s pick Bronte Law, which was all-square through 15 holes; and U.S. rookie Marina Alex against Pettersen, which also was tied, through 16 holes.

When Law left her shot in the greenside bunker on the par-4 15th, the U.S. appeared poised to take the lead. However, McDonald, who was a late substitute for captain’s pick Stacy Lewis, three-putted to halve the hole with bogeys.

Law hit two solid shots on the par-5 16th hole and made an uphill 13-footer for birdie to take the lead for the first time since the seventh hole. A two-putt par at the par-3 17th sealed a 2-and-1 victory for Law and Europe.

With the point posted and the Solheim Cup tied at 13½, the cup hinged on the last match on the course, Game 10 between Alex and Pettersen. A tie would have allowed the Americans to retain the cup.

Alex appeared to hold the advantage when she found the fairway on the par-5 18th hole as Pettersen strayed into right rough off the tee. But cautiously, Alex decided to lay up instead of going for the green and adding pressure on Pettersen, a miscalculation that ultimately would cost the U.S. the cup.

“I'm not sure she could get over that hump,” Inkster said of Alex’s decision to lay up.

After playing her recovery shot to within wedge distance, Pettersen was just yards away from Alex’s ball and then hit her third shot past the pin and watched it spin back to 7 feet.

Alex’s shot lacked a similar spin, and the ball stayed 10 feet above the hole, from where the American grazed the right edge, setting the stage for Pettersen to bring the cup back to Europe.

“Sometimes you’ve just got to tip your hat to Suzann and say, ‘Good on ya,’ ” Inkster said.

Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: alex@morningread.com; Twitter: @AlexMiceli