Europeans Claim Solheim Cup

Kate Middleton, girlfriend of Britain's Prince William, leaves at her home in London on Monday, Jan. 8, 2007. Middleton celebrated her 25th birthday on Tuesday, Jan. 9.
Europe won the Solheim Cup for the first time since 1992, beating the United States on Sunday in the women's version of the Ryder Cup.

Carin Koch of Sweden made a 10-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole to secure the 13 1/2 points needed to beat the Americans. Europe won the cup 14 1/2-11 1/2 in the closest finish in Solheim history.

"No individual championship can top this. It's the U.S. Open and British Open rolled into one," said Laura Davies, one of five European players who have participated in all six Solheims. "It looked like we had blown it, it looked like we had buckled."

The Europeans ended the possibility of a U.S. comeback in the final 12 singles matches. The Americans trailed by five points going into Sunday's singles but rallied to tie 11 1/2-11 1/2 with three matches still on the course.

But in the space of a minute, Sweden's Catrin Nilsmark parred the 18th to defeat Rosie Jones 1-up. Koch, one of six Swedes on the team, sank the winning putt the 17th.

The only other European victory in this event also came in wet weather in Scotland eight years ago, in Edinburgh. The United States leads the series 4-2.

The Europeans held on after taking an unprecedented 4-0 lead in Friday's first foursome (alternate shot) session and never trailed.

The Americans not only lost but were accused of poor sportsmanship by Annika Sorenstam.

After the Swedish star chipped in for an apparent birdie on No. 13 during her fourball match, the Americans asked to have her shot replayed because she went out of turn. She just missed from 25 feet on the replay.

"It is just really sad when you have tournaments like this," a tearful Sorenstam said.

Sorenstam said she had not been told to play and assumed it was her turn.

"The more time I have to think about it the more mad I am," she said. "It makes you ask the question: `What would have happened if I didn't make it?' I stand for sportsmanship and I still have my honor left. I can't believe they would call it after the fact, that's what gets me the most."

U.S. captain Pat Bradley made the decision on the replay.

"We followed the rules as written," she said.

A partial washout on Saturday and a rain delay of 1 hour, 40 minutes Sunday left the deciding matches being played at near dusk on a stormy, overcast day at Loch Lomond Golf Club.

Fearing all the matches would not be completed with more rai forecast for Monday and Monday dusk as the deadline both captains stacked the lineups with their top players leading off.

The United States took four of the first five singles with wins for Juli Inkster (5 and 4 over Sorenstam), Brandie Burton (4 and 3 over Sophie Gustafson), Dottie Pepper (2 and 1 over Trish Johnson) and Kelly Robbins (3 and 2 over Davies). The only European win early came as Helen Alfredsson beat Beth Daniel 4 and 3.

The Americans let a crucial half point get away in the sixth match when Pat Hurst, one of the best U.S. players all week, missed a 4-foot putt to win the match on 18 with Liselotte Neumann holing out to halve.

Europe salvaged another unexpected half point in the seventh group when Sherri Steinhauer hit a bunker with her tee shot at 18 with Alison Nicholas dropping a 25-foot birdie to halve the match.

In the eighth match, American Meg Mallon made a great approach at the 18th to halve the hole and win the match against Patricia Meunier Lebouc.

In a match that was never close, American Becky Iverson beat Raquel Carriedo 3 and 2.

That left three matches still out the two deciders and the last match in which Scotland's Janice Moodie beat Nancy Scranton 1 up after the outcome had been decided by Koch and Nilsmark.

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