CASARES, Spain – The math nerds will tell you that there are more than a hundred million ways to reach the final hole in an 18-hole golf game, but when the matrices are dictated by people and not coin tosses, that’s reaching out of 18 not the case occur just as often.
People have heartbeats, different abilities and confidence, and…scar tissue. It’s all important. And so far fewer games reach the final hole. It’s a shame, because the teammates are nervously crowding around. Captains appear here and whisper into their radios. The 18th is where the goods and thankfully it served as the focal point for purely theatrical entertainment on the first day of the Solheim Cup, as five of the eight games were decided there.
Friday morning was dominated by the Americans, who won a four-man session for the first time in the event’s 33-year history. But not all great leads look the same. There was the American men’s 3-1 start at Whistling Straits in 2021, which saw zero games played until Matchday 18. And then there was the 3.5-0.5 lead the European women took at the Solheim Cup in Inverness earlier this month, with every game coming to the final hole.
“I told them there are several ways to get to the top,” said European captain Suzann Pettersen. “Sometimes things don’t always go the way you want. You have to get up, try again and do it all again.”
But when opportunities pass 18th, it becomes harder to get up, try again, and try it all again. Two of those morning games went the distance and both ended with European putts that failed to sniff the hole for half a point. Celine Boutier’s 20-foot birdie attempt missed the hole with a full foot to go, and 15 minutes later, Anna Nordqvist’s 15-foot attempt on a similar line also missed the hole by about the same margin. Win-win situation for America. Goose egg for Europe.
Things got so out of hand that one of the many friends and family members on the ropes jokingly told European vice-captain Laura Davies to take off her clothes as a distraction. If only golf fans – yes, golf media is just as guilty – could be a little more patient. Every game has ups and downs.
Four-ball games in particular, which we saw this afternoon, tend to drag along. The 6-hour mark was exceeded on Friday. Your partner becomes a safety rope that you can use in damage control. Fewer holes are won and in the end the 18th feels more like a distant beach than an obvious destination. So around 7 p.m., just as the course began to slope toward the final hole, there were only a few hundred people there. The majority stayed near the green. Dozens of them lay on the spongy Bermuda grass. Nobody skipped the ropes.
But then, in keeping with the theme of the day, came Match 1. The Europeans advanced in pars and the Americans missed their birdie putts. Points halved or missed opportunity? That depends on which team you support.
Fifteen minutes later the game was Lexi Thompson-Lilia Vu-Georgia Hall-Leona Maguire. Thompson sat on the catbird course, just a few feet from hole-in-2. All afternoon no one came as close as she did. Up until that moment it felt like she was losing her hole Maguire contributed a birdie That rocked the course and perhaps shook Thompson’s confidence. Her lie in its raw form must have seemed more difficult. The bottom of her wedge must have felt heavier.
Because the universal truth is that strange things happen in games that are up to matchday 18, something strange has happened. People have heartbeats. Thompson’s ball flew to the right and practically secured another point for the European Championship, which they had not expected. The point that turned this Solheim Cup from an American stroll in a Spanish park into a much bigger dogfight.
We would be happy to register for two more days.
https://golf.com/news/solheim-cup-day-1-came-down-to-18th-hole/ Why this Solheim Cup is closer than the result from day 1 suggests