'Freaking dogs' storm singles to beat Europeans

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The Independent Online

European endeavour and fighting spirit finally had to give way to superior American play as the visitors dominated the singles to retain the Solheim Cup comfortably 16-12.

Helen Alfredsson's team had battled away to somehow take a lead into the final session but of Europe's leading performers only Catriona Matthew and Laura Davies won as the Americans took the singles by 8 points to 3.

The home side had the persistent support of 100,000 Swedes over the week but, on the other hand, Dottie Pepper was working against them. Pepper, "feisty" to her compatriots back when she was in the Solheim Cup, was never much liked in the European team room. Once, a punch bag was decorated with her photograph.

But this weekend Pepper, now a commentator, became a figure of ire in the American team room after her comments about the US players being "choking freaking dogs" went out on American television when she thought she was off air. The remarks crossed the Atlantic and swept around Halmstad as fast as the internet could take them but Betsy King, the US captain, tried to downplay their affect on the visitors.

"I don't think Dottie's words had anything to do with it. We played really well today and it should be about us and not Dottie." But, to applause from her team, King added: "When you are retired, you can forget what it is like to be out there and if you're doing TV, whether Johnny Miller or anyone, you are obviously retired."

The Americans certainly had their problems at the 18th hole over the first four sessions of the match. Nine out of 16 matches went the distance and not once did the US win the final hole or a match there. A more objective observer than Pepper might have given credit to the Europeans for their never-give-up attitude and salvaging as much as they could from what always looked an uphill struggle.

Two wins and two halves in the final session of fourballs, completed yesterday morning after the delays caused by Saturday's gales, put Europe a point in front. But in the singles America's overwhelming advantage on the world rankings told. Few of the matches even got as far as the 18th and in the best match of the day rookie Stacy Prammanasudh made no mistake in completing a two-up win over Europe's only reigning major champion, Suzann Pettersen.

After Matthew led off with her third win of the week, Europe were looking for support from Sophie Gustafson and Pettersen but they both lost, with Gustafson beaten 2 and 1 by Pat Hurst. Davies beat Brittany Lincicome 4 and 3 but there was little other blue on the board. Even the home superstar, Annika Sorenstam, losing the 15th and 16th holes, was defeated by Morgan Pressel.

"It was an amazing week to see my players fight on every single shot," said Alfredsson. "There was a lot of heart and soul but they just played better than us today."

Nicole Castrale claimed the winning point and Paula Creamer ended as the top point scorer with three wins and a half from five matches. This was America's seventh win from the 10 contests and with youngsters like the 21-year-old Creamer, who has now won seven points out of 10 in two matches, and 19-year-old Pressel, they could be favourites for years to come.

"This is just awesome," said Castrale, who has enjoyed a breakthrough season with her first LPGA victory at the Ginn Tribute in Florida in June. "I played really well and this is one of the best years of my life."

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