ANALYSIS: How Did the U.S. Beat Their European Counterparts in the Solheim Cup?

September 10, 2017

- Grant Whittington

If the Ryder Cup remains the single most iconic tournament in the men’s season, then the Solheim Cup serves as the equivalent in the lady’s game.

This year saw the 15th edition of the biennial Solheim Cup, which was first contested as the female game began to evolve at pace in 1990. While it may lack the history and the heritage of the Ryder Cup, it has quickly managed to capture the imagination of fans and is now firmly established as a prominent feature of the global calendar.

This years’ iteration was one of the best yet, as the U.S. romped to a relatively comfortable win over their continental rivals. This also represented the 10th time that America has lifted the Solheim Cup, while Europe have emerged victorious on just five occasions.

A Look Back at the Solheim Cup: How Did the Tournament Pan Out?

This years’ iteration was held at the picturesque Des Moines Golf and Country Club in Iowa, USA, with the U.S. looking to retain their title after a narrow, single point victory over Europe in Germany two years previously. Interestingly, organisers decided not to use either of the venue’s stand-alone courses, instead creating a composite course that included nine holes from each. This added an interesting dimension to the tournament, particularly given that it was contested approximately 950 feet above sea level.

The tournament began in earnest with the morning foursomes on August 18th, with Melissa Reid and Charley Hull leaving Europe dormie-2 in the opening salvo after an excellent start. The U.S. were indebted to Cristie Kerr and Lexi Thompson, however, who won the last two holes in thrilling style to halve the match. This provided brief respite for the U.S. during the foursomes, however, as Europe’s Karine Icher and Catrinoa Matthew won three of the final four holes in the final match to steal a superb victory.

This left Europe a point clear as the tournament progressed into the afternoon, as the continent looked to secure its first Solheim Cup since 2018 (when it prevailed by a huge 18-10 scoreline).

The turning point came during the afternoon four-balls on the first day, during which the U.S. won all four matches and established a three point lead that they never looked like relinquishing. This was also the first time that the States had ever swept an entire session in the Solheim Cup, while the nature of each win was extremely convincing and unexpected. Angel Yin and Lizette Salas (more on her later) thrashed Carlota Ciganda and Emily Kristine Pedersen by 6 & 5, for example, striking a psychological blow that Europe struggled to recover from.

A Decisive Second Day: How Europe Struggled to Compete

The second day scarcely started any better for Europe, who lost the opening two morning foursomes by 5&3. Although they recovered to win the final two matches (Karine Icher and Catrinoa Matthew delivered a narrow and nerve-jangling victory over Michelle Wie and rookie Danielle Kang in the final contest), Europe entered the afternoon with a huge mountain to climb.

True to form, the United States responded in the afternoon four-balls, winning three of the four matches to assume a five point lead. Cristie Kerr and Lexi Thompson were at the heart of this success, as they were paired for the sixth time in Solheim Cup history (and second in 2017) and managed to maintain their unbeaten run in the tournament. In fact, their 4&2 win over Catrinoa Matthew and Georgia Hall was their fourth Solheim Cup win in tandem, during which time they have competed across 16 holes and posted a combined score of 12 under par.

As dusk began to set in above Des Moines course, so too the four-balls came to an end and the reality of the challenge facing Europe began to dawn on captain Annika Sörenstam. More specifically, the States’ series of impressive performances had enabled them to establish a truly commanding five point lead over the Europeans, leaving them in a position where they were simply required to claim three-and-a-half points from the final day round of singles matches to retain their title.

This was undoubtedly the decisive day in the 2017 Solheim Cup, and one that left the European side needing a minor miracle to prevail.

The Denouement: How the U.S. Sealed a 10th Solheim Cup Win

When Europe took to the course on the final day, the team knew that they needed to win the first hole if they were to lay down a market and instantly reduce the U.S. team lead. They looked well placed to achieve this too, as Anna Nordqvist won the first four holes against a shell-shocked Lexi Thompson and built a four shot advantage with just nine to play. The match proved to be a microcosm of the event as a whole, however, as the U.S. player rallied with eagles at the 11th and the 15th to gain a one shot lead.

Although Nordqvist ultimately halved the hole, it was apparent to everyone that the Europe had missed their opportunity to remain competitive in the tournament.

This was borne out by American victories in the following two matches, as Paula Creamer defeated Georgia Hall and the unbeaten Kerr earned a 2 & 1 win over Melissa Reid. Angel Yin then went dormie in her match-up with Karine Icher, before Lizette Salas sink a decisive put against Jodi Ewart Shadoff and earn the coveted 14th point that reaffirmed America’s status as Solheim Cup champions.

The Last Word: A Job Well Done for the U.S. Team

The U.S. ultimately prevailed by 16-and-a-half points to 11-and-a-half, retaining the Solheim Cup and claiming their fifth triumph in the last seven outings.

With the next contest scheduled to take place at the Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire, Scotland in 2019, Europe will be hoping that home advantage could prove crucial in their bid to reverse their recent fortunes. They will have just two years to prepare for this tournament, however, and much work is to be done if they are to overcome an impressive American outfit.

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