Solheim heroine Suzann Pettersen holed one of the greatest pressure putts of all time before calling time on her playing career
As recently as 2011 the Solheim Cup was being questioned as a competition proper as the Americans, with three straight wins to their name, took on Europe at Killeen Castle.
Then, with the visitors on the verge of yet another victory, there was a weather delay which sparked one of the greatest team talks in the history of the competition. It came on a buggy as the players made their way back out to the course and it spurred the rookies, Caroline Hedwall and Aza Munoz, to spectacularly turn around their matches right at the death.
The person giving the team talk birdied her last three holes to beat her good friend Michelle Wie by one hole.
That person was Suzann Pettersen and, until now, that was maybe her greatest contribution to a match that she had dazzled in since 2002.
Now she will be remembered as the person who, having not played competitively for 605 days before and after the birth of her son, Herman, in August 2018, then holed the winning putt with the last shot of the week.
On a green where Europe had seen a collection of points and half points disappear, on a week where we seemed to have more lip-outs and horseshoes than any other, Pettersen knocked it in dead centre.
Think Martin Kaymer at Medinah and add three feet and a bit more break.
🇪🇺 EUROPEAN SUPERSTARS 🇪🇺@suzannpettersen for the @2019solheimcup🏆
Incredible scenes, simply incredible. @SolheimCupEuro have won the Solheim Cup. Let the celebrations begin 🙌🏻#TeamEurope pic.twitter.com/Rf4IeaBKct
— Ladies European Tour (@LETgolf) September 15, 2019
Not that Pettersen quite knew the significance of it at the time.
“I actually didn’t know that it was the putt. I knew it was so close because Beany (Matthew) came up on the 18th tee, and I’m, like, OK, I understand; you don’t have to say much.”
A pitch from 89 yards spun back to eight feet and after Marina Alex, who had previously been unbeaten, just missed it left Pettersen to hole what is now likely the greatest pressure putt in the competition’s history.
“It was a left-centre putt and I felt it came off exactly where I needed it. The last putt to win the cup, when it’s that close? I mean, can you ask for more?”
And then the ultimate sign-off as Pettersen revealed that this would be it, in the Solheim Cup or in any competition.
At the age of 38 Pettersen has decided to retire.
“This is it. This is the last you’ll see of me playing in the Solheim. I can’t express it any better. I mean to hole the winning putt, for the winning putt. Nothing beats the Solheim Cup in my career.
“I think this is a perfect closure, the end for my Solheim career, and also a nice ‘the end’ for my professional career. It doesn’t get any better.
“And to do it with these girls, I never thought I was going to be here four months ago until I met Beany this summer. And to have the confidence from Beany to give me the go, yeah, this is it. I’m completely done.”
Earlier in the summer Pettersen let it be known that if there was a chance of a captain’s pick then she would love to play.
For Catriona Matthew and her assistants there was never a doubt despite just two starts, and two missed cuts, to show for herself ahead of her selection.
As Dame Laura Davies said at the start of the week: “Beany asked us all and we all said yes. Why wouldn’t you want Suzann Pettersen on your team? In the end it might be hard for someone who hasn’t played, but 18 hole match play I’d back Suzann every time.
“The Americans, you’d have to ask them, if you have Suzann or another player on the sheet, you might rather play the other player. Suzann can be quite tricky out there. It’s great that she brings that reputation to our team, and I’d never doubt Suzann Pettersen ever.”
By ‘tricky’ Pettersen has carried the mantle of Europe’s go-to player for large chunks of the past 17 years, in teams that sometimes never really had a chance, and then there was ‘Gimmegate’ in Germany in 2015 when the Norwegian was front and centre.
Two years ago she had to pull out through injury at the start of the week, Matthew ended up stepping in for her, and this week she had been lined up to be part of the backroom team.
The wind doesn't bother @suzannpettersen!
Watch #TeamEurope try to extend their lead on @GolfChannel now! pic.twitter.com/hSdX3TWnPt
— LPGA (@LPGA) September 14, 2019
Go back to Friday afternoon and Pettersen was struggling to finish a hole early on, a few hours later she had cajoled Anne van Dam to Europe’s sole victory that afternoon.
Then, in some abysmal conditions on Saturday afternoon where birdies were almost non-existent, Pettersen had five of them in the space of six holes. Come the end of the match Pettersen had another birdie putt at the 18th which came up short and right – Europe 8 United States 8 – the same Saturday night scoreline as Killeen Castle in 2011.
Still, this is Pettersen and the new mum of one, who had barely played in the past two years, was sent off 10th in the singles.
To get to this point Pettersen had holed long putts across the 5th and 6th greens, and then again at the 11th, but, despite wins from Carlota Ciganda, Georgia Hall and Celine Boutier, the 18th continued to get in the way.
.@suzannpettersen for her fifth birdie of the day & to go 2UP 🇪🇺#TeamEurope pic.twitter.com/wqjlYYrGDR
— Ladies European Tour (@LETgolf) September 15, 2019
But then, much like Ireland where everything had to go just right, Europe produced the perfect finale. In the anchor match Anna Nordqvist saw off Morgan Pressel, Bronte Law somehow didn’t lose the 15th and then bolted one in at the next. Moments later she had completed a remarkable turnaround to leave Europe just a point shy from outright victory.
Pettersen, who had chipped brilliantly to halve the 16th in birdies, then signed off the match, and now her career, in the most sensational style.
The American captain Juli Inkster, who now steps aside, summed it up perfectly.
“It was great. To go ahead and roll that putt in, it’s impressive. That’s why she’s Suzann. Sometimes you just gotta tip your hat and say good on ya.”