The script lived out in a real life drama, after this 18th edition of the Solheim Cup – played out on a course chiselled into the mountainside, a perfect stage for the cast of characters – left both Europe and the United States locked together at 14-14 after the final singles session, but fittingly with Carlota Ciganda, the only Spaniard in the team, getting the point that enabled Suzann Pettersen’s team to retain the trophy for a historic third straight time.
After wins in Gleneagles in Scotland (2019) and Inverness Country Club in Toledo, Ohio (2023), this latest instalment saw the match finish in a tie for the first time in the match’s history.
Yet, the scenes which greeted Ciganda’s birdie on the 17th, to defeat Nelly Korda, an invasion of the green et al, akin to that of the Ryder Cup at Brookline in 1999, only served to underscore how much this retention of the famed Waterford Cyrstal trophy meant.
To the players, for sure, but also to the huge galleries who had shown traits of mountain goats in navigating routes around the hilly terrain to ensure their presence added a vibrancy to the drama which unfolded before them.
Ciganda’s singles win over Korda gave her a perfect four from four wins – 100 per cent record – to emerge as Europe’s top points scorer, but there were other star performers on a day which swung in so many different directions and with the outcome undecided until Lexi Thompson’s win over Emily Pedersen on the 17th in the bottom match confirmed the result as a tied match.
But it was Europe who celebrated as winners, kissing the trophy and spraying cava on each other’s blue and gold starred tops with justifiable joy. The heroines of the hour took centre stage. Maguire. Nordqvist. Hedwall. Stark. Ciganda. One and all.
From suffering a whitewash in the opening morning foursomes session on Friday, Europe’s resurgence was fittingly completed with Ciganda applying the artful touch to complete the recovery. Others had earlier provide their own brushstrokes.
Leona Maguire, for one.
On the 14th green, Maguire rolled in a 60-footer for eagle to go with the five birdies she had managed in the previous 13 holes in another hugely impressive appearance. The Cavan golfer’s 4 and 3 win over Rose Zhang – the future of American golf! – was a statement and the fist pumps that had greeted each of those holed putts on her journey around Finca Cortesin allowed an insight into how her inner self works.
Maguire’s win was clearcut. Others, though, came the hard way and in unlikely fashion in the case of Caroline Hedwall who was three down with six holes to play against Ally Ewing yet contrived to cover her last six holes in six-under, which included the concession of an eagle putt on the 18th, for a two holes win.
There was a flipside too. Georgia Hall had seemed set to win her singles, two up with four to play against Andrea Lee. She had to settle for a halved point. So too Gemma Dryburgh. The Scot was three up through seven holes against Cheyenne Knight but also had to settle for a halved point. Ultimately, both were precious additions in the overall scheme of things.
Hedwall’s heroics seemed to be snatched from somewhere unseen. From being bossed by Ewing, the veteran Swede – a wild card pick – unearthed some of her old magic. Once the birdie putt on the 13th rolled into the tin cup, it set her on a finishing charge to which Ewing had no answer.
“I was just trying to give myself birdie opportunities and trying to force, just keep my match alive. I just hit good golf shots and good putts, and just happy to put my point on the board,” said Hedwall afterwards.
Pettersen was succinct. “That’s why I picked her,” said the Norwegian.
Ciganda enjoyed every moment of her Solheim Cup on home turf, using her hands like a conductor to encourage the crowds and using her clubs like a magician to produce one act after another to get the acclaim of those massed around the course. Her final act of sinking the short birdie putt, no more than two and a half feet, against Korda brought an invasion on to the greens. Not right, but understandable perhaps in the circumstances.
For Pettersen, her side’s recovery from the despair of Friday morning’s whitewash was a sign of their character.
As she put it, “We got off to a rocky start, but I wonder if it was almost a nice wake-up call for all of us. We’ve all been on a pretty much high road for a few years now, and maybe that was a good. I believe in fate, so maybe that was meant to happen. you get knocked down, you stand back up. You know what, life can be tough, but it’s how you stand back up, and that shows character. I think it really shows the character of this team.”
She’ll get to do it all again in just 12 months time, in Virginia. This drama will be a hard act to follow.