Suzann Pettersen pulls the winning card as Europe stun US to regain Solheim Cup

Norwegian announces retirement after justifying controversial wild card selection

  Suzann Pettersen celebrates after her putt on the 18th green secured the Solheim Cup for Europe against the United States at Gleneagles Golf Club in  Auchterarder, Scotland. Photograph:   Jane Barlow/PA Wire

Suzann Pettersen celebrates after her putt on the 18th green secured the Solheim Cup for Europe against the United States at Gleneagles Golf Club in Auchterarder, Scotland. Photograph: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

 

Discussion raged for two days over how long players were taking to play Solheim Cup shots. The event has waited 29 years for this, its finest conclusion. If women’s golf, especially in Europe, cannot build upon such theatre then there really is no hope.

In the kind of denouement script writers lie awake while conjuring up, even the key protagonist was as if hand picked. There was one putt left in the 16th meeting of Europe and the United States. Suzann Pettersen, subject to epic ridicule after a controversial incident during her last participation in this duel, four years ago, had an eight-footer to claim back the cup.

Pettersen, 635th in the world after a career break to start a family, versus Marina Alex was the only match still in play. As word spread that Europe, written off Europe, underdog Europe, suddenly had a chance of landing a sucker punch on the United States a sporting world turned its attention as one. The Norwegian exploded with joy as the ball reached the bottom of the cup.

Pettersen was soon joined by euphoric team-mates, who had been privately resigned to defeat only 40 minutes earlier. Amid that debacle in Germany in 2015, Pettersen spent the aftermath crying in a locked hotel room. To suggest this was an altogether different scene barely paints an appropriate picture. This was the ultimate redemption. It was followed, even more amazingly, by her retirement.

“This is it; professionally, I’m done,” said the 38-year-old. “This is perfect closure. That’s it, I’m done. This is a good end to a great career.”

It remains to be seen whether Pettersen sticks to her plan once emotion subsides but it seems safe to assume that her Solheim Cup run will end at nine. And on the ultimate high.

In maintaining a mood of farewell, Juli Inkster confirmed she will call time on US captaincy duties after three stints.

Europe 14½, US 13½. A tie would have been sufficient for the US to retain the trophy. Gleneagles staged a gargantuan tussle. From a starting Sunday position of 8-8, common consensus was that the greater strength in depth of Inkster’s side would prevail. Instead, Catriona Matthew presided over a victory that reverberated way beyond Perthshire.

“I always had faith in Suzann,” said Matthew. “It was just unbelievable. There has never been a better moment.”

If focus understandably centred on Pettersen, the heroics of Bronte Law also require appreciation. The Englishwoman won three of her last four holes against Ally McDonald to seal a 2 and 1 victory. This meant Pettersen’s match mattered.

Law had been one down after 10. At that juncture, a tie – or US victory – looked inevitable. Brittany Altomare thumped Jodi Ewart Shadoff 5 and 4 and both Korda sisters, Nelly and Jessica, added to the US tally. As Angel Yin defeated Azahara Muñoz and Lizette Salas took down Anne van Dam by a hole, the European outlook was grim.

With the outcome still in the balance, Charley Hull made an awful mess of the 18th when one up on Megan Khang. This marked the second time Hull had let a winning position slip on the last; such margins can, in normal circumstances, determine events such as this. “I feel pretty happy,” said Hull. “I think I was one down with about five or six to play, so to halve the match is not too bad.” This won’t be a candidate for analysis of the year. Thankfully, alas, it barely mattered.

Carlota Ciganda had fuelled hopes of an unlikely European win with a one up success over Danielle Kang in game one. Georgia Hall, outstanding once again in the Solheim Cup, ensured four wins from as many games as Lexi Thompson was seen off 2 and 1. In Thompson’s defence, she had been battling a back problem which had placed her singles appearance in morning doubt.

Anna Nordqvist, out of sorts over the first two days, recovered brilliantly to see off Morgan Pressel 4 and 3. Céline Boutier, like Pettersen a Matthew wildcard pick, was a 2 and 1 victor over Annie Park.

Such details are of course intrinsically linked to the outcome. Yet the defining moment dwarfed all before it and, inevitably, so much that will follow. In this age, where so many final acts are lazily classed among the greatest ever, this was a genuine jaw-dropper. Farewell, Suzann; and thanks for the drama. – Guardian

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