CASARES, Spain – Exactly 65 minutes before the European team’s first celebratory cork popped into the sky, James Longman rushed to the 16th tee at Finca Cortesin. He had seen some things.
Longman was running fast ahead of Nelly Korda’s match, where she was on the verge of winning the 15th hole and catching up with Carlota Ciganda, Longman’s longtime friend who had been leading for the last 12 holes (and about three hours).
Longman stopped when he spotted a familiar face.
“Carlota just scored one,” he said to European Championship player captain Anna Nordqvist. It was a “real shaft,” Ciganda later said. Chunky off the fairway and straight towards a town called Lost Hole.
“Okay, Caro just won,” Nordqvist said. “She made the last three birdies to win.”
“Caro”, as in Caroline Hedwall, and this point has changed this Solheim Cup a lot. What Hedwall’s win on the 18th meant was already clear to Longman, as this was his fifth Solheim Cup in the BF role. It all came down to his girlfriend’s compliance. In their home country.
“The Solheim Cup is always like this,” Longman said, shaking his head, taking another nervous position to the right of the 16th tee. “Gleneagles came back until the last putt. Inverness came down to the last two holes?”
Secure! But what happened on the final two holes of this Solheim Cup is unimaginable. It was more EA Sports than Hollywood, as Ciganda battled the video game boss of women’s golf. Korda, with her perfect swing and great distance, her steely demeanor and her professional athlete lineage – well, she’s genetically built to break hearts on the golf course. And thousands of Spanish hearts surrounded the 16th. None of them could have been shocked when Korda dropped her approach to 8 feet, a shot so good that both fan bases had to applaud.
The Cup was in the ascendancy all week on this hole, the only course on the back nine where two holes run side by side. At the world’s biggest tournaments, golf courses don’t become arenas until late in the day, but that’s exactly what it was, and every sunburnt spectator strained for line of sight. And now many of them have a video on their phones that they never want to delete. Ciganda saw Korda’s approach at the 16-yard mark and hit her ball so skillfully you’d think she was aiming for Korda’s ball, throwing a wedge at the ball from 111 yards fewer as one.
Korda’s birdie attempt missed and Ciganda’s subsequent shot gave the audience another video they will never delete. From a shaft to something sublime. Europe 1 above; Spain is losing its mind. Longman rushed to the edge of the green to give his queen a high-five and followed her on the sweaty trek up the hill to 17. When he reached the top, he let out a deep breath and said what everyone must have been thinking: “That “You could.” I’m not writing it.”
Not to mention Ciganda’s entire week as the only Spaniard in the field. She attended the first session because Pettersen was convinced that Ciganda was so overloaded that she “could jump off and fly if she could.” That benching was followed only by victories: 4 and 2, 2 and 1, 2 and 1. Ciganda clearly wasn’t too keen on the 18th hole. But to Longman’s point, if you was According to the script, we see a couple of 3s on the 143-yard par-3 and march to the par-5 finisher. Ciganda had other plans: She took the best shot of her life and dropped it down a rung, this time pushing her tee ball even closer: two feet.
That both shots took place right in front of the King of Spain only adds to the fact that it will go down as one of the greatest moments in Spanish golf history. In the history of women’s golf. In golf history. So much so that it almost was to much.
“To be honest, I don’t really remember much of what happened,” Ciganda later said. Her name has been sung millions of times. She had drowned in it Oles. Korda had a chance at 17 to interfere and extend the match, but she too was lost Oles. Everyone on site had been there.
When she got oh-so-close but didn’t make it, Pettersen turned to her 10-euro teammates kneeling right next to the green.
“For the win,” she mouthed.
Two minutes later the putt fell and the party officially began, as if it hadn’t already happened. The Americans scored 14 points and the Euros scored 14 points. As guardians of the cup, they kept it instead of winning it outright. The difference doesn’t matter.
It makes sense that Ciganda’s memory was hazy. The next hour was sensory overload. She was ambushed by her caddy and then her teammates. She alternated between interviews in English and others in Spanish and was then hoisted onto the shoulders of two Swedish teammates, Nordqvist and Madelene Sagström. Ciganda sat there for a few seconds above the Solheim Cup. Only one person knows what this sight looked like on Sunday.
Longman, the friend, was also jumping around. His path crossed with Lisa Maguire, Leona Maguire’s twin sister, who is already dreaming of all this excitement that will unfold for Leona when the Solheim Cup inevitably returns to Ireland.
“You couldn’t script it,” Maguire told Longman.
There’s that sentence again. Behind them, the winning team had gathered arm in arm to take quick pictures. Then they circled together, placing their hands in the middle, one on top of the other, like any sports team would do. Her captain finished an interview and came bounding in, put her hand on the top and let out a croaking cry:
“And I said three-piss!”
That was the key word. The first celebratory cork flew into the sky and champagne quickly followed. Longman was the presenter, holding the empty bottle in his hand and grinning even wider than Ciganda. Time to claim victory.
https://golf.com/news/europe-steals-solheim-cup-what-it-looked-like/ When Europe stole the Solheim Cup, this is what it looked, sounded and felt like