AP News

Stable in singles, American women take Solheim Cup again

Photo: Alastair Grant/AP

The U.S. team won for only the second time on European soil.

HALMSTAD, Sweden (AP) — All that talk about choke jobs and lost opportunities turned out to be overblown. The Americans have always owned singles, and after yet another Sunday success, they own the Solheim Cup again, too.

The United States used a top-to-bottom blowout in singles to overcome a one-point deficit in soggy Sweden and win one of the biggest prizes in women's golf. This was only the second time they've captured the cup on European soil.

Paula Creamer's tap-in on the 15th hole ensured the Americans of the 14 points they needed to retain the cup, and Nicole Castrale's 8-footer moments later wrapped up a the United States' second straight win.

By the time the matches and the blowout were over, the United States had gone 8-3-1 in singles to win the tournament 16-12.

There were celebrations all over the course as the final matches played out. Nine of the Americans piled onto a cart to watch Cristie Kerr and Natalie Gulbis finish their matches. Laura Diaz sat in the front waving an American flag.

A little later, a group hug and group yell - ``U.S.A., U.S.A., All the way!'' - punctuated a successful close to a long slog of a weekend by a predominantly young, inexperienced and talented team.

Early winners included Juli Inkster, Pat Hurst, Angela Stanford, Morgan Pressel and Stacy Prammanasudh. Creamer and Castrale sealed the win. Then, Gulbis won, and the Americans bumped their all-time winning percentage in singles from .590 to .602.

That dominance in singles might be why the United States didn't panic after letting seemingly precious points slip away during two-plus days of fourball and foursome matches played in terrible conditions that ranged from soaking rains to 40 mph winds to both.

Former American player Dottie Pepper, now an analyst for The Golf Channel, called the Americans ``Chokin' freakin' dogs'' on Saturday - not knowing she was on the air - after watching the Americans turn two likely victories into a pair of disappointing ties.

Captain Betsy King refused to address the comment, though many Americans were said to have been angered and hurt by having a former teammate and friend make such a cutting remark.

``It definitely didn't go over well,'' said Pressel's grandfather, Herb Krickstein, who watched all weekend from the gallery. ``There was a feeling that it was inappropriate.''

But Pepper wasn't totally wrong. Even on Sunday, during the conclusion of the weather-delayed fourball matches, Creamer and Brittany Lincicome missed 3-foot tap-ins to 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 looked like they might be too young and nervous to actually win this event in Europe for the first time since 1996. The U.S. team won two years ago at Crooked Stick in Indiana.

But as the Sunday singles went on and red numbers got plastered up and down the scoreboard, it was the Europeans who looked as if they hadn't been in these situations before.

Suzann Pettersen, whose great approach shot Saturday on No. 18 helped Europe to one of its halved matches, missed a pair of near tap-ins on 16 and 17. Then, with a chance to salvage another tie on 18, she yanked her approach well left of the green. She lost 2-down in an upset to Prammanasudh.

``I'm just happy to finally get a win,'' said Prammanasudh, one of several Americans who settled for ties over the early rounds.

Annika Sorenstam struggled, missing a balky 4-footer on No. 15 then misreading her putt on No. 16 in a 2-and-1 loss to Pressel, who overcame her nerves for her first win of the weekend - and against Sorenstam in her home country, at that.

``Morgan just played, you know, slightly better than I did today,'' said Sorenstam, who wore a blue and yellow wig to the postmatch news conference in an attempt to lighten the mood. ``There's not much I could have done.''

Maybe the most symbolic moment for Europe on this disappointing day was the scene of rookie Becky Brewerton stymied by a tree near the 18th green, looking at playing a left-handed shot into putting range.

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. European captain Helen Alfredsson said she didn't know about the situation.

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,'' 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 possibly triggered the comment from Pepper.

There was very little to criticize this time, though.

Pressel's victory may have been most impressive given the way she struggled with short putts all week. The 19-year-old Nabisco champion hit a gorgeous shot to 6 feet on No. 16 - a par-3 that has bedeviled all the players all week - then rapped the putt in to ensure at least a tie with the world's former No. 1.

Despite the hiccup in her early match Sunday, Creamer was steady all week. She went 2-0-3 and improved to 5-1-4 in her two Solheim Cup appearances.

King, meanwhile, is now 1-0 as a captain and looked to be fighting back tears as the action wound down.

``They say the captain gets too much credit when you win and too much blame when you lose,'' King said as she cradled the trophy, ``and I still think that's very true.''

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