Karma, Justice, Retribution. Dramatic words which were bandied around after the US team snatched a victory which was looking very unlikely after being 10-6 down going into the singles. All week the Europeans had played better golf with outstanding performances from Anna Nordqvist, Melissa Reid and Charley Hull.
Perhaps it was fate which had yet again played a part in golf. For this victory may finally break the long stretch of American losses in team events and make them truly competitive again.
The incident which took place on the 17th green in the morning concluding the previous day’s fourballs certainly drew the American side together in anger and motivated them as a team. Too many team matches have seen the US side playing as a group of individuals. This time they were drawn together by a sense of injustice which made them play for each other, the missing element for so long.
When American Alison Lee picked up her 16 inch putt, claiming to have heard someone say “it’s good” and presuming that European Charley Hull walking off the green meant it was conceded she thought all was well. But she was shocked when European Suzann Petersen said it hadn’t been conceded and the Americans lost the hole and then the match. It is incidents like these that often display the differences in national cultures. Petersen, showing the “correctness” that underlies the Scandinavian temperament. “It wasn’t a short enough putt, I would still like to see it” she said. Shockwaves went through both teams. There wasn’t the magnanimity of spirit which Jack Nicklaus showed to Tony Jacklin at the 1969 Ryder Cup when he allowed a concession which led to an historic tied match:
“I didn’t think you were going to miss that putt, but I didn’t want to give you the opportunity,”
What compounded the problem was that the European captain and vice captains gathered round Charley Hull, in tears, and looked totally at a loss what to do. And so they did nothing. No approach was made by Captain Carin Koch to American Captain Juli Inkster. There is such a thing as equity, which could have been used in this situation where a genuine mistake was made. But the rules were left as they were. What was wrong was there was no approach, no dialogue by the Europeans to the Americans over this, it was just left, poorly handled.
The great European player Dame Laura Davies called herself disgusted, and said she was glad she wasnt on this team. To compound the problem Pettersen was unrepentent and said it would increase her twitter following, a bizarre attitude.
When asked if the Europeans had offered to half the match – which I believe would have been the right thing to do – American Captain Juli Inkster said “No. But we dont want it now”. That spoke volumes. The whole team had physically gathered round in a huddle and had obviously said they were going to stick it to the Europeans, which they did winning by one point. However, this saying we dont want the half point could have been dangerous talk. The match turned on one thing, Gerina Piller’s fantastic putt to win her match which looked like a European win. If that hadn’t have gone in, there would have been a European retention of the Solheim Cup and the fall out from the incident would have led to acrimony which would have damaged the game of golf. It would have been the female version of the notorious Brookline Ryder Cup.
The following day someone had had a firm word with Pettersen. She took to social media – her Instagram account – to say the following.
“I’ve never felt more gutted and truly sad about what went down Sunday on the 17th at the Solheim Cup. I am so sorry for not thinking about the bigger picture in the heat of the battle and competition. I was trying my hardest for my team and put the single match and the point that could be earned ahead of sportsmanship and the game of golf itself! I feel like I let my team down and I am sorry. To the U.S. team, you guys have a great leader in Juli , who I’ve always looked up to and respect so much. Knowing I need to make things “right,” I had a face to face chat with her before leaving Germany this morning to tell her in person how I really feel about all of this. I wanted her also to know that I am sorry. I hope in time the U.S. team will forgive me and know that I have learned a valuable lesson about what is truly important in this great game of golf which has given me so much in my life. To the fans of golf who watched the competition on TV, I am sorry for the way I carried myself. I can be so much better and being an ambassador for this great game of golf the right way”.
So for the game of golf in every aspect this was the best possible result. Very disappointing for the Europeans who had played so well and who were clearly affected by the incident during the singles. American Captain Juli Inkster intriguingly revealed that she had used psychological testing to match up her players and had used the “pod system” in practice. This “pod system” was brought up by the American Ryder Cup players after their defeat at Gleneagles last year as the only thing which had worked for them. Their Captain Tom Watson rebutted “it’s not about pods, it’s about 12 players playing well and getting the job done”.
Whatever it is, we’re intrigued. And whatever helps a US win, after so many near misses, has got to be worth considering.