POSTED: 10:09 a.m. HST, Sep 25, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 09:59 p.m. HST, Sep 25, 2011
DUNSANY, Ireland >> Europe won the Solheim Cup for the first time since 2003 on Sunday, finishing powerfully to beat the United States 15-13 at Killeen Castle.
Norway's Suzann Pettersen turned the momentum Europe's way when she recovered from 1 down with birdies at the last three holes to beat Michelle Wie by one hole.
Her win left Europe needing just one point from the last two singles to win the trophy but the side captained by Alison Nicholas did even better.
Caroline Hedwall of the Netherlands — 2 down with two holes to play — earned a crucial halved match to give Europe a 14-13 lead when rookie Ryann O'Toole bogeyed the 17th and 18th.
Spain's Azahara Munoz birdied the 17th in the final singles to go 1 up on Angela Stanford and guarantee Europe's victory before closing out a one hole win at the last.
"I've been in agony all day," European captain Alison Nicholas said. "The players have had such heart and passion and purpose. I hand it all to them. They've been unbelievable."
Nicholas said Europe's win was the greatest achievement of her career.
"They were so up for it and they believed in themselves," she said. "They just fought to the end. The rookies have done fantastic. The experienced players have done really well as well. It's just been a real team effort."
American captain Rosie Jones also praised her players.
"They fought so hard and really came together in the last couple of days to do so well, and it's just really hard," Jones said.
Jones declined to blame O'Toole for the defeat.
"You know what, she played awesome," Jones said. "She's undefeated in her first Solheim Cup. That is just unbelievable ... She feels bad because she was 2 up coming in.
"But I tell you what, she got three points this week, and I don't know if anybody else did that. So that's pretty awesome."
Play was suspended three times during the day due to adverse weather conditions but the 28,000 strong crowd saw an exciting finish.
The sides were tied 8-8 entering Sunday's 12 singles matches but Europe won the session 7-5 with American Cristie Kerr forced to forfeit her match with Karen Stupples.
Kerr, who was set to play in the 12th singles match, was unable to start due to a wrist injury.
"I'm devastated that I couldn't play today to help represent my team," Kerr said. "I tried my best but I couldn't hold the golf club."
The home side raced 11-8 ahead when Catriona Matthew soundly defeated Paula Creamer 6 and 5 and Sophie Gustafason beat Stacy Lewis by two holes.
The Americans hit back when Morgan Pressel beat Anna Nordqvist 2 and 1 and Brittany Lang defeated Sandra Gall 6 and 5.
Veteran Juli Inkster gave the U.S. hope when she won the 18th with a par four to snatch a halved match with Laura Davies before Christina Kim beat Swede Maria Hjorth 4 and 2 to level the scores.
Two hole wins for Europe's Christel Boeljon over Brittany Lincicome and American Vicky Hurst over Melissa Reid left the match riding on the last three singles.
With Stanford and Munoz all square in the final singles, the game between Pettersen and Wie became crucial.
Pettersen birdied the par-three 16th from 18 feet to square the match but Wie birdied the 17th from 20 feet to remain all square after the Norwegian had hit her approach to three feet to set up an easy birdie.
Pettersen fired a brilliant approach to eight feet at the last but while the American came out to four feet from greenside side, Europe's top ranked player holed the birdie putt.
"We knew it was going to come down to the last couple (of matches) if we had a chance and this is just fantastic," Pettersen said. "Absolutely brilliant team and what a way to finish on home soil."
Munoz turned the tide Europe's way with a birdie from three feet at the 17th and when O'Toole overshot the 18th against Hedwall and then failed to save par, Europe was guaranteed victory.