Solheim Cup Fervor Fuels Success

Europe's Suzann Pettersen Solheim Cup
AFP/Getty Images

It is difficult, if not impossible, to address this week’s Solheim Cup without reference to two earlier editions: The last match played in Scotland and the previous one hosted by Europe.

In the first of those, in 2000 at Loch Lomond, Annika Sorenstam holed a chip and was then made to replay the shot, her opponents Kelly Robbins and Pat Hurst insistent that she had played out of turn.

Europe was already in control of the match at the time, which must have prompted the gimlet-eyed gamesmanship of the Americans, but the home team has always been weaker in the final day singles.

Not that week.

Fuelled by memories of Sorenstam’s failure to drain the second attempt through her tears of confusion and shame, her team-mates completed the job on Sunday and years later they still talk of the vengeful feelings which coursed through their veins that week.

It explains why those same golfers were among the first to react with horror when 15 years later the situation was flipped.

At St Leon Rot in Germany the two teams returned on Sunday morning to complete the fourth series of matches and on the 17th hole America’s Alison Lee picked up her ball, assuming her putt had been given.

It had not, and her opponent Suzann Pettersen demanded that Europe claim the hole.

She was well within her rights, not least because the Europeans perceived it was far from the first time Lee had overlooked the business of waiting for confirmation of a gimme, but the ramifications of such brinksmanship were clear for all to see.

Except for Pettersen, that is, who was blinded by the heat of battle and about to embark on one of sport’s most epic displays of intransigence, unable to foresee that her own indignation at Lee’s actions was about to ignite a moral righteousness that would engulf her own.

She had fallen into the trap of lighting the fire in the opposition’s belly and there is no bigger error you can make in the Solheim Cup. Those veterans from 2000 knew it and held their heads in their hands, urging Pettersen to lose the battle and win the war.

It might be argued that to recall these two incidents is to scratch at the wounds of this event, but only if one perceives that there is anything wrong with the spikiness and needle that has become every bit as traditional as painted nails.

A greater truth is that the niggle which is forever apparent is what separates it from the weekly diet of strokeplay.

Golf played by individuals is becoming an ever-more bland experience for those watching from the sidelines, a consequence of the ever-greater adherence to the lessons of sports psychology which insist that pre-shot routines, total focus on the process and an absence of emotional highs and lows promotes long term benefits.

Great for players performing in strokeplay, but a supersonic mood hoover for those watching.

In contrast the Solheim Cup tosses the playbooks of the mind gurus in the nearest waste paper bin.

Suddenly the library-like calm of an everyday first tee is replaced by the raucous frenzy of a Hen (Bachelorette) Party.

All at once, like the shy kid who surprises everyone by starring in the school musical, players who normally wear a poker face are now recreating Edvard Munch’s Scream when they miss a three-footer.

And strikingly, the restrained attention on the process is replaced by concern only for what happens next.

For the GOLF Channel team of Karen Stupples and Judy Rankin this unbridled transformation is key to its success.

“It’s a very genuine response from all the players too,” says Stupples. “There are no forced fist pumps, no forced emotion. It's something that you can't stifle. It just comes out, you just can't help yourself.

“You’ve spent two years working for this moment, thinking about the battles, about winning the Cup.

“When you celebrate it is for everybody, not just yourself. You're celebrating for the rest of your teammates, for your continent or your country. People see the genuineness of that.”

Rankin adds: “Golf's almost always good when people find an emotional involvement. It’s so important for fans to connect with players, to care about what they're trying to do.”

It is inevitable that this passion occasionally reaches beyond fever pitch, but we should refrain from being too prudish and when it happens.

Because without the demand for Sorenstam to have a second biff there would have been no redemption.

And without Pettersen’s stubborn streak, there would have been no fightback for the ages.

Passion, even, and perhaps especially, when misdirected, sustains the Solheim Cup and the match is unquestionably all the better for it.

">

It is difficult, if not impossible, to address this week’s Solheim Cup without reference to two earlier editions: The last match played in Scotland and the previous one hosted by Europe.

In the first of those, in 2000 at Loch Lomond, Annika Sorenstam holed a chip and was then made to replay the shot, her opponents Kelly Robbins and Pat Hurst insistent that she had played out of turn.

Europe was already in control of the match at the time, which must have prompted the gimlet-eyed gamesmanship of the Americans, but the home team has always been weaker in the final day singles.

Not that week.

Fuelled by memories of Sorenstam’s failure to drain the second attempt through her tears of confusion and shame, her team-mates completed the job on Sunday and years later they still talk of the vengeful feelings which coursed through their veins that week.

It explains why those same golfers were among the first to react with horror when 15 years later the situation was flipped.

At St Leon Rot in Germany the two teams returned on Sunday morning to complete the fourth series of matches and on the 17th hole America’s Alison Lee picked up her ball, assuming her putt had been given.

It had not, and her opponent Suzann Pettersen demanded that Europe claim the hole.

She was well within her rights, not least because the Europeans perceived it was far from the first time Lee had overlooked the business of waiting for confirmation of a gimme, but the ramifications of such brinksmanship were clear for all to see.

Except for Pettersen, that is, who was blinded by the heat of battle and about to embark on one of sport’s most epic displays of intransigence, unable to foresee that her own indignation at Lee’s actions was about to ignite a moral righteousness that would engulf her own.

She had fallen into the trap of lighting the fire in the opposition’s belly and there is no bigger error you can make in the Solheim Cup. Those veterans from 2000 knew it and held their heads in their hands, urging Pettersen to lose the battle and win the war.

It might be argued that to recall these two incidents is to scratch at the wounds of this event, but only if one perceives that there is anything wrong with the spikiness and needle that has become every bit as traditional as painted nails.

A greater truth is that the niggle which is forever apparent is what separates it from the weekly diet of strokeplay.

Golf played by individuals is becoming an ever-more bland experience for those watching from the sidelines, a consequence of the ever-greater adherence to the lessons of sports psychology which insist that pre-shot routines, total focus on the process and an absence of emotional highs and lows promotes long term benefits.

Great for players performing in strokeplay, but a supersonic mood hoover for those watching.

In contrast the Solheim Cup tosses the playbooks of the mind gurus in the nearest waste paper bin.

Suddenly the library-like calm of an everyday first tee is replaced by the raucous frenzy of a Hen (Bachelorette) Party.

All at once, like the shy kid who surprises everyone by starring in the school musical, players who normally wear a poker face are now recreating Edvard Munch’s Scream when they miss a three-footer.

And strikingly, the restrained attention on the process is replaced by concern only for what happens next.

For the GOLF Channel team of Karen Stupples and Judy Rankin this unbridled transformation is key to its success.

“It’s a very genuine response from all the players too,” says Stupples. “There are no forced fist pumps, no forced emotion. It's something that you can't stifle. It just comes out, you just can't help yourself.

“You’ve spent two years working for this moment, thinking about the battles, about winning the Cup.

“When you celebrate it is for everybody, not just yourself. You're celebrating for the rest of your teammates, for your continent or your country. People see the genuineness of that.”

Rankin adds: “Golf's almost always good when people find an emotional involvement. It’s so important for fans to connect with players, to care about what they're trying to do.”

It is inevitable that this passion occasionally reaches beyond fever pitch, but we should refrain from being too prudish and when it happens.

Because without the demand for Sorenstam to have a second biff there would have been no redemption.

And without Pettersen’s stubborn streak, there would have been no fightback for the ages.

Passion, even, and perhaps especially, when misdirected, sustains the Solheim Cup and the match is unquestionably all the better for it.

Follow me on Twitter.

Since 2009 I've covered golf for SkySports.com, Planet Sport Network and ESPN among many others. Interested in both the men's and women's game, I've reported from the h

...