The short version of the 2023 Solheim Cup: the United States and Europe entered the final day of the 2023 Solheim Cup tied at eight points apiece and ended the day tied at 14 points apiece. Without a playoff in the event, Europe retained the cup. Of course, the story isn’t that simple.
United States Captain Stacy Lewis and European Captain Suzann Pettersen took opposite approaches to this year’s team matches. Lewis relied heavily on data while Pettersen took more of a, um, hands-off approach. Team USA seemed to be on the right track after a 4-0 opening session on Friday (and they let us know about it), but Europe relied on its horses to get back to even following the foursomes and four-ball matches. Linn Grant, Leona Maguire, and Carlota Ciganda led the charge in the comeback, with Grant and Maguire playing all four matches across the first two days and Ciganda finishing the team matches with a 3-0-0 record.
On Sunday, Pettersen called on Grant and Maguire to lead the charge and placed the veteran Ciganda towards the back as a stopper. The trio drew Megan Khang, Rose Zhang, and Nelly Korda, three of USA’s strongest members. With a split in the opening two matches and chaos towards the middle of the pack, the Solheim Cup was completely up in the air. That is, until Caroline Hedwall stepped up as an unsung hero. Three down with six holes to play, Hedwall birdied five of the last six holes to shock Ally Ewing. That left just the veteran Ciganda, who had just shanked an approach and fell into a tie with Korda, to decide the Solheim Cup. Ciganda proceeded to birdie both the 16th and 17th holes, ensuring a 14-14 tie and a retention of the cup for Europe.
Irish dominance – After a 4-0-1 Solheim Cup debut in 2021, Leona Maguire again played all five sessions, securing three big points for Europe. Her only losses came when paired with two of Europe’s weakest links on the week. She may very well be the best match-play player in the world right now.
America’s spark plug – Without a doubt, the American MVP this week was Megan Khang. After winning her first LPGA Tour event last month, Khang went 3-0-1 in Spain, including a big win over Linn Grant to start the singles matches. She is deserving of a look for the next couple of Solheim Cup rosters whether she’s playing well at the time of the event.
Ciganda’s moment – It’s convenient to say that the woman who secured the clinching point for Europe was their MVP, but she was also arguably their most complete player this week. Going 4-0-0 in your home country is seriously impressive stuff, especially given the number of big putts and momentum saving moments she had throughout the weekend. The veteran may not have many more Solheim Cups ahead of her, but this one will be an event she remembers for the rest of her life.
Yes, you do have to address it – Team USA’s most experienced player got herself in hot water this weekend when she didn’t handle a question about her Friday shank all that well (putting it kindly). In a Friday presser, she said she wouldn’t address the question about her shank and acted as if it was a ridiculous thing for a journalist to ask a professional athlete. As Kevin Van Valkenburg succinctly said, “Lexi has always enjoyed attention but hated scrutiny.” She is still the face of American women’s golf, and she has to answer questions, regardless of the outcome. Still, she wound up performing at a high level this weekend, finishing the event with a 3-1-0 record. Ideally Lexi can speak both with her golf game and in front of the microphone moving forward.
Broadcast woes – Prior to Sunday’s fireworks, the Saturday morning foursomes match of Danielle Kang and Andrea Lee vs. Maja Stark and Linn Grant was the best golf of the weekend. The teams traded blows down the stretch with nine of the last eleven holes won with birdies. One of those birdies was apparently a lengthy putt made by Andrea Lee. “Apparently” being the key word, because footage of the putt never made it to air. In a rare moment of transparency, announcer Tom Abbott explained that the company running the production did not capture the moment. Of importance to note, this was during morning foursomes when a total of eight balls were in play on the course. Any hopes of improvements on Sunday went out the door when the highly anticipated match of Stark vs. Allisen Corpuz was completely missing from the broadcast. It wasn’t until the 10th hole that Stark appeared on the green. There was time though for an awkwardly long shot of two dragonflies mating that left a confused Terry Gannon asking, “What are we looking at?” Losing groups on the course was even more frustrating when a graphics package straight of the 1990s regularly left fans guessing where matches stood. Later in the day, with the outcome hanging in the balance, a shank on 15 from Carlota Ciganda never saw the light of day. Seeing the shot have been an entertaining moment for viewers, and it also would have provided important context for how huge Ciganda’s birdies on 16 and 17 were to officially clinch the Cup for Europe. The Solheim Cup is the biggest stage in the women’s game, and the players delivered with top-notch golf and one of the most exciting endings in Solheim Cup history. Just imagine what an ounce of investment, a tinge of effort, or a shred of caring could do for the sport. The players and the fans deserve better.
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