DUNSANY, Ireland – Rosie Jones didn’t just thrust a fist to the sky.
That wasn’t enough to punctuate the exhilaration the United States captain felt watching her team seize a mystical force so important to winning the Solheim Cup. She thrust both her fists toward the heavens.
Momentum’s a powerful phenomenon in team matches, and the Americans claimed it with the sun sinking over Killeen Castle early Saturday evening.
After Paula Creamer and Brittany Lincicome closed out a 3-and-1 victory at the 17th green in the day’s final match, the entire American team relished feeling a seismic shift in emotion. They huddled aside the green there, hugging and howling after erasing a two-point European lead with a 3-1 run in the afternoon fourballs.
“It was huge,” Jones said of pulling even (8-8) going into Sunday singles.
Jones knows the magic momentum creates in Solheim Cups. She knows having played in seven of them.
“It doesn’t really end even when you get off the golf course, and that's what's really cool,” Jones said. “Everybody does go home and rests and stuff like that, but the attitude, the liveliness and the excitement, just the dynamic of the team, it’s really, really fun.”
Jones felt momentum shifting on the scoreboard Saturday even after Laura Davies and Melissa Reid won the first of the four afternoon fourballs in a 4-and-3 rout of Michelle Wie and Brittany Lang. Jones felt it with the American red color beginning to spread over the electronic scoreboards in the final three matches, a visual signal USA was taking control.
“When you're out on the golf course, and it's happening, it's kind of like this gravity to success, and you want to be part of it,” Jones said. “You just start playing better, and your teammates start playing better, because they want to be a part of it. We really rallied today.”
The Americans did it with Morgan Pressel and Cristie Kerr defeating Suzann Pettersen and Caroline Hedwall, 1 Up, with rookie Ryann O’Toole teaming with Stacy Lewis for a 2-and-1 victory against Sandra Gal and Christel Boeljon and with the Creamer and Lincicome victory.
“Those last three points were huge for us,” Creamer said. “The team room will have a great vibe. We're all very pumped up. We all want to do well, especially going into singles.”
Two days of fourballs and foursomes can be riveting, but it’s all a prelude.
This biennial competition always comes down to who can win singles. It’s all about the singles. Twelve points will be at stake Sunday. The Euros need 6 1/2 of those points to keep the Americans from taking the trophy home for a fourth consecutive time.
“Singles is about as high a pressure as you're going to get in any golf,” Davies said. “When you're trying to win a major championship, it’s that sort of pressure.”
The bad news for European captain Alison Nicholas is that momentum heavily favors the Americans in singles. The Solheim Cup has become Heartache Sunday for the Euros with the Americans sporting a cumulative 24-12 edge in singles in the last three events.
Though the Euros haven’t trailed going into Sunday in the last three Solheim Cups, they’ve lost them all.
In 2009, the Euros were tied (8-8) with the Americans on Saturday night only to lose the competition, 16-12.
In ’07, they led, 8½-7½, going to Sunday and also lost, 16-12.
In ’05, there was another tie, but the Americans rolled to a 15½-to-12½ victory.
Nicholas hopes she’ll change that Sunday habit with a new strategy. She’s rested all 12 of her players at least one session this year.
“I think we've been aware that we've always overplayed players, rather a lot, before the singles, so I have rested players so that we're ready to take them on tomorrow,” Nicholas said. “In the past we've played a lot of players five times, and they've been exhausted coming into the singles. So for me, that was my strategy.”
The Americans won’t be as rested with Creamer and Kerr so active. They’re the only players in the event who’ve played in every match.
The Euros are hoping they’ve finally got a team with the depth to contend in singles. The first match is always important, and Nicholas will get a feel for how momentum’s going to go early with Creamer against Euro dynamo Catriona Matthew in the leadoff match. Creamer’s undefeated in singles (3-0). Matthew’s 4-1 despite playing on so many losing teams.
Pettersen’s matched up against Michelle Wie in another intriguing matchup. Kerr’s the American anchor against Karen Stupples.
Momentum will have a lot to do with how Sunday unfolds, and Jones felt like the Americans had it leaving Killeen Castle on Sunday night.