TOLEDO – Europe, fueled by rookies Matilda Castren and Leona Maguire, beat the United States 15-13 to retain golf’s Solheim Cup in Toledo, Ohio on Monday (Sept 7).
Finland’s Castren fired out of a bunker and drained her putt at the 18th to secure a 1-up victory over American Lizette Salas for the point that ensured Europe would retain the trophy it won in 2019 at Gleneagles in Scotland.
The Europeans came into the final day of the biennial match-play showdown between European and US women needing five points from 12 singles matches to gain the 14 they needed to take the Cup back home from Inverness Club in Ohio.
Ireland’s Maguire – like Castren, the first woman from her country to play in the Solheim Cup – fittingly delivered Europe’s first point of the day with a dominant 5&4 victory over Jennifer Kupcho.
Maguire, who had already partnered to deliver three and a half points over the first two days in fourball and foursome matches, seized the lead with an eagle at the par-five second and never looked back.
“Just so proud of getting four-and-a-half points on the board for Europe,” said Maguire, who became only the third player to earn four-and-a-half or more points in the Solheim Cup.
“I just tried to get off to a really good start and that eagle on the second – couldn’t have started any better than that,” she said.
“Made birdie on six, which is a hole I haven’t played well all week,” said Maguire, whose approach at the sixth flew over the pin and left her an eight-footer for birdie.
“I just wanted to put pressure on Jen from the get-go,” she added after sealing the victory with a par at the 14th hole.
Sweden’s Madelene Sagstrom, who was involved in a rules controversy on day one, put the next point on the board for Europe with a 3&2 victory over Ally Ewing.
And France’s Celine Boutier polished off a 5&4 victory over Mina Harigae before a tense tussle between Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist and Lexi Thompson ended tied, giving the Americans their first half-point of the day.
The Americans, backed by rowdy crowds, were able to dial up the pressure as the afternoon wore on.
World number one Nelly Korda was 2-down early but rallied to win a back-and-forth battle with England’s Georgia Hall 1-up. American Brittany Altomare, with the aid of a couple of monster putts, won four of the last five holes for a 2&1 victory over Spain’s Carlota Ciganda.
But after Denmark’s Nanna Koerstz Madsen halved her match with Austin Ernst, the remaining six matches were must-wins for the United States.
Castren knew the stakes were high when she took a 1-up lead to the final hole against Salas, and she was elated after getting the job done.
“It’s hard to put it into words,” she said. “Right now I’m shaking. I was looking at the scoreboard, and I knew it was going to be an important putt. We read it perfectly and it went in. I’m just so happy now.”
Europe’s players – who because of coronavirus travel restrictions played in front of an overwhelmingly pro-American crowd – were able to celebrate in full after Emily Pederson completed her 1-up victory over Danielle Kang in the final match to seal the outright win.
US captain Pat Hurst said the Americans were “behind the eight-ball” after the opening day on Saturday – when Europe took a five-and-a-half – two-and-a-half lead.
The Americans came on strong in the Sunday morning foursomes matches, but by the end of the second day, Europe were back in charge with a 9-7 lead going into the final day.
“We fought our way back,” Hurst said, noting that the final score was “still going to be close.
“But it’s not good enough,” she added. “It is what it is. They played with heart and that’s what we’re asking for.”
Nordqvist said the pandemic travel restrictions that kept many European fans from attending made it “tough” on the course.
“You don’t get any claps,” she said “You don’t even know if you’re on the green or not.” But Boutier said the European team – who won their fourth Solheim Cup in the past six editions – may have benefitted from their isolation.
“Team chemistry has been unbelievable,” the French player said. “I think the fact that we’re all secluded here amongst all the Americans kind of brings us closer together.”