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Archive for September, 2011

Mike Whan Welcomes Lexi Thompson

September 30th, 2011 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

One thing about Commissioner Michael Whan: he gets it.  He officially accepted Lexi Thompson’s petition and waived the minimum age requirement.  She’ll join the LPGA next year and it had to be one of the easiest decisions Whan has made.  Here’s Whan’s statement from LPGA.com.

“Lexi Thompson is a unique talent who has continued to grow, develop and mature both on and off the golf course since turning professional in 2010,” Whan said. “Her overall performance, most recently demonstrated by her win at the Navistar LPGA Classic, has currently placed her among the top 50 in the world on the Rolex Rankings. Additionally, her ability to handle the success and disappointment inherent to this game testifies to a level of maturity that I believe makes her capable of handling the emotional rigors of professional golf. Therefore, effective at the start of our 2012 season, Lexi will officially become a member of the LPGA Tour.”

“Clearly, there is great enthusiasm and excitement as Lexi begins her LPGA career,” Whan said. “I think her future is bright and I hope she makes the most of this opportunity.”

 

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Lexi Thompson Asks LPGA For Membership

September 30th, 2011 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

“All things come to he who waits” so they say.  The waiting has begun for Lexi Thompson and her team as she has officially filed a petition with the LPGA to waive the minimum age requirement of 18 to join the tour.  Thompson is in the unique position of having a tournament win and still needing special permission to join the tour.

Thompson became the tour’s youngest winner when she won the Navistar LPGA Classic two weeks ago.  Since she is only 16 commissioner Mike Whan and the LPGA will have to grant an exemption to the young champion.  He already saw the potential in Thompson and granted her a pass into the Qualifying School.  She won the first stage of Q-School but since her win she has withdrawn from Q-School which is continuing this week.

The decision for Mike Whan is an easy one.  If he allows Thompson to join the play the tour gets a young, talented, appealing new star for the tour that should generate plenty of press, attract new fans and maybe a sponsor or two.  If he denies the petition he’ll watch Thompson play on his tour on sponsor’s exemptions and then travel the world playing in Europe and Asia and miss out on a great opportunity to grow his brand.

For those that think the tour would be stealing Thompson’s youth from her they are wrong.  Lexi Thompson is a professional golfer.  She is home schooled and is very mature for her age.  It doesn’t look like college is in her future right now and she is certainly capable of playing on tour.

She has a few things that another phenom didn’t a few years ago.  Michelle Wie was playing on the LPGA Tour on sponsor’s exemptions at the same age and while she never petitioned for full time membership, there was plenty of pressure on Michelle, much of it her own fault.  Thompson is a very different case.

Thomson has a strong support system in place and parents with experience in the world of professional golf.  She has a brother, Nicholas that is on the Nationwide Tour (after 3 PGA Tour seasons) and another brother playing golf in college.  So it’s not like they wouldn’t have considered college for Lexi and they are not for forcing her to the LPGA for a paycheck.

It looks like Whan will grant her wish and approve the petition.  Maybe there will be some conditions but he’ll approve it.  Each player should be considered on a case by case basis and in Thompson’s case the decision should be clear.  She’s ready for the LPGA and they should welcome her with open arms.

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Luke Donald Looking For “All World Money Title”

September 29th, 2011 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

The PGA Tour’s much hyped FedEx Cup Playoffs finished with a bang, much to the delight of Commissioner Finchem and The Fall Series, the Tour’s equivalent to Triple A Ball begins today with the Justin Timberlake Shiners. This is the time of year when players the casual golf fan wouldn’t recognize do their best to pad their earnings so they stay on the tour next season.

But The Fall Series, The Presidents Cup and Tiger Gossip aren’t the only things happening in golf right now.  Across the pond Luke Donald is trying to do something no one else has ever accomplished.  The world number one is ardently trying to become the first golfer ever to lead both of the major golf tours in money winnings.  Donald is a member of both the PGA and European Tours and has stated he wants to be the first to lead both tours.  “It would mean a lot to lead both money lists,” Donald said. “I think more the fact that no one has ever done it, being a member of both tours. You always try to accomplish things that nobody has ever done. I think it will be pretty special.”

Currently he leads both tours and this isn’t something that will just be a byproduct of his good play on both tours. He is making a concerted effort to win both titles and said he may even add another tournament in the United States if circumstances allow.

There are thirteen tournaments left on The Euro Tour but only four on The PGA Tour.  His situation is a bit complicated as his wife is due to give birth to their second child in early October.

Donald leads Webb Simpson by $68,971 on the PGA Tour’s Money List and leads Rory McIlroy by a little more than 1.6 million Euros on The European Tour’s Race to Dubai money list.  He may need to play more than he originally planned to keep his lead,”I will keep an eye on what everyone is doing but rest is important as well. It’s hard to chase everything.”

Gary Player earned a reputation as a “World Golfer” years ago when he would travel anywhere to ply his trade.  Ernie Els did the same as he his considered this generation’s World Traveler and now Donald has to be considered in their class of World Golfer.

If Donald pulls it off he’ll go down in history with an amazing triple, not just a double: He’ll finish as the money leader on the PGA Tour, The European Tour and still be the top golfer in The Official World Golf Rankings.  There isn’t a more definitive way to make the Official Rankings more official then winning both titles.  Good luck to Donald; this would be something really special and an amazing finish to an historic season.

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Alfred Dunhill Links Championship: Great Golf, Classic Courses

September 28th, 2011 1 comment

by Jeff Skinner

The European Tour plays one of the most fascinating tournaments of the season this week when it spends four days on three classic links courses.  The Alfred Dunhill Links Championship is played over The Old Course at St. Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns.  Kingsbarns is a youthful newcomer to the register of great links courses and St.Andrews and Carnoustie reside at the foundation of links golf.  There isn’t a more visually appealing week of golf anywhere.

Bernard Darwin’s description of the 17th hole at St Andrews from his The Golf Courses of the British Isles first published in 1910:

“The seventeenth hole has been more praised and more abused probably than any other hole in the world.  It has been called unfair, and by many harder names as well; it has caused champions with a predilection for pitching rather than running to tear their hair; it has certainly ruined an infinite number of scores.  Many like it, most respect it, and all fear it.”


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A View From the Couch of The Solheim & FedEx Cup

September 28th, 2011 1 comment

by Jeff Skinner

We had some great golf and plenty more on this weekend.

The Tour Championship was excellent but Steve Sands doing his best “Tim Russert imitation” with that white board all day was so annoying

With Suzann Pettersen and Michelle Wie going at it like two heavyweights in the singles we hardly saw any of the match.  That’s just bad.

Rich Lerner had an heartfelt piece on Sophie Gustafson and her stuttering problem. She was amazing, on and off the course.

Rosie Jones may have jinxed her American team.  During the singles when things were looking bright for the U.S. she said she was feeling good about her team’s position.  Should have given the Euros a little credit and not started to count those chickens.

That Jack Nicklaus course at Killeen Castle looked like it could be a real beast.  That scene of eighteen with the castle as a background was amazing.

Nothing compares to watching the passion and intensity of these team matches.  Some “Cups” are better than others but all of them are filled with passion and drama.

Bill Haas wins the Tour Championship.  Bill Haas wins the FedEx Cup.  Bill Haas makes one of the best shots of the season.  He steps to the awards ceremony not knowing he won the ten million.  What does that tell Mr. Finchem about the playoffs?

Another belly putter wins on tour.  It’s more than a fad.

Both the Euros and the Americans had great uniforms, and they were waterproof too.

Hopefully Ryann O’Toole will have some selective memory. She played excellent golf in her first Solheim Cup.  She was a rookie in name only and a star for the Americans.

Some rookies on the European Team certainly made a name for themselves.  Caroline Hedwall and Azahara Munoz earned three points each.  Christel Boeljon earned two points.  And even though Melissa Reid only managed one point in four sessions she looks like a real player.

Rosie Jones should be thinking about these poor decisions.  Letting Stacy Lewis and Angela Stanford talk her into sending them back out as a team when she wanted to break them up.  She should have, they got waxed.  She sent rookie Vicky Hurst out with Brittany Lincicome who’s game went south and couldn’t help the rookie.  Brittany Lang still played after going 0-2 but Christina Kim sat.  Kim was 1-0-1 and should have played more.

Jones made plenty of good calls too, like teaming Lewis with O’Toole to shake Stacy up.  She rode her horses, Pressel, Morgan and Kerr just like she needed too.  Kim and O’Toole was a perfect pairing.  After she saw O’Toole performing she kept her out there.

As far as The FedEx Cup Playoffs, they had an exciting finish.  Bill Haas looks like a great guy from a wonderful family.  But I can’t help but think how many viewers the PGA Tour lost by playing on an NFL Sunday.  It doesn’t matter what formula they use or where they play or how many tens of millions the check is worth, the NFL rules on Sunday.  That’s just the way it is.

 

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Studs & Duds of America’s Solheim Cup

September 27th, 2011 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

The final day of the Solheim Cup was a fitting climax to a well played and compelling weekend of golf.  Each team played like champions and better yet all displayed the spirit of sportsmanship that the Solheim family had envisioned when they established the competition.

The U.S. and European teams gave us brilliant golf and memorable moments.  The U.S. team had its share of drama as team leader Cristie Kerr had to withdraw due to her injured wrist but the ladies gave it all they had.

A few stars were born out of this loss and a few players have to be wishing they could do it all over again.  It may seem odd to label a female player as a stud but there were plenty of studs in Ireland.  Morgan Pressel was the best American player, period.  She won every point in every match she played in, 4-0-0, and on Sunday with Kerr in a sling and Paula Creamer stumbling, it was Pressel that stopped the bleeding.  Paula Creamer has been at the heart of the Solheim Cup wins for the U.S. and up until the singles she was great, 3-0-1 but her horrid play on Sunday was totally out of character for her.  Cristie Kerr was 2-1-1 before her forfeit and certainly played well considering she was injured but having no one in that anchor spot hurt the U.S. in a big way.  The biggest disappointment of the team is a tossup between Stacy Lewis, Brittany Lang and Angela Stanford.  So much was expected from major winner Lewis and her well earned reputation with a 5-0 record in the Curtis Cup.  Lewis and Angela Stanford were toasted twice in foursomes and Lewis squandered her lead in the singles on Sunday.  Lewis earned only one point for the week 1-3.  Stanford went 0-3-0, the poorest record on the U.S. team.  Brittany Lang was 0-3-0 going into singles and Sandra Gal handed her the victory there with four bogeys and a double on her card to get Lang her lone win.

Michelle Wie went 1-3-0 for the week but almost salvaged her week and The Cup with a win against Suzann Petersen.  Her putting cost her until she warmed up during the singles match.  Maybe the long putter experiment should be scratched.  Brittany Lincicome scored better than she played, 2-2-0.  She was teamed with Creamer for both her wins and never led in her singles loss.  Cristina Kim’s biggest problem was that we didn’t see enough of her.  She earned a half point on Friday and she was on the bench until the singles, 1-0-1, the team needed more of her.  Vicky Hurst was another missing in action player.  After a bad pairing and a loss with Lincicome, Hurst sat until the singles where she took down a very good Mel Reid.  Juli Inkster may have played her last Solheim Cup and it wasn’t pretty for her.  Her come from behind half in the singles was the high point of her week.

No Captain’s pick ever created more buzz than Rosie Jones selection of Ryann O’Toole.  With only seven LPGA events under her belt Jones took a huge gamble on her.  O’Toole proved more than worthy of the captain’s pick and was a star for her team.  She went 2-0-2 and her three points were topped only by Creamer and Pressell.  She was mentored by Kim in her first match and earned a draw, teamed with Pressel for a win and got Stacy Lewis going when they teamed up for a win.  Any captain would have signed up for three points from a rookie.  Unfortunately, many will view her half point in singles as a failure but they shouldn’t.  O’Toole played like a stud all tournament.

The sting of this loss may stay with the Americans for awhile but looking at the big picture this was just what the Solheim Cup needed.  The American domination had threatened the significance of the cup but this match has reinvigorated the Solheim Cup.  This European win did more for the tournament than any victory by the U.S. could.  The ladies of the American Team may not agree but this was the best thing that could happen to the Solheim Cup.

 

 

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Freddy Ready to Blow It

September 26th, 2011 1 comment

by Jeff Skinner

Fred Couples may look like the coolest thing in softspikes.  What’s that line, “Men want to be him and women want to be with him.”  Well Freddy is about to blow all that well earned cool or charisma or whatever you want to call it with a true bonehead move.

Captain Fred is about to announce his President Cup Captain’s Picks and he is going to shank this one for sure.  He’s going to pick his good buddy Tiger Woods and it’s a mistake.  Fred will tell you that Woods has earned a selection but he hasn’t.  Fred will say that he’s the best player in the world but he isn’t and Fred will tell you that his teammates want him on the team.  I say let’s take a secret ballot on that one.

The fact is that Woods has not earned a spot on the team and the fact is that Woods is light years from being the best in the world.

Fred will say “based on his past…blah, blah blah.”  If that’s how a team is picked then why doesn’t he ask Jack Nicklaus, or Arnold Palmer or Tom Watson?  They all have pretty good pasts.  But Fred might say, “But that was years ago.”  And I would tell him the same applies to Woods; he was the best years ago.

Right now Tiger Woods is 29th on the Presidents Cup points list.  And Fred says he deserves a spot on the team.  Then why is there a points system? Why doesn’t The Captain just pick all of the twelve players?

Somewhere in the Presidents Cup Charter (I bet there is one somewhere) that the PGA tour drew up when they invented this match there has to be a clause about putting the best team on the course.  Or maybe a paragraph about this being a reward for playing well the last two years.  I bet it’s near the paragraph about making sure the PGA Tour makes a ton of money. But Fred will overlook that, (not the money part for sure) and pick his buddy so he and Michael Jordan and Tiger can hang out.  It’s a joke.  It’s an insult to any player that worked his tail off to get on this team.  It impugns the integrity of the event.

Keegan Bradley, Bill Haas and Brandt Snedeker all deserve consideration to be on that team.  But only one will get a chance because Fred has decided that Tiger deserves a spot.  He is so wrong.

One thing about, Jack Arnie and Tom, I bet if Freddy asked them they would say they didn’t deserve a spot.  Maybe Tiger should say the same thing.

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Tiger Woods to Hire Dustin Johnson’s Caddie

September 26th, 2011 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Here’s the latest in the As the Tiger Turns Saga.  AP Golf writer Doug Ferguson reports that Tiger Woods has hired Joe LaCava as his caddie.  Here’s the AP report:

ATLANTA (AP) The Associated Press has learned Tiger Woods will hire Joe LaCava as his next caddie.

Two people aware of the deal said Sunday that LaCava has left Dustin Johnson and will go to work for the former No. 1 player in golf. LaCava was the longtime caddie for Fred Couples. He began working for Johnson in June, and they won The Barclays a month ago.

Woods split with Steve Williams this summer.

Leaving an up and coming cash machine like Johnson who’s best years are ahead of him is a bold move.  Dustin Johnson earned $4,309,961 on the PGA Tour this year.  Tiger earned $629,863.  Maybe Tiger promised him a great financial deal or all the “hostesses” he can handle.  Maybe Johnson and LaCava had a personality conflict. But over the next ten years I figure Johnson will earn a lot more than Tiger on the course.  Johnson was toying with the idea of playing both the PGA and the European Tour next season and that would have meant even more purses to take a cut of but maybe LaCava was hesitant to travel so much.

Who knows why LaCava would make the jump but if he becomes a member of Team Tiger we probably will never know the real reason.

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Bill Haas Splashes to a Double Win, Tour Championship & FedEx Cup

September 25th, 2011 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

It wasn’t enough for Bill Haas to just win the Tour Championship and The FedEx Cup in a playoff against Hunter Mahan.  He had to show off by hitting the shot of the year to do it.  On the second playoff hole Haas landed in the lake but executed an amazing recovery shot to salvage a par that got him to eighteen again where he eliminated Mahan.  With his first win of the season he earned The FedEx Cup Championship, a pair of checks totaling $11,440,000 and a good shot at a President’s cup spot.  Another thing Haas earned was even more unusual: Johnny Miller was even impressed.

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Europe Outlasts U.S. at Dramatic Solheim Cup Finish

September 25th, 2011 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

On a day that had everything, rain delays, lightning delays, wind, sunshine, a forfeit, tight matches and some plain old butt whippings, The Solheim Cup gave us all we could want and more.  With both teams starting the day tied at eight points the stage was set for a dramatic finish to the twelfth Solheim Cup.

Both teams were primed for a fiercely competitive day and they provided just that.  The European team lead by Captain Alison Nicholas and world number two Suzann Pettersen led an miraculous comeback over the last few holes as the American team looked poised to retain the cup.  It was a display of sheer determination and pure will that allowed the Europeans to out duel the U.S. to a 15-13 win.  Pettersen led her team to victory as she birdied the last three holes to defeat Michelle Wie in a classic Solheim Cup match.  When rookie Ryann O’Toole lost her lead to rookie Caroline Hedwall at the eighteenth hole, Europe had earned enough points to win the cup for the first time since 2003.  It was an electrifying day of golf.

The first match of the day set a somber tone for the U.S. as one of their stars couldn’t find her game.  Paula Creamer struggled right out of the gate missing a par putt for a win on the first hole and before she could put her rain suit on found herself 3 down after four holes to Catriona Matthew.  But it got worse for the U.S.  About that time Super Solheim Player, Cristie Kerr was in tears as she tried to warm up but couldn’t hit a shot due to a wrist injury.

Kerr had played through minor pain for the first two days competing in all four sessions.  When she began to warm up today she was in too much pain to compete and had to withdraw.  Per the Solheim Cup Captain’s agreement the European team was awarded a point.  It was a devastating blow to the U.S. to see their leader standing beside them, right arm in a sling, instead of taking down her opponent.

It was going horribly wrong for the U.S. and it got worse for Creamer.  Under horrible conditions, Scotland’s Catriona Matthew must have felt at home in the rain as she played exquisite golf and piled it on a struggling Creamer.  Mercifully, it ended at the thirteenth hole with a 6 & 5 victory.

I wasn’t all bad for the Americans at the start.  Stacy Lewis was looking to keep her momentum going from her first win in three sessions at yesterday afternoon’s fourballs and took a 1 up lead over Sophie Gustafson at the first.  Lewis kept her lead until the sixth but lost back to back holes to her gritty opponent.  Showing grit of her own she got it to all square at the ninth.  Her bogey at ten put her 1 down and the two battled that way to the eighteenth where Gustafson birdied and took a 2 up point for the Euros.  Lewis was a disappointing 1-3 for the week.

Few Americans are as determined as Morgan Pressel and she showed her colors as she came back from an early 2 down deficit to win her point for the U.S.  She admittedly wasn’t sharp to start and fell back of Anna Nordqvist, 2 down after three holes.  As the rain came down she was visibly annoyed that play continued with water pooling on the greens.  During the first rain delay she spoke with good friend Kerr and told her she would win the match for her.  It was a different match when play resumed.  Pressell ripped off five straight wins to go from 2 down to 3 up and looked to be in command as Nordqvist appeared to come undone for a few holes.  Pressel’s two putt par at the seventeenth notched her win and gave the U.S. some much needed hope.  At the beginning of the Cup it would have been ridiculous to think that the U.S. team would get only one point out of stars Kerr, Creamer and Morgan on Sunday afternoon.

The fourth match of the day pitted longtime rivals Juli Inkster and Laura Davies.  Even though they have played against one another for years, they never faced off in singles at a Solheim Cup.  Neither of them was at their best but Inkster went out to a 2 up lead and then proceeded to miss every makeable putt she saw.  Davies was out driving Inkster by miles but was also playing from plenty of places besides the fairway.  They traded blows all day with Davies in control with a 1 up lead at fourteen that she carried into eighteen.  Both players bunkered their approaches but Inkster nearly holed her bunker shot and was conceded her par.  Davies needed to get up and down to half the hole but her sand shot ran way past the hole and she couldn’t convert her putt.  Inkster stole a half a point from her good friend when it looked like Davies would surely win.

Rookies Melissa Reid and Vicky Hurst are two of the new faces at The Solheim Cup and Reid had played much better than her 1-2-0 record indicates.  She had faced all of the marquee players from the U.S. and this may have looked like a potential mismatch and a point for the Europeans.  But Vicky Hurst bounced back from her loss in her lone appearance to take an early lead only to see it disappear at the sixth but with back to back wins at eight and nine Hurst took a 1 up lead into eighteen and a birdie at the last gave her a 2 up win.

In what has to be called an big upset, rookie Christel Boeljon took a point from Solheim veteran and long hitting Brittany Lincicome.  Boeljon got it to 2 up after four and was able to keep a lead all round after that as Lincicome couldn’t scratch out many winning holes.  Lincicome had only one birdie for the day as the rookie was able to card three.

One of the biggest disappointments of the Cup had been the poor play of Brittany Lang.  She had an obscene 0-3 record going into singles but managed to find her game.  With three birdies through twelve holes and opponent Sandra Gal playing poorly (4 bogeys, 1 double), Lang got her first point of the week and gave the U.S. hope for retaining the cup.

Christina Kim had seen action only once in the Solheim Cup this week and earned a half a point.  But she was ready to go today as she revved up the crowd at the first tee and her play kept them fired up all round.  She was four up after six holes which included an eagle and a birdie.  She closed out Maria Hjorth at the sixteenth with a 4 & 2 win and turned cheerleader from there on out.

Every American player had said they would have loved to play Suzann Pettersen in the final singles.  Michelle Wie was the lucky American to get that chore.  Pettersen is known for her fierce competitiveness and he passion for Solheim Cup.  Wie gave Pettersen a 1 up lead early when she missed her putt on the first but got it back to all square with a bird at the second.  Wie gave her the advantage again with bogeys at the third and the sixth.  Wie found her stride with birdies at seven and nine to go all square and the two slugged it out with another lead change.  Then Wie took the lead with a birdie at fifteen.  Pettersen was having none of this and she promptly sunk a long, dramatic birdie putt at the par three sixteenth to go all square.  They put on a great show at the seventeenth as Pettersen stiffed her approach in tight only to see Wie pour in a long putt for birdie.  After Pettersen sunk her birdie they strode off to the eighteenth amid a chorus of cheers and screams.

All square going into the last they both had great drives at eighteen. Once again Pettersen put her approach in birdie range but Wie found the bunker in back of the pin.  With little room to work with Wie hit an amazing shot from the sand and left a short putt for par.  Pettersen stood over her putt relishing her opportunity and promptly stroked it in dead center.  She had birdied the last three holes to win her point in very dramatic fashion.  She lives for these moments and her point gave the Europeans 13.5 points, on the edge of winning the cup.

The deciding match turned out to be the Ryann O’Toole versus Caroline Hedwall pairing.  They were two rookies that had played like seasoned Solheim Cup veterans all week.  Both had two wins going into the singles and O’Toole was in command for most of the day.  O’Toole took an early 2 up lead but Hedwall fought back to all square after five holes.  Then O’Toole got back on top and took a two up lead into seventeen.  Unfortunately, O’Toole felt the pressure at seventeen and lost the hole with a bogey.  She over shot the green at eighteen and feeling the pressure she made a fatal error when she left her chip in the rough.  He second chip went well past the hole and with Hedwall in close her putt was conceded. O’Toole had lost her 2 up with 2 to play lead and halved her match.

With Azahara Munoz on eighteen with a 1 up lead with one to play over Angela Stanford the European Team was assured of half a point and that was enough to win the cup.  As O’Toole collapsed into her captain’s arm the European celebration began.

It was an amazing afternoon for the European team.  Early in the day with the Creamer defeat and Cristie Kerr withdrawing, the Euros looked to have an easy task ahead of them.  But a gritty American team toughed it out and had a great chance at retaining the cup.  But as play headed to the closing holes Europe was buoyed by one comeback after another. As the U.S. players faltered the Euros thrived on the last few holes.  A Sunday like this is what every Solheim Cup player dreams about.  The day was filled with action, suspense and drama.  It was a great win for the Europeans and a very memorable day in the history of The Solheim Cup.

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