CATRIONA MATTHEW’S magnificent European stars retained the Solheim Cup in glorious style with a memorable 15-13 victory in Ohio.
It was only the second time Europe had triumphed on US soil in ten attempts, but they led from the first morning to make a mockery of their underdog status.
Matthew became the first European captain to win twice, and the Scot was flooded with messages of congratulations from Ryder Cup stars – including Ian Poulter and Jon Rahm – who will try to make it a double celebration at Whistling Straits later this month.
Europe took a 9-7 lead into the singles, and they made the perfect start by putting the first three points on the board, with crushing victories for Leona Maguire, Madelene Sagstrom, and Celine Boutier.
Maguire, the first Irish golfer to play in the Solheim Cup, has been an absolute superstar for Matthew’s team. So it was no surprise to see her make short work of fellow newcomer Jennifer Kupcho.
Maguire was four up after just seven holes as she followed an eagle at the second hole with three birdies. And she never gave her opponent a sniff as she romped to a 5&4 victory.
That made it four and a half points out of a possible five – a record for a rookie from either team.
Sagstrom was on the receiving end of the controversial ruling on day one that handed the USA an unlikely point – officials decided she had picked up Nelly Korda’s ball from the edge of the hole and threw it back to her without allowing ten seconds to see if it would drop.
Sagstrom received overwhelming support from onlookers who felt there was no way the ball was teetering on the edge. But she still blamed herself, saying “I feel like I let the team down”.
She enjoyed a bit of payback after taking down Ally Ewing – Korda’s partner in that heated fourball match.
The Swede crurised home 3&2 to make it 11-7 to Europe, and it quickly became 12-7 as Celien Boutier of France thrashed Mina Harigae 5&4.
The Americans finally got the scoreboard moving as Lexi Thompson and Ann Niordquist shared the spoils in the first match on the course – a repeat of their classic 2017 shootout, which also ended all square.
World No 1 Nelly Korda then handed the home team their first full point of the day by squeezing home against Georgia Hall one up, and Europe still needed one and a half points from the remaining seven matches to retain the trophy.
But there is always some squeaky bum time in these events. And with Megan Khang and Yealimi Noh building big leads over Sophia Popov and Mel Reid, Matthew looked worried for the first time since Europe took a three point lead in the opening foursomes 48 hours earlier.
But the lower order were up to the task. A half for Finnish rookie Nanna Koerstz Madsen took them to the brink, and Matilda Carsten’s six foot downhiller for a one up victory meant they had the 14 points they needed to retain the trophy as defending champions.
And Emily Pedersen’s victory in the final match secured the outright victory.