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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Solheim Cup: Rabble-rouser Christina

Kim gives United States an ugly edge


The Solheim Cup is turning ugly. Today Rich Harvest Farms was turned into another bear pit as Christina Kim took her American team-mates way over the edge of acceptable sporting behaviour.
The two-faced dog of jingoism and triumphalism ripped at the throat of Europe’s players as Kim whipped it on with unrestrained glee.
Let’s pray this match doesn’t come down to a crucial putt late this afternoon because it would make the 1999 Ryder Cup bearpit of Brookline look like a Boston tea party. If the American captain has any sense – and there is not much evidence that she has – then Kim will be kept well away from the closing moments.
You don’t want to take the bubble out of the girl’s character, but someone needs to have a word. Kim partnered Michelle Wie in yesterday morning foursomes and by the end she had turned even that well-mannered girl into a rabble rouser. Kim cupped her hands to her ears to encourage the home roars, she slapped palms with the crowds lining the hole, she whirled her finger above her head and she chanted USA.
Goodness knows what Lee Westwood might have made of it all. He would probably have taken Kim’s wedge and shoved it up her beret. Westwood was contemptuous of Tom Lehman when he began conducting the crowd in the national anthem on Brookline’s first tee. But this was way beyond that.
Kim’s behaviour took away from a largely good natured patriotic crowd of 30,000 people and some great excitement. It also detracted from the terrific golfing show that she had put on with the 19-year-old Wie as they came back from losing the first two holes to win 5&4 against Helen Alfredsson and Tania Elosegui.
Wie said afterwards: “This is the most amazing thing I have ever done. It was the highlight of my career.” Wie’s five birdies put the 'mo’ in momentous and powered her team to victory. Kim said afterwards: “There is no shell in Michelle” and we are at last seeing the teenager come out of herself.
Her team-mates have had a bit of fun at her expense saying that Michelle didn’t know how to put her clubs into her new USA bag. Independence is a crucial part of any top golfer and it is the thing that has been missing from Wie’s career. These few days of team play away from her protective parents may just be the making of Wie the individual superstar.
The only blip in the week came when Beth Daniel, the American captain, said Wie had played “great” on the first morning and then left her out in the afternoon. Not many people have given Europe a chance this week but Daniel is one of them. She has decided on an insane tactic of not playing anyone in all five matches.
Paula Creamer didn’t like it and said so, but the heartbeat of the American team was left out yesterday morning. Even more bizarrely, both Wie and Cristie Kerr, two of the three best Americans on the first morning, were left out on Friday afternoon.
Momentum is everything in the Solheim and Daniel let Europe back into the match. She had five winning partnerships over the first four sessions and kept only one of them together. Madness.
Daniel said that Kerr would be just as good when she came back into the team. Horsefeathers. Kerr and Nicole Castrale lost their Saturday foursomes as Europe came back to win the session and square the match at 6-6.



Europe made an impressive rally to win the four-balls 2 1/2-1 1/2 and even the Solheim Cup at six points apiece ahead of Saturday afternoon’s foursomes.

Wie and Kim had the already festive crowd in a frenzy with an easy 5 and 4 victory over Helen Alfredsson and Tania Elosegui that showcased Wie’s considerable talents. They were still exchanging hugs and high-fives on the 14th green when Cristie Kerr holed in from the fairway on 12 to even her and Nicole Castrale’s match with Anna Nordqvist and Suzann Pettersen, and chants of “The Cup stays here!” began to ring out across Rich Harvest Farms.

“All you need is a little momentum,” Kim said.

But Europe has it now.

Women’s British Open champion Catriona Matthew and Diana Luna were down two through 16 holes and hadn’t made a birdie since the turn. But Brittany Lang and Angela Stanford gave them an opportunity on 17th. Lang’s tee shot went into a bunker on 17 and she dug out for all of about 70 feet, while Stanford overshot the green.Matthew then buried a 30-footer from the left edge of the green for a birdie.

Lang had a chance to win the match, but her 30-foot birdie putt from the bottom of the green stopped 5 feet short. Luna then buried a 12-footer to halve the match, pumping her right fist and leaping as the ball went in the cup.

“It’s just amazing,” said Luna, a Solheim Cup rookie who didn’t play Friday. “Catriona said to me, ‘Come on, knock it in for the glory.’ I had a great partner, we got really lucky.”

There was more to come, too.Pettersen birdied 14, and Nordqvist made a 20-footer on the 16th to go two up on Kerr and Castrale. Castrale gave the Americans a chance to salvage a half-point, making a 15-footer for birdie on 17 after Nordqvist had missed a short putt. But Kerr landed in the frontside trap and, with Castrale crouching at the side of the green with her head bowed, Nordqvist made a birdie from 12 feet to win the match.

The Swedish rookie pumped her fist and yelled when the ball dropped in the hole and Pettersen – who had lost both her matches Friday – jumped up and down.

Maria Hjorth and Gwladys Nocera were three up after 10, but Brittany Lincicome and Kristy McPherson made three straight birdies to even the match through 15. But Hjorth put her tee shot within 18 inches on the par-3 16th, and knocked it in for what would be the decisive birdie.