My all time favorite memory of watching golf on TV is from the 1999 Ryder Cup held at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. What made that day so special to me was the all out excitement of what was going on in that event, the overall magnitude of what was happening right before my eyes, and the dawning of a new era in the Ryder Cup matches. We were witnessing something so special that it was just one of those things that you just couldnâ€™t believe, yet you did believe because hole after hole, clutch shot after clutch shot, it just got better and better. At one point that October afternoon in 1999 it was finally clear that the American players simply would not be denied that Ryder Cup trophy and it didnâ€™t matter who the player or who the opponent, if there was a player wearing the ugly shirt with all the portraits on it, they were playing great golf and they were going to win their match. That day grabbed me so tightly as a young golf fan and I have not stopped loving the PGA Tour since. Now, I canâ€™t say that this Solheim Cup is the best golf event Iâ€™ve ever seen, but without a single doubt in my mind, I can tell you that this is the hands down greatest ladies golf event I have ever see. Period, end of story. That day in 1999 I became a devoted fan for life of the PGA Tour and on August 23, 2009 I could sense it happening literally as I watched. This was in fact the very day that I was moved beyond just a casual fan of the LPGA to someone who will now watch as absolute often as I can, these ladies have me hooked!
Everywhere you looked before the event finally teed off supposed experts told you how this will be a rout by the U.S. Because the girls of the red, white, and blue have all these players who rank higher in the world than all the ladies on the European side of the ball it was going to be a good old fashioned whoopinâ€™ just outside Chicago at Rich Harvest Farms. Yeah well, someone forgot to get Alison Nicholas and the rest of the European squad in on that memo.
The 2009 Solheim Cup seemed to start up just how it was supposedly scripted with the Americans winning the first point of the day, but as quickly as Paula Creamer and Cristie Kerr threw up that point for the U.S. they were answered by the Europeans when Helen â€œAlfieâ€ Alfredsson and Tania Elosegui racked up a point by beating Angela Stanford and Juli Inkster. The most lopsided match of Friday was the Brittany team (Lang/Lincicome) of the U.S. winning 5&4 over Laura Davies and Becky Brewerton. Teamed up with Morgan Pressel we witnessed Michelle Wie make her transformation right before our eyes, but more on that later. The team of Wie/Pressel would end up splitting a point with Catriona Matthew and Maria Hjorth in what would be a highly contested match and saw great shots and opportunities slip away by both sides. We didnâ€™t know it at the time, but this would be the last time Michelle Wie would surrender so much as a half point to any foe in the 2009 Solheim Cup. And so it began, just like that after the first half of the first day it looked to be apparent that the ladies from Europe were not going to simply lie down and witness another American domination. Both teams won 2 points in the afternoon session on Friday to end the first day with the U.S. owning a slim 1 point advantage- USA 4 Â½ Europe 3 Â½ .
We were finally let in on the Michelle Wie secret as her and Christina Kim dominated the team of Alfredsson/Elosegui right out of the shoot Saturday morning. This seemed to be a team with so much chemistry; I really expected to see this exact duo go out again in the afternoon but it appeared that Captain Daniel had her mind made up to get her rookie juggernaut with as many girls as possible and looking back, I cannot disagree with her at all. Saturday morning would end with the home team only winning one match and halving one more. Drawing to a tie with the American team seemed to rally the European squad and it was at this point where it became clear that the 2009 Solheim Cup was as up for grabs as it was before a single ball was hit. At this point it seemed that the team of Becky Brewerton and Gwladys Nocera were the masters of the foursome game as they again went on to hammer their opponents, this time a 5&4 beating of Christina Kim and Natalie Gulbis. As I watched I definitely began to second guess Beth Daniel on her decision to split up the team of Wie and Kim and it wasnâ€™t until Michelle Wie and Cristie Kerr were able to secure the win over Hjorth and Anna Nordqvist that I finally thought that Captain Daniel might know more than me. Still, what was supposed to be a land slide was now knotted up at 8 points apiece after day 2- USA 8 Europe 8, singles play next!
Every team competition features Sunday Singles, there is simply no hiding behind a partner now, itâ€™s everyone for themselves and may the best team win. This was certainly the case here; we obviously had two teams that were very evenly matched up to this point. Each captain had to have gone to bed Saturday night with a pretty good feeling of confidence going into Sunday, the European team has proven thus far that they can hang with these younger girls from the U.S. and Beth Daniel had to know that her girls were going to come with their best efforts in singles play, after all, she had the likes of Paula Creamer, Natalie Gulbis, and Morgan Pressel on her team, each girl undefeated in Solheim Cup singles. Daniel sent out Creamer, Angela Stanford, and Wie first to try to get some red up on the board early. Wie was yet to surrender a full point and Creamer was having a good cup so far with a 2-1 record in team play. Stanford on the other hand went into Sundayâ€™s singles with a 0-2-1 record but that didnâ€™t seem to matter any as she was the first American to seal a point with a 5&4 beat down of Becky Brewerton who had previously been on the other end of the lopsided matches enjoying some big wins in team play. Paula Creamer drew the difficult task of taking on long hitting Suzann Pettersen. Clearly with her hands full Creamer would have to play to her strengths and that is to knock the wedges close and make some clutch putts. That is exactly what she did as she went on to win the match convincingly 3&2.
Up to this point it was as if we had been introduced to a Michelle Wie that weâ€™ve never known before. While not as outgoing as Christina Kim, Wie certainly seemed to be coming out of her shell, she continued to impress everyone with clutch shots and some absolute bombs off the tee. As her singles match began Sunday it looked to be painfully obvious to Helen Alfredsson that she was up against it playing against opponent with the power and touch that Wie would continually display early on. Jumping out to a 3 up lead very early on in the match it looked as if Michelle Wie was going to make the course her own personal playground and fist pump and high five her way to an easy win. Just as we were getting ready to put a nail in the coffin of Alfredsson she was able to battle back and a few mistakes by Wie later, we had ourselves a tie ball game after 10 holes. Not one single person would hold Michelle Wie to anything but high regard after her 2009 Solheim Cup had she gone on to lose that match on Sunday, besides, she was playing against a true Solheim Cup veteran in Alfredsson. Wie did anything but fold down the stretch however. As the holes kept winding down and the match still very close Wie continued to hammer drives, often times immediately beginning to confidently walk a split second after impact as her ball would blast down the fairway. Wie eventually went on to a 1 up win over Helen Alfredsson and in the process finishing her rookie Solheim Cup campaign with a stellar 3-0-1 record, better than any other U.S. player and tied with Gwladys Nocera for overall points in the 2009 Solheim Cup.
The rest of the crew all seemed to rally after every red point was put on the board, what started out close would ultimately look like a land slide with the U.S. team taking the day 3 singles matches with an 8-4 advantage. Believe me, it was much closer than the score would reflect. Many of the matches were very much in doubt and at one point it was projected that we would see a 6-6 split in the singles play ultimately resulting in a 14-14 tie. While it might have appeared that way early in the proceedings on Sunday it would not pan out that way for the European team. Clearly both teams put their heart and soul into winning the Solheim Cup and European captain Alison Nicholas was visibly heartbroken after her girls fell short, they put up a valiant effort and have nothing to be ashamed of. There was just no denying the American girls on this day.
The clear cut player of the Solheim Cup for the European side was Gwladys Nocera who matched Michelle Wie with a total of 3 Â½ points earned. She teamed up with Becky Brewerton to absolutely hammer some teams in Foursomes and also went on to win a Four-Ball match Saturday morning with Maria Hjorth, the pair defeated Brittany Lincicome and Kristy McPherson 1 up. Nocrea would go on to halve her singles match against a late charging Juli Inkster. It appeared she had Inkster beat but seeing the red numbers symbolizing U.S. points seemed to rally Inkster more than any other American and she turned her match around and was able to scratch out a half point.
Captain Beth Daniel has had her picks scrutinized over and over since she made them following the Womenâ€™s British Open, but it would be Daniel who would have the last laugh. Juli Inkster has now passed Meg Mallon for the most points ever earned by a U.S. Solheim Cup player, her 1 Â½ points proved that she still has the game to compete, but after a very emotional 2009 Solheim Cup Juli Inkster announced that she is done as a player in the Solheim Cup. Hereâ€™s to you Juli, you are a great player and I am so glad that Beth Daniel believed in you! Michelle Wie was the other much debated captains pick. I would love to hear from the naysayers now after this amazingly dominant showing by Wie. She showed a side of her that not many have ever seen really, she is confident and she can close out a win, she was embraced by her teammates immediately and after playing like she did it would appear that she has cemented herself as a Solheim Cup superstar for years to come. Michelle Wie proved to everyone that she is worth all the hype and I personally cannot wait to see what the future holds for her.
While the 2009 Solheim Cup comes to a close just like many of the past events have, this one seemed a bit different to me. This event was so special in so many different ways that it is almost impossible to point out exactly one moment that really stood out. The lasting image for me will be the girls all running around the course holding flags and chanting â€œU.S.Aâ€ as a great crowd cheered them on. Attendance records were shattered as over 120,000 spectators made it to witness a truly phenomenal event that will hopefully help bring more casual fans out to the LPGA Tour, because as we all witnessed, these girls definitely have some serious game!
Here is to keeping it on the short grass