On the first day of the Solheim Cup, it looked like all the momentum was with the Americans, having dominated to a 4-0 score. Team Europe had won the last two Solheim Cups. However, with stars such as Nelly Korda, Angel Yin, Cheyenne Knight, rookie Rose Zhang and major winners Lexi Thompson and Lilia Vu, Team USA certainly had the star power to turn the tide from the past two outings.
The Swedish-dominant European team rallied after Friday, capturing eight out of the 12 points on the second day, to level the playing field, with an 8-8 score all but guaranteeing a nail-biting Sunday.
The assured showdown on the final day transpired, with the two teams playing neck-and-neck throughout Sunday. The USA golfers retook the lead again that day, thanks to exceptional play by Danielle Kang, Vu, Standford’s Andrea Lee, an especially precise Angel Yin and Alabama’s Cheyenne Knight all contributing vital momentum to jump to a 13-11 lead, with a significant portion of the play behind them.
Much like Saturday, the Europeans did not let up on Sunday, and rebounded in the penultimate moments of the final day. It came down to powerhouse plays by a triumvirate of phenoms on the European team: Ireland’s Leona Maguire, Sweden’s Caroline Hedwall, and Spain’s Carlota Ciganda, who thrilled the partisan crowd in Andalusia, Spain on the 17th hole with a smooth putt that achieved the 14th point needed for Europe to keep the Cup.
"I don't have many feelings right now," Ciganda said, according to ESPN. "I'm so happy just to do this for [captain] Suzann [Pettersen] and for Spain. I'm just so proud. I'm just so happy. Everyone here is a family. The Spanish crowd is just amazing."
It was rising star Rose Zhang’s first Solheim Cup, but Maguire managed to get the upper hand with a 4 & 3 win during their matchup, pushing Europe into a crucial 9-8 leading position. The Irish player held the 20-year-old sensation at bay each and every time, snatching any hope away from the two-time NCAA winner Zhang.
Much of the credit also goes out to Caroline Hedwall, who turned the tide for Team Europe. Coming back from 3-down, Hedwall lit the caldron of hope for Europe by winning five of the last six holes, finishing 2 up, with her opponent Ally Ewin conceding at the 18th. Team Europe’s third Solheim Cup in a row—the first time they’ve accomplished the hat trick—would never have been possible had it not been for Hedwall’s heroic streak when the team needed it most.
"I think it’s meant to be," said Pettersen, Team Europe's captain via Golf Monthly. "It came down to Carlota, in Spain, in her own hands.
"I walked with her down 16 and said, 'Is this how you wanted it? Because it’s all in your hands now.’ And she was like, 'I’m up for it.’
"We have the best team. I’m so proud of them, they play with their heart.
"There is no such thing as giving up, no matter what challenge is ahead. We got off to a rough start, but we don’t look back – the sky is the limit."
With the King of Spain looking on from the green, the Cup was kept for Europe by Ciganda’s win over Nelly Korda, who had just missed (only by a hair) what would have been a beautiful birdie. It played out like a storybook ending with Ciganda’s countrymen cheering her on and her fellow teammates rushing the hole in celebration.
With just one more team left on the greens, Lexi Thompson did not disappoint, getting one more point, with a win over Denmark’s Emily K. Pedersen to tie up the final score at 14-14. The Americans needed 14 & ½ points to take the Cup, with the Europeans achieving the 14 necessary to keep it. It was a historic first-time tie for the competition.
The next Solheim Cup reverts back to the original schedule of even years, after having been shifted to odd-year intervals due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The next competition will be held Sept. 13-15, 2024, at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Virginia. The remainder competitions will then proceed every two years.
The men get their turn next weekend, in Rome, Italy, for the Ryder Cup. Judging by the thrilling play the women put on in Spain, they have a big act to follow.