PARKER, Colo. – They pulled back the veil here Saturday at Colorado Golf Club.
They gave us a glimpse of the present and the future of the Solheim Cup, and it ought to send a cold shudder through the ranks of American women’s golf.
With a stunning 4-0 sweep of the afternoon fourballs, Europe dealt the United States a blow that reverberates beyond today with so much youth and so many Solheim Cup rookies in the Euro lineup.
When Karine Icher's 45-foot birdie putt from off the 18th green hit the bottom of the cup to close out this wonderfully improbable afternoon for the Euros, the shock waves resonated across her native France, across England and Scotland and across Sweden, Norway, Germany, Spain and Italy.
Icher's putt closed out a sweep that gives Europe a commanding 10 ½ to 5 ½ lead, equaling the largest lead going into Sunday singles in the history of the Solheim Cup.
The sweep moves Europe into position to win its first Solheim Cup on American soil and to win back-to-back Solheim Cups for the first time in the history of these biennial matches.
Mostly, the sweep gave Sunday a sense of inevitability.
“I love Europe,” Carlota Ciganda said. “I love winning, and I love beating the Americans.
“And we’re going to win tomorrow.”
For the Americans to win, they’ll need to mount a comeback greater than any mounted in the history of a Solheim Cup or Ryder Cup.
“Obviously, it was a very disappointing afternoon,” U.S. captain Meg Mallon said. “We have our work cut out for us tomorrow. It can be done. It’s daunting right now but it can be done.”
Sunday singles is the American strength. They’ve dominated the format over the years, but no team has ever come from more than a two-point deficit to win the Solheim Cup in Sunday singles.
No team has ever come from more than a four-point deficit to win a Ryder Cup.
If the Americans are going to take back the cup, they’ll have to win nine of the 12 Sunday singles matches. They’ve done that just once before, back in ’96, when they claimed 10 singles matches to overcome a 9-7 deficit and win in Wales.
Mallon was on that American team in Wales.
“I’m not being Pollyanna about this, but I really feel like the lineup I have, and this team, can do it,” Mallon said. “I love this team.
“There are 12 points to get out there tomorrow. I think we are a stronger team, and we can do it. That’s what I’m going to tell them.”
The Euros won singles 7-5 in Ireland two years ago. They take a load of confidence into Sunday.
“It’s unbelievable,” Spain’s Azahara Munoz said. “I can’t even tell you how we’re feeling.”
The afternoon sweep was stunning because the Euros dominated the Americans with a youthful, inexperienced lineup that looked overmatched. It was stupefying how they were able to dominate with their most decorated veteran leaders all on the bench.
European captain Liselotte Neumann sent out eight players for the afternoon fourballs, five of them Solheim Cup rookies, none of them with more than one Solheim Cup under her belt coming into this week.
Half of Neumann’s 12-woman roster are Solheim Cup rookies. The confidence she showed in those rookies Saturday afternoon was almost dumbfounding in its bravado.
“We did a pretty gutsy thing this afternoon, resting some of the girls, because I knew how important the singles were going to be tomorrow,” Neumann said. “Sitting out Catriona, Anna and Suzann, I knew they really needed to be rested for the singles.
“But to think these girls were going to step up to the plate like this and take all the matches in the afternoon? It’s unbelievable.”
Neumann sent out a pair of Solheim Cup rookies in the afternoon leadoff match, one of them 17-year-old Charley Hull, the youngest player to compete in the history of the matches. She sent her out with 25-year-old Jodi Ewart Shadoff, another Solheim Cup rookie.
How did they respond? They beat Paula Creamer and the future of American golf, 18-year-old Lexi Thompson, 2 up. They did it stepping to the 17th tee all square and fiercely closing out the Americans with a pair of birdies.
Hull dealt the Americans their first big blow, carving her tee shot to 4 feet at No. 17, inside Thompson, who hit a terrific shot to 5 feet. After Thompson missed her birdie chance, Hull buried hers.
Shadoff followed with heroics at the 18th, stiffing her approach to 8 feet and burying that birdie to start the dominoes tumbling.
“Some of the best golf I’ve ever been a part of,” Shadoff said.
Even Shadoff marveled at Hull’s cool hand in Saturday’s pressure cooker. Hull made six birdies, five over the first 10 holes.
“Probably, because we’re young, we don’t have much fear,” Hull said.
The Americans might not be able to say the same thing after seeing what the future holds.