The miracle of Gleneagles
Wild-card Pettersen grabs Solheim Cup victory for Europe with final-putt heroics
‘How could you ask for anything more? I guess you just have to grab the moment’
Redemption does not begin to describe it. The villainess became the heroine, Europe became the Solheim Cup winners and even the Ryder Cup was obliged to bow in terms of matchplay drama. The script could not have been penned any better, with Suzann Pettersen, courtesy of the final putt of the match, on the final green, and with what may well turn out to be the final putt of her career, denying America a third successive victory.
With respect to the likes of Georgia Hall and Bronte Law – the latter being the English first-timer whose guts essentially set up Pettersen’s grandstand moment – and to Catriona Matthew, the Scottish captain, this was the Norwegian’s time. There the 38-year-old stood, over an eight-footer for the win, not only for her encounter against Marina Alex, but for the entire match and her entire continent.
The only time the Ryder Cup has witnessed anything like it was first when Bernhard Langer agonisingly missed his short putt in 1991 and then when Martin Kaymer joyously holed his in 2012. But both of those were “only” to ensure a half in the match and retain the trophy. This was for the entire shebang – eight feet of hit or bust, do or sigh.
The identity of the protagonist made it yet more of a fantastical scene. Maybe it was not the “Miracle of Medinah” because, after all, Europe had begun the day tied at 8-8, before taking the ultimate session 6½-5½. Yet the “Phenomenon in Perthshire” is a justified sobriquet, Pettersen conjuring seven birdies as she refused to submit.
If it is remarkable that this controversial wild-card selection only gave birth to her son, Herman, a year ago and was picked by Matthew having played only two events in almost two years, then somehow that actually seemed secondary to her history in this event.
To think, in her last Solheim, Pettersen, the former world No2, had earned scorn across the globe
She did not know exactly what was at stake, only that ‘I could not miss’
for not conceding an 18-inch putt to rookie Alison Lee and affording the US impetus to reassert their domination. America won in 2017 as well, and Juli Inkster arrived with the mission of becoming the first captain to attain a hat-trick. Yes, so much was riding on that putt.
“How could you ask for anything more?” Pettersen said on the 18th green, tears rolling down her face after being mobbed by her captain and team-mates. “I guess you just have to grab the moment.” Except it was not only that moment, that eight-footer on the par-five last for the birdie and the win over Alex that gave Europe and Matthew their 14½-13½ glory and their first Solheim celebration in six years.
This was an afternoon so comprehensively packed with significant moments it was difficult to comprehend what was significant and what was not, as the projection leapt this way and that. Best to look at that final 30 minutes when the emotions swamped all those brains here and on armchairs across the world desperately trying to work out the mathematics. Basically it came down to the last matches left on the course. Law and Pettersen were both level and, with the US leading at 13½-12½, there was absolutely no margin for error.
Law was astonishing in her gumption, her status as a debutant looking absurd as she holed an eight-footer on the 15th for a half, after taking two out of a bunker, and then going one-up with a 20-footer for a birdie on the 16th. A par was good enough to close it out 2&1 on the 17th and Stockport should be very proud of their 24-year-old. What a prospect she is.
It was ironic that the talk over the first few days had depressingly focused on the pace of play because now the pace was utter perfection. As Law shook hands with Ally Mcdonald, Pettersen was lining up her putt on the hole ahead. She did not know exactly what was at stake, only that “I could not miss”. The remarkable scenes of the singles session flashed before the eyes of the observers and at that stage an eerie silence swept across the glen.
It had begun with Carlota Ciganda grasping a point in the opening match that went to the 18th and which set the tone. Danielle Kang was the Spaniard’s victim and, after her extraordinary state
ments in the build-up – “we want to take their souls” – that appeared so appropriate. Ciganda’s soul was intact, as were Europe’s ambitions.
They took three of the first four matches, with England’s Hall winning her fourth point from four games by fending off world No 3 Lexi Thompson 2&1. Her foursomes and fourballs partner, France’s Celine Boutier, was later to emulate Hall when defeating Annie Park, also by 2&1, establishing the pair as only the third and fourth Europe players ever to accomplish this feat.
Charley Hull also went unbeaten but the 23-year-old from Kettering was devastated when making an awful hash of the last to hand a half to Megan Khang. Hull had won three out of four points and had nothing to apologise for, but at that stage it did appear crucial and the odds said that the US would just have enough. But then Law and Pettersen went to work.
Afterwards, Pettersen implied that might be it, as far as she is concerned as a professional golfer. Surely not? Not after this.
Flag-bearers: Europe’s players celebrate winning the Solheim Cup after a thrilling day of singles matches at Gleneagles