CASARES, Spain (AP) — It took the home-crowd favorite to help Europe do just enough to keep the Solheim Cup.
With a big finish by Spaniard Carlota Ciganda on Sunday, the Europeans retained the Solheim Cup after securing a first-ever tie, 14-14, with the United States.
“There’s nothing like this,” Ciganda said. “To play in Spain in front of your home crowd, and to have my name being chanted, it’s really amazing, very special and just something that I won’t forget.”
The U.S. needed a win to get the trophy back after two consecutive losses against Europe in the top team event in women’s golf. It’s the first time Europe has secured three straight Solheim Cups against the United States.
The teams split the 12 decisive singles matches on the final day to finish tied with jubilant Europe keeping the trophy.
Ciganda, the only Spaniard in the European team, came up with two superb approach shots on the closing holes — including on the 145-yard par-3 17th — and made the near tap-in putts for consecutive birdies that secured the clinching 14th point for Europe.
She beat Nelly Korda 2 and 1 for her fourth straight victory after sitting out the opening session on Friday morning. She was the only player to win four matches this week.
Ciganda’s teammates raised her on their shoulders, and the celebration continued with champagne being splashed around by the Europeans.
“It was a team effort and I’m so proud of everyone,” Ciganda said. “I love the Solheim Cup and I love being in Spain. The cup stays where it belongs.”
Europe’s captain Suzann Pettersen, who four years ago made the winning putt to win the Solheim Cup as a player, raised the trophy in front of her squad. Ciganda then raised the cup high in front of the chanting fans at Finca Cortesin in southern Spain.
“I think it was meant to be,” said Pettersen, who earlier in the week said she felt like she needed to put the Spaniard on a “leash” to keep her grounded. “This is all Carlota, let her have it.”
Spanish King Felipe VI was at Finca Cortesin and helped present the trophy to the winners. He praised the players and gave Ciganda a hug.
The teams entered the final day tied 8-8 after the U.S. got off to its best start ever with a 4-0 win in the foursome matches on Friday morning, when Ciganda didn’t play, but saw Europe slowly rally during the weekend.
“This is a dream come true. We had a massive challenge ahead of us. Today we created history yet again in the Solheim Cup and these girls are legends,” said Pettersen, who added that she plans to be back as captain next year.
The Europeans arrived touted as the favorites after bringing an experienced squad to Spain, but the U.S. kept it close with a talented group of youngsters who had won big tournaments recently.
“I don’t want to sound like a sore loser, but it was a tie, and I think that’s a lot for this team to build off of, especially coming over here, coming into this environment with five rookies, a very young and inexperienced team,” U.S. captain Stacy Lewis said. “I mean, this week was really, really good for them.”
Each team won five matches on the final day, with two ties.
Leona Maguire defeated American rookie sensation Rose Zhang 4 and 3 in one of the most anticipated singles. The 20-year-old Zhang, considered one of the next top stars in golf, had a disappointing week and finished without a win in three matches.
Anna Nordqvist, also acting as a vice captain for Europe, beat Jennifer Kupcho 2 and 1 for her first win of the week. Swedish rookie Maja Stark defeated U.S. Women’s Open champion Allisen Corpuz 2 and 1, while Caroline Hedwall, one of the captain’s picks for Europe, beat Ally Ewing 2 up.
Hedwall was key in pulling Europe closer in the end by finishing her match with four birdies and an eagle in the last six holes.
“You know, I never give up, and I showed that today,” the 34-year-old Swede said. “I mean, I’m just so proud of myself and, wow, that was awesome.”
American Megan Khang won the opening pairing 1 up against Linn Grant; Danielle Kang had a 4-and-2 win over Charley Hull; Angel Yin beat Celine Boutier 2 and 1; and Lilia Vu defeated Madelene Sagstrom 4 and 3 for her first win of the week. Boutier, the highest-ranked European, lost all three matches she played.
The ties came between Andrea Lee and England’s Georgia Hall, and Cheyenne Knight and Scotland’s Gemma Dryburgh.
Europe had won consecutive Solheim Cups at Gleneagles, Scotland, in 2019, and Toledo, Ohio, in 2021.
Spain was hosting the Solheim Cup for the first time, 26 years after it hosted the men’s Ryder Cup at Valderrama. This year’s Ryder Cup is taking place in Rome next week.
It is the first time both events are held in back-to-back weeks in Europe.
They were held in consecutive weeks in 2002 when the Ryder Cup was postponed a year by the Sept. 11 terror attacks. The Solheim Cup was in Minnesota and the Ryder Cup was in England. The Solheim Cup will be played again in 2024 so both events are contested in opposite years.
Next year’s Solheim Cup will be at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Virginia.
AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf