U.S. captain Juli Inkster didn’t want to see tattoos and red, white and blue face paint on her players at the Solheim Cup. She wanted them to view the competition in Germany during the weekend as a business trip, with none of the over-the-top displays of previous years.
The face paint was gone, but it was hardly business as usual Sunday when an American comeback few saw coming was sparked by a putt that wasn’t conceded by Europe’s Suzann Pettersen.
Pettersen would apologize Monday for her actions that left U.S. rookie Alison Lee in tears and so angered the Americans that they came back from a 10-6 deficit to dominate the singles competition and win the cup for the first time since 2009.
“I hope in time the U.S. team will forgive me and know that I have learned a valuable lesson,” Pettersen said.
They may, but the image of Pettersen demanding Lee be penalized on the 17th hole of their fourball match for picking up the ball when she thought the putt was conceded will surely take its place in Solheim Cup lore.
There’s something about team golf that brings out controversies. Such as:
Premature celebration: The U.S. team spent the night before the Ryder Cup singles matches in 1999 listening to inspirational speeches from, among others, then Texas Gov. George Bush. Then the Americans came out and dominated the final day to come back from a 10-6 deficit to beat Europe. When Justin Leonard holed a 40-footer on the 17th hole to seemingly clinch the win he ran around the green and was swarmed by caddies, wives and teammates. Almost forgotten was that Jose Maria Olazabal still had a putt to tie, which he missed after the green was cleared. “Those were the most disgusting scenes I’ve ever seen on a golf course,” Sam Torrance, Europe’s vice captain, said at the time.
Seve’s shot: Seve Ballesteros might have been the greatest Ryder Cup player ever, and the late Spaniard wasn’t known to back down from anybody. Ballesteros questioned a drop by Paul Azinger in the 1989 event. Two years later, he accused Azinger and Chip Beck of breaking the rules by switching a ball that had been scuffed. Ballesteros lost a long argument, but he and Jose Maria Olazabal came back from three down to win the match. Ballesteros called the American team “11 nice guys plus Azinger.” The American responded: “The king of gamesmanship doesn’t like me? Good. A feather in my cap.”
ANNIKA’S CHIP: Annika Sorenstam celebrated holing a chip in the 2000 Solheim Cup she thought had evened her fourball match, only to be in tears moments later. The U.S. team was desperately trying to cut into a big European lead, and American Kelly Robbins said Sorenstam had played out of turn. U.S. captain Pat Bradley backed her up. Sorenstam had to hit the chip again, missed and would go on to lose two matches that day. The Europeans would win the cup, but there were plenty of bad feelings about the American move. “It was very unsporting,” said England’s Laura Davies.
No autographs: Play hadn’t even begun in the 1993 Ryder Cup in England, and already the teams were in a tiff. Tom Watson was the U.S. captain. At the opening dinner, Scotland’s Sam Torrance asked Watson to sign his menu, a tradition in previous cups. Watson refused, saying “If I start signing now, you know what will happen.” Watson would later apologize to Torrance, and the U.S. would go on to win the cup 15-13.
Dottie speak: Dottie Pepper was helping announce the 2007 Solheim Cup in Sweden when, thinking she was in a commercial break, referred to Laura Diaz and Sherri Steinhauer as “choking freaking dogs” after the two ended up halving a match they had led 2-up with three to play. “She’s commentating because she’s past her prime – the older you get, the better you used to be,” U.S. captain Betsy King said. Pepper would have to repeatedly apologize before being named an assistant to the U.S. team in 2013.
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