Americans win third straight Solheim Cup

SUGAR GROVE, Ill. (AP) - August 23, 2009 Then one red point went up, and then another. Soon, one more. With chants of "U-S-A! U-S-A!" echoing throughout the back nine, the momentum at the Solheim Cup took a seismic shift.

Europe didn't stand a chance.

"Every four minutes it seemed like you heard another roar, and based on the volume of it, you could tell it was an American," Christina Kim said. "It starts off with one, and it was just contagious. You just get a little bit of that momentum, and you ride it out."

Turning what had been a close contest into a rout, the Americans won their third straight Solheim Cup on Sunday with a 16-12 decision over Europe. The Americans won the singles 8-4, raising their winning percentage over the tournament to .608.

When Morgan Pressel delivered the clinching point with her 3-and-2 victory over Anna Nordqvist, her teammates - sitting near the green in anticipation - leaped up and the party was on.

Michelle Wie, whose 3-0-1 record was the best of any American this week, grabbed a U.S. flag and held it aloft to cries of "Wheee!" from the crowd. There were new shrieks of joy as each American arrived to join her teammates and, when it was all over, they ran around the 18th green carrying flags and waving to the crowd that had been so boisterous all week.

There were more smiles as they passed around the crystal Solheim Cup at the closing ceremony, some kissing it, others holding it up for the fans to see.

"It's awesome, especially since it was such a hard-fought battle," captain Beth Daniel said. "They had to dig deep, they really had to dig deep to win this, and I'm so proud of each and every one of them."

Fittingly, Juli Inkster was at the center of the turnaround. At 49, she's the oldest player in Solheim Cup history, with a daughter who's only a few months younger than Wie. But she's the heart and the soul of the U.S. team, and everyone on the team lobbied for Daniel to make her a captain's pick - not that Daniel needed much convincing.

Inkster struggled most of the day, down 2 to Gwladys Nocera through 12 holes.

"Beth told us not to look at the board, but I have to look at the board and it was not looking good," Inkster said. "I just kept chattering to myself to say, `This is an important match, you've got to get at least a half a point here. It's two holes. If you can't win two holes, then you don't deserve to be out here."'

Win them she did.

She made birdies on 14 and 15, and evened the match with a solid shot into 12 feet on the par-3 16th. She actually went 1 up when Nocera missed a 6-footer for par on the 17th, but bogeyed 18.

Still, she'd gotten the United States that half-point. It was quite a finish for what Inkster insists will be her last week. She has 18 points, most by any U.S. player at the Solheim Cup.

"Well, I'm not doing a Brett Favre, but it is," said Inkster, who lowered the U.S. flag at the closing ceremony, her daughters by her side. "I want to come out and watch. These girls are great. They've got a lot of young talent, and it needs to be passed down right now."

That talent is what made the Americans heavy favorites coming into the week.

They had some of the top players in the world while four of Europe's players were ranked 125th or lower. Annika Sorenstam, Europe's anchor the last decade, is no longer playing. And the United States had won the last two Solheim Cups, and was unbeaten on U.S. soil.

But Europe captain Alison Nicholas pulled out every trick she could this week to inspire her team, including video messages from Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal, whose "Spanish Armada" was regarded as the greatest partnership in Ryder Cup history.

Midway through the afternoon, Europe was leading in six of the 12 matches.

"'Get that red on the board, get that red on the board,' that's all I was thinking about," Wie said.

Angela Stanford gave the Americans their first boost, beating Becky Brewerton 5 and 4 to give the United States the first point of the day. Paula Creamer followed with a victory over Suzann Pettersen shortly after, and Wie rebounded to beat Helen Alfredsson 1 up.

Wie had been 3 up through six holes, but the former European captain made some clutch shots to even it after 11 holes.

"It was tough," Wie said. "Helen's the best. She's just so tough to beat."

Wie showed again that when she's on, few can touch her. She needed only an 8-iron for her second shot on the par-5 15th - yes that's right, an 8-iron - and hit it to 20 feet. She two-putted for the birdie, and Alfredsson couldn't make the putt to match her.

She lost the 17th hole, and was so amped up after another booming drive on 18 that she started walking as soon as she hit it, leaving her tee stuck in the box. Her approach landed 25 feet below the hole, and she left it 2 feet short. Alfredsson's 35-foot eagle putt was short, too, and Wie tapped in to win the match.

She screamed "Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!" and pumped her fist before being bearhugged by Stanford.

"People have seen a different side of me," said Wie, saddled with the expectations of being the female equivalent of Tiger Woods since she was in grade school. "This was just a lot of fun. There's nothing to describe it."

And the fun was just beginning.

As Wie was finishing, Inkster and Brittany Lang were turning around matches that appeared to be going in Europe's win column, scratching out critical halves.

Laura Davies was up 3 on Lang through 15 holes, and went to 17 knowing the worst she could do was win a half point. But the four-time major champion, benched for the entire day Saturday, closed with back-to-back bogeys.

"I was obviously very disappointed because it looked like it was going to be 6-all or 6½ one way or another," Davies said. "But now, as it turns out, it wasn't that important." Not on the scoreboard, anyway.

"The girls have played well," Nicholas said, choking up. "It was good fun, but it's a disappointment."

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