American Rookies Shine

American Rookies Shine

HALMSTAD, Sweden — After two days of wretched weather, the final day of the Solheim Cup was relatively benign, with morning rain and soggy fairways the only climatic challenges on offer. But what was really different, noticed Sherri Steinhauer, was “the eerie quiet.”

The fans that bothered to gather for the rainy 7:35 a.m. start of the continuation of Saturday’s fourball competition had a lot to cheer. The Euros won 3 points to the Americans’ 1 for an 8 1/2-7 1/2 lead. By the time the larger throngs arrived and the rain had stopped, the singles competition was on, and the Euros were soon in trouble.

Aside from a few decisive European victories — Catriona Matthew over Laura Diaz 3&2 and Laura Davies over Brittany Lincicome 4&3 — the singles competition, as usual, belonged to the U.S. Though most matches ended before the 18th hole, the Americans finally won points there rather than losing them.

Stacy Prammanasudh won a point on the 18th and Sherri Steinhauer gained a half when her opponent, the Welsh rookie Becky Brewerton, blew an upset bid with a wayward shot into a tree off the 18th green. Overall on Sunday, the Americans won 8 1/2 points to the Euros’ 3 1/2 for a 16-12 victory to become the first visiting team to win since the Americans won 17-11 in Wales in 1996.

“This is 7-3 now. We’ve got to win the next four to break even,” said a disappointed Laura Davies.

Annika Sorenstam thought the Europeans put up a good fight. “I think the Americans outplayed us today,” she said. “This particular time we really fought to the end. A lot of matches we were down coming to the last two hole, and we were able to turn it around and get a half instead of losing. That shows a lot of the spirit we had this week, and I think that’s worth a lot.”

BEST MATCH: Suzann Pettersen vs. Stacy Prammanasudh. Except for a bogey on the first hole, Prammanasudh, a Solheim Cup rookie, didn’t falter, keeping pace with the LPGA Champion with three birdies on the front nine. Though Pettersen made an eagle on the par-5 11th hole, to go 1-up, Prammanasudh squared the match with a birdie on 13 and pulled ahead for good with a par on the troublesome 16th hole. She sealed the win with a birdie on the 18th, becoming the first American to win a match on the hole. After saying all the right things to an inquiring reporter — “I knew it was going to be a tough day” and “I was lucky to come away with a win” — Prammanasudh wrapped her arms around a friend and said, “I want to go fall down in the locker room.”

UPSET: Morgan Pressel over Annika Sorenstam 2&1. Though some observers thought this was going to be a rude welcome to the Solheim for the 19-year-old Pressel, a tournament rookie, it was anything but. After letting Sorenstam get 1-up after the third hole, Pressel squared the match and pulled ahead three different times before doing something only two others had done all weekend: she birdied No. 16, the most difficult hole on the course.

STAT: Birdies by the American rookies today: 14, with Prammanasudh holing 6.

QUOTE: American captain Betsy King was asked to comment on Dottie Pepper, who referred to the Americans as “Choking, freaking dogs” on the air on Saturday. King, referring to Pepper’s post-playing-days role as analyst, said: “I’m retired, and you usually retire when you can’t play anymore.” When her players and the gathered members of the media started laughing, King scrambled to explain that she didn’t mean it as a slam. “The older you get, the better you used to be. You don’t remember anything. I don’t think — I don’t know. I’m getting myself in trouble. Next question.”

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