First, let me tell you that I am a big fan of the Solheim Cup. I’ve attended three and, believe me, the atmosphere is unlike any other golf event. So to say I enjoyed last weekend’s performance by the teams from the USA and Europe is an understatement.
Kudos to both captains, Juli Inkster for the USA and Annika Sorenstam for Europe. They both told their teams to go out and have some fun and, boy, did both teams listen. The shot making was top shelf and there was no sign of quit in any competitor. It became a game of anything you can do, I can do better. With the pressure that this international event produces made the play remarkable.
One match in particular capsulized what this game golf is all about. That was the opening game of the singles play on Sunday. The captains started their highest ranking players. Anna Nordqvist for Europe and Lexi Thompson for the USA. The players did not disappoint. It was a game for the ages.
Thompson started the game completely out of sorts. Lexi looked nothing like the player who went 2-0-1 over the first two days play. Despondent and disillusion was on her face as she struggled to find herself.
Meanwhile, veteran Solheim player Anna Nordqvist went to work. Nordqvist, from Sweden, sensed the situation when she won an early hole with a par. Anna hit fairways and greens while Thompson struggled. In what seemed a flash, Nordqvist was up 4 holes to none after four holes.
It was then that the American co-captain Nancy Lopez came up and spoke to Thompson. Whatever Lopez said stopped Lexi’s turmoil. At the turn, Lexi was still down four.
Thompson started the back nine with a deficit that would make most players fold their tents. Yet Thompson, with two eagles, proceeded to shoot 8 under par over seven holes. She took take the lead with one hole to play.
During Thompson’s scoring barrage, Anna Nordqvist was a tower of strength and consistency. She never took her foot of the gas. She hit fairways and green for the entire round. And her approach shots looked like she was throwing darts at the flag stick. Her iron play and putting was suburb.
What made this round special for Nordqvist is she played under severe physical discomfort. She has contracted mononucleosis, a glandular virus that can strike in different intensity. The main symptom is a complete sapping of strength. The body is just listless and any exertion can exhaust the person.
Yet Nordqvist showed up to play all three days. She looked exhausted on the back nine Sunday. She had forced Thompson to play beyond brilliant. She never let up on her opponent. Her expression never changed. An almost stoic aura of self control surrounded her. She never blinked nor wavered during Thompson miracle comeback. She continued to put the pressure on, throwing darts at every flag.
She executed in every tough situation. None better than the clutch 8 iron she hit on the final hole. It was so close, Thompson conceded the crucial putt. That put Thompson in a must make situation for the point. Lexi missed and each team earned a half point.
Professional golf has taken some hits lately. The scramble for dollars seemingly more important than winning. When the golf news is more about social media, gossip and fashion. It would seem as if the old value systems are getting lost in the shuffle.
Yet on a Sunday in August in Iowa, USA, two women athletes recaptured the spirit of what competition is all about. Coaches always stress two cardinal rules of competing. One is never quit. Don’t give up on yourself or your teammates. Lexi Thompson did just that with her dramatic comeback.
The second is when the going is tough and you think you can’t go any further you must dig deep within yourself and find the extra strength needed to complete the task. Exhausted physically and under mental duress, Anna Nordqvist somehow found the resilience and kept going.
It was fitting that this match ended in a draw. Both players deserved to win and neither of them deserved to lose. Because of them, on this Sunday in Iowa, the sport of golf came out the winner.