Meg Mallon, down by five entering the Solheim Cup finals on Sunday, could only hope for a miraculous comeback from her team to match that of her beloved Boston Red Sox over the hated Yankees in 2004.
Alas, for the Massachusetts-born captain of the U.S. squad, it was not to be, as the Europeans crushed their American counterparts, 18-10, at Colorado Golf Club to capture their first win on U.S. soil.
“We just didn’t make the putts. I saw more putts go over the hole on our side,” Mallon told reporters Sunday night after watching the Liselotte Neumann-led Euros make history with their first back-to-back wins since the inception of the Solheim Cup in 1990. “It wasn’t for lack of not having good rolls. We just didn’t make them.”
Despite a heavy-hitting roster that included the world’s second-ranked golfer and reigning Women’s British Open champ Stacy Lewis, 2010 U.S. Women’s Open winner Paula Creamer, and 2010 Curtis Cup hero Lexi Thompson, Mallon’s dozen lacked a Mariano Rivera-type closer. Lewis struggled all week, finishing a lackluster 1-2-1, while Paula, 1-3, was creamed by 17-year-old rookie Charley Hull in Sunday’s singles finals.
“I felt like we put the best pairings out there, and put the best teams out there,” Mallon said. “I put my strongest team out Saturday afternoon, literally my strongest team on paper….And we lost all four matches. So that’s the nature of match play — anybody’s day, they can win in match play. And that was obviously the huge turning point in this event.”
Thompson, who stole the Curtis Cup show when the U.S. downed Great Britain and Ireland three years ago at Massachusetts’ Essex County Club, made her Solheim Cup debut with a 1-2 record that included a decisive 4 and 3 win over Caroline Masson in singles.
But it was Hull, the youngest golfer to play in Cup history, who was the story among the 10 first-timers to the biennial event.
”I didn’t really feel that nervous, to be honest,” Hull said. ”Because this is how I always look at golf: I’m not going to die if I miss it. Just hit it, find it, and hit it again.”
Hull’s dominating performance, in the second singles match of the final day of play, paved the way for her mates, who set the stage for their historic upset by sweeping all four matches on Saturday afternoon. Mallon, facing a 10.5-5.5 deficit entering Sunday’s finale and with Europe requiring only 3.5 points to retain the cup, needed an early surge to stave off the inevitable.
Even front-loading her lineup with her stars, however, was not enough to halt Europe’s drive. Lewis, leading off, managed a half point when she and Anna Nordqvist finished all square, but the inward nine was a microcosm of the American’s week-long putting woes.
Looking to go 2-up on the 16th, the two-time major champion missed a 10-foot putt for birdie. On No. 17, a day after firing the first ace in Solheim Cup history, Nordqvist canned a long birdie putt on the same green to get to even in the contest.
Hull, who made five birdies to Creamer’s two on Sunday, drained a 45-footer for birdie and the advantage on the sixth hole and proceeded to run away from her opponent to an eventual 5 and 4 rout.
“With such a young team, with nothing to lose, it just seemed like they were a little bit looser, they were making more putts, and we were not,” Mallon said. “And that’s what it came down to.”
Despite 18 LPGA Tour wins, including the 2004 U.S. Women’s Open at The Orchards Golf Club in South Hadley, Mass., the legacy of the popular Mallon will be that of the first American skipper to lose the Solheim Cup on U.S. turf. With Monday-morning quarterbacking after such losses par for the course, Mallon averred that she would have done nothing differently in sending her golfers out to meet their fate.
“It wasn’t for lack of preparation, because we played this golf course quite a bit,” Mallon concluded. “So it wasn’t like it was a surprise for us, it was just a matter of who dropped the putts on those holes and unfortunately it was the Europeans.”
Emily Kay is a regular contributor to New England Golf Monthly. You may follow Kay on Twitter @golfexaminer
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