ST LEON-ROT, Germany (Reuters) - U.S. captain Juli Inkster had urged her players to “stomp on” Europe’s golfers and they carried out the instructions to a tee, fighting back to win a hugely controversial Solheim Cup match on Sunday.
The home team went into the last 12 singles holding a 10-6 lead, following unsavory scenes over the non-concession of a short American putt in the fourballs carried over from Saturday, but the U.S. rallied spectacularly to triumph by 14 1/2 to 13 1/2 points.
The Americans were enraged when Alison Lee and Brittany Lincicome lost to Charley Hull and Suzann Pettersen by two holes on a sunny day at the St Leon-Rot Golf Club in south-west Germany.
With their morning fourballs all square, rookie Lee, 20, mistakenly believed her 16-inch putt at the 17th had been conceded by the European pair and when she scooped the ball up, the match referee had no choice but to award the hole to Hull and Pettersen.
The incident evoked memories of the infamous men’s Ryder Cup encounter at Brookline in 1999, when Europe hit out after members of the home side celebrated Justin Leonard sinking a long-range effort by trampling all over the line of his opponent Jose Maria Olazabal’s putt.
Hull and experienced Norwegian Pettersen, who was the target of most of the U.S. anger, went on to win the 18th hole as well but the 19-year-old Englishwoman was in tears on the green after the fourballs contest finished, as was a distraught Lee.
Lincicome said Inkster used Sunday’s events to rally her team, adding the skipper had implored the players to “walk on them, stomp on them, and give them all we’ve got”.
It was the second successive morning that there had been friction between the sides.
On Saturday, Inkster and counterpart Carin Koch were involved in a heated exchange out on the course over allegations that one of the Swede’s vice-captains had contravened the rules by giving direct advice to one of the European players.
Europe, who won the biennial team event in 2011 and 2013, had chances to get to 14 points and retain the trophy with Carlota Ciganda and Caroline Masson both missing makeable putts to get them over the line in the singles.
The Solheim Cup always seems to throw up a controversial moment or two and Inkster, who has played in the event nine times, said that was a shame.
“I don’t know why it always happens but something always happens,” added the 55-year-old after the U.S. conjured the biggest comeback victory in the 25-year history of the event.
“I was on to my players all week, you’ve got to play with heart, you’ve got to play with fire in your belly, never give up.
“From the emotions this morning to the emotions now, my team played so damn good. They just never gave up, it was amazing.”
Koch, however, defended the actions of her team.
“Sportsmanship is very important of course...but so are the rules,” said the Swede. “If we have rules we have to play by them.
“We had a rules meeting early in the week where they clearly told us how important it is to make sure that someone has conceded the putt and no one did. It wasn’t a short enough putt where they would have even given it.”
Editing by Martyn Herman