Americans seal victory 16-12
The Americans were hardly chokers when the stakes were highest at the Solheim Cup.
Doggone good was more like it.
Dominating the singles matches like they always have, the Americans celebrated one of the most coveted wins in women's golf Sunday, a 16-12 decision over Europe that ended any thought that they might be the "Chokin' freakin' dogs," that Dottie Pepper said they were.
Led by Morgan Pressel's upset over Annika Sorenstam and Stacy Prammanasudh's surprising win over Suzann Pettersen, the Americans went 8-3-1 in singles. They captured the Solheim on foreign soil for only the second time.
"I was pretty excited when we won it in my rookie year," Paula Creamer said of the 2005 win at Crooked Stick in Indiana. "I'm even more excited now."
They did it in rain and wind and cold, the kind of week in which the love of the game -- what the Solheim Cup is all about -- is the about only thing that could possibly get someone out on the course.
And they did it with a bit of a chip on their shoulders, placed there by Pepper, the former American player and firebrand who is now an analyst on the Golf Channel.
On Saturday, after the United States turned a couple of looming wins into disappointing ties, Pepper called the Americans "Chokin' freakin' dogs" -- a comment she made when she thought she was off the air, but wasn't.
"It was hurtful, very, very hurtful to all of us on the team," said assistant captain Beth Daniel. "Dottie's been there. She knows what it's like. Even if she said it off the air, it was ill-spirited."
Back on the air Sunday, Pepper said she stood by the comments. The Americans insisted they had let the whole thing go by the time they went to bed Saturday night and were just concentrating on winning.
But before the winning started, there were a few more disappointments.
Because of the brutal weather, the fourball matches needed to be finished early Sunday. And when Creamer and Brittany Lincicome each missed 3-foot tap-ins on No. 17, it cost their team a hole, the lead and eventually a half-point in a tie against Linda Wessberg and Maria Hjorth.
The Europeans went into the final round with an 8 1/2 -7 1/2 lead, and the Americans -- with four rookies on the team -- looked like they really might be too young and nervous to actually win this event.
"But we knew 16, 17, 18, they're tough holes," Juli Inkster said. "It wasn't like we were playing that bad. It wasn't like we were giving it away."
When the singles rolled around, those setbacks were forgotten and the Americans took control quickly.
At one point, they led in eight of the 12 matches with a few more tied. Red dominated the scoreboard and there was no way the Europeans could ignore it.
Inkster took a big early lead for a 4-and-3 win over Iben Tinning. Pat Hurst led almost the whole way in a 2-and-1 win over Sophie Gustafson. Pressel got her first Solheim Cup win, 2 and 1 over Sorenstam -- in Sorenstam's home country, no less.
The Americans improved their winning percentage in singles to .602 over the history of the tournament.
"Without this sounding wrong, the feeling was that our team had the better players," said Pressel's grandfather, Herb Krickstein, who watched all week from the gallery. "When it comes down to singles, there's no hiding anybody, and that really shows."
Nicole Castrale made an 8-footer to close out a 3-and-2 victory over Bettina Hauert and make things official, giving the United States 14 1/2 points to secure its second straight win, but first on foreign soil since 1996.
"None of us feel like losers," Laura Davies said. "We lost to a better team today."
After Castrale closed things out, the Americans piled into a big golf cart to watch the rest of the now-meaningless matches. Laura Diaz waved an American flag. Later, they got in a big huddle and cheered "U.S.A., U.S.A., All the way!"
"I thought we had a lot of talent on our team but that it would be tough to do it over here if you go by history," American captain Betsy King said. "I thought we were going to do it, but I didn't want to say that before we did it. So now I'm saying it."
Through most of the singles matches, it was the Europeans, not the Americans, who looked as if they hadn't been in these situations before.
Maybe the most symbolic scene for Europe was that of rookie Becky Brewerton stymied by a tree near the 18th green, looking at playing a left-handed shot.
A veteran more familiar with the rules might have asked for relief, then been able to move the ball and play right-handed, because of the stands that blocked her path to the hole. But Brewerton never got relief, and after hitting the stands with the left-handed shot, she lost the hole to Sherri Steinhauer, who stood there laughing with her caddie while the scene played out.
"I don't know that it would have made a difference," European captain Helen Alfredsson said. "I think she knows the rules."
For Steinhauer, it resulted in a much more satisfying halve than the one she settled for Saturday after missing a slippery, 3-foot putt on No. 18. It was that putt that likely triggered the comment from Pepper.
"I don't think people knew how hard that putt really was," Daniel said.
King insisted she didn't want to make this week about Pepper or her insult.
The captain tried to take the high road. But it had been a long, difficult week.
"I will say one thing," King said. "I'm retired, and usually retired people can't play anymore. It's just an age thing, and as a commentator, I think you forget ..."
Her team interrupted her with applause.
"It's not a slam," she insisted. "The older you get, the better you used to be. You think you were perfect, and you don't remember anything. I don't think -- I don't know. I'm getting myself in trouble."
She was drowned out by laughter before she could go any further.
Then again, nothing more really needed to be said.