Abject Europe humiliated in singles battle

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The Independent Online
In a stunning reversal of fortune, America finished as they had started, retaining the Solheim Cup by an 17-11 margin that hardly reflected the close-fought nature of the match. The visitors, who began the final day with a two-point deficit, crushed the Europeans' hopes with a 10-2 win in the singles.

The stampede was led by Michelle McGann's victory over world No 1 Laura Davies, and they reached the crucial 14-point mark when Kelly Robbins holed from three feet at the last to earn a half against Alison Nicholas. "I didn't really know that my last putt was the deciding factor," Robbins admitted. Given that the home side were drowning in a peat bog of red figures on the scoreboard, a miss by Robbins at that moment would have represented a cement lifebelt.

"Apart from the opening foursomes, I think the way we played was fantastic and I honestly thought we would go out and win," said Mickey Walker, the first Solheim captain to preside over a home defeat in the event. America had won the first series on Friday 31/2-1/2, but the middle three sessions were dominated by the Europeans as they established a nine-seven lead by Saturday night.

But, as on the final day two years ago at The Greenbrier, when they won the singles 8-2, the Americans were the stronger when it mattered. "When we came over here, we did not anticipate being down by Saturday night," Judy Rankin, the US captain, said. "We were a little shocked. Our pride was not hurt, because people had played very well against us. But it was not a position we wanted to end up in."

Walker was expecting points from her top order and Annika Sorenstam, the US Open champion, duly obliged with a 2 and 1 win over Pat Bradley. With three wins and two halves, the Swede was the leading point scorer overall, but as she was finishing on the 17th, the Americans were up in nine of the remaining matches.

Attention fell on the third match between Davies and McGann. Davies had led Europe's recovery from the No 1 position in the draw with three wins, claiming 11 birdies in 26 holes of fourball play. Yesterday, she did not make one. "I made everything I looked at for three matches, but I could not make a putt on the last day," Davies said.

Three up after the 14th, McGann's only poor shot was pushing her approach into the water at the 15th to allow Davies gain a hole back. But at the next, a par-three of 210 yards, McGann hit her three-wood to four feet while Davies missed the green and the end came 3 and 2. "At no point did I think we would lose," Davies said. "My match was not a key. Every point is as vital as the next." But that is not how the Americans saw it.

"It was a big win," said Betsy King, who took care of Marie-Laure de Lorenzi 5 and 4 which brought the Americans level. Joanne Morley went down by the same margin to Rosie Jones, but the Scot, Kathryn Marshall was unlucky in coming up against Val Skinner. Marshall was the only member of her side not to drop a shot, but Skinner was four under for the first 10 holes of their match.

Lotte Neumann claimed a half against Beth Daniel, but it was not enough to buck the trend. Lisa Hackney rallied on the back nine before falling to Brandie Burton at the last, while Dottie Pepper won four out of six holes to beat Trish Johnson 3 and 2. A birdie at the 17th put Nicholas one up on Robbins, but while the American had to get up and down for her birdie at the last, Nicholas took three-putts for a par.

Having seen her team struggle on the front nine all week, Rankin cajoled them into starting out better with the ditty: "Roses are red, Europe is blue, you play well on the back, but how about the front, too?"

"Basically, the Americans outplayed us today," Walker said. Having tasted victory at Dalmahoy four years ago, but also three defeats, this may be her last time as captain. "It is impossible to say," she said of a fifth term. "I doubt it. Four is enough."

Europe 11 US 17

Friday foursomes: Europe 1/2 US 31/2

Friday fourballs: Europe 21/2 US 11/2

Saturday foursomes: Europe 31/2 US 1/2

Saturday fourballs: Europe 21/2 US 11/2

Sunday singles: Europe 2 US 10

How each player did in the Solheim Cup:

EUROPE Played Pts

Alfredsson 4 11/2

Davies 5 3

De Lorenzi 4 1

Hackney 2 1

Johnson 4 21/2

Marshall 3 11/2

Morley 2 0

Neumann 5 2

Nicholas 3 1

Nilsmark 5 21/2

Reid 2 0

Sorenstam 5 4

US Played Pts

Bradley 2 0

Burton 3 2

Daniel 4 2

Geddes 4 11/2

Jones 3 2

King 3 3

Mallon 4 21/2

McGann 4 2

Pepper 4 3

Robbins 5 2

Sheehan 4 2

Skinner 4 2

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