You couldn’t have asked for more from this 18th edition of the Solheim Cup: a hot start in the USA, followed by a spirited comeback in Europe; an 8-8 draw after two days that led to a thrilling individual session on Sunday; Spain’s Carlota Ciganda secured the point on home soil that secured Europe the title.
Exciting theater, all of it, although there was one glaring drawback: no clear winner.
For the first time in Solheim Cup history, the event ended in a 14-14 stalemate, meaning the defending champions – in this case Europe – retained the prize. The Ryder Cup follows the same format (the event ended in a draw twice), and that’s a shame because after three days of exciting competition and players putting their all on the course, that’s something you wouldn’t have been able to do as a golf fan I was accused of wanting to see a winning team that actually, you know, won.
Sour grapes? No. I wouldn’t think differently if the Americans had retained the title in the same way. It is simply the opinion of an interested observer who was somewhat dissatisfied at the end of a heated contest.
Imagine if the New England Patriots had been tied with the Philadelphia Eagles in regular season Super Bowl XXXIV, and Brady and Co. had been declared winners simply because they were the reigning world champions. Or if the United States women’s national soccer team had tied with Germany in regulation time at the 2003 World Cup final and received the trophy only because they had won the cup four years earlier. The fans would be horrified.
Yes, on paper the Solheim Cup and Ryder Cup are just “exhibitions,” but that is a wholly inadequate description of the magnitude of these events. For most players and fans, these biennial international match play showdowns mean just as much, if not more, than major championships.
Which brings us back to Sunday afternoon at Finca Cortesin, where flag-waving, wig-wearing fans from both sides made the Solheim Cup the most electrifying party in Spain this side of Ibiza. When Ciganada hit her tee shot on the par-3 17th to the kick-in in her match against Nelly Korda, you could almost hear the roar from across the Atlantic.
Minutes later, when Ciganda got her birdie putt in order, she had beaten Korda 2 and 1 and secured Europe’s crucial 14th point, meaning it could not lose the cup. However, it wasn’t over yet above over because the final match – Lexi Thompson vs. Emily Pedersen – was still in progress and Thompson was 2 ahead after 16 holes.
Thompson and Pedersen watched from the 17th tee as players, captains and other followers joyfully streamed onto the green to celebrate Ciganda’s decisive point. One spectator even marched through a bunker on the green.
“I get the cheering feelings from Europe,” Golf Channel broadcaster Tom Abbott said from the booth, “but it doesn’t always sit well with me that the teams are celebrating and it’s going to be a draw.” I don’t know about you “Go home.”
His cabinmate Judy Rankin, a Hall of Famer who captained two U.S. Solheim Cup teams to victory, added: “It was always unpleasant and a bad ending when players had to quit the game when the game was over was decided. “But a lot of players – not all players – but a lot of players are so interested in their record when the dust settles.”
Abbott: “But I think the point is that it’s really not decided yet.”
Rankin: “Right, I see.”
Abbott: “You know what I mean?
Rankin: “I understand what you’re saying.
Abbott: “We’re now at the point where we’re celebrating a tie at the Ryder Cup or the Solheim Cup when, in my opinion, both teams played equally well.”
Amen, Brother Abbott! And it doesn’t have to be that way. Witness the Presidents Cup, whose statutes until 2005 called for the most inspired tiebreaker: a sudden-death playoff between two players “in the envelope,” meaning that each team’s respective captain had pre-selected their playoff participants.
Oh, the drama! For example, imagine Megan Khang and Leona Maguire competing in bonus golf to determine the team winner. Or Ciganda, with the will of her hometown fans behind her, and Lexi Thompson staring at each other as they prepare for a crucial hole, tens of thousands of fans crowding around a single green.
Don’t you like the idea of games being decided by just one player? OK, pick two representatives from each side and send them into a sudden-death four-ball game. Or six players in three singles games. The first side to win two holes wins. Smarter people than me will have better ideas than this. Take NBC analyst John Wood: who tweeted on Sunday: “In my most humble opinion, the ‘Retain’ needs to be included in all of these competitions. Send all 12 from both sides and play a par 3. Total strokes wins.”
A playoff has only taken place once at the Presidents Cup, and in 2003 there was probably the greatest Presidents Cup moment of all time: Tiger Woods and Ernie Els, then number 1 and 2 in the world, had a hand-to-hand duel. mano for the cup in Els’ home South Africa. Three holes later, with Woods and Els Despite it Tied as dusk fell, US captain Jack Nicklaus and his counterpart Gary Player agreed it was a draw. But hey, at least they had tried to settle the argument. (Darkness wouldn’t have been a problem in Spain, by the way, where games ended with at least three hours of sunlight remaining.)
U.S. captain Stacy Lewis didn’t reject the idea that additional holes would be a good idea. During Sunday night’s closing ceremony, Lewis said she spoke with LPGA commissioner Molly Marcoux Samaan about whether some sort of tiebreaker would make sense.
“Of course television would be better,” Lewis said in a press conference. “It would be a better experience for the fans if there was a team playoff or something, I think that would be pretty cool.” But if you want to stick with the history of the event and also the history of the men, stay probably while defending the cup. To be honest, I don’t know what to think about it.”
I know how I feel. Of course history is important, but so is evolution. It’s time to evolve.
https://golf.com/news/solheim-cup-awkward-finish-avoided/ The “embarrassing” end of the Solheim Cup could have been avoided. Here’s how