Solheim drama boosts women's game
Mess with history at your peril. That is the message after a Solheim Cup that surpassed expectations despite ending in the widely predicted result.
Beth Daniel's US team were overwhelming favourites and ultimately justified the tag with a 16-12 victory, but their European opponents played a full part in providing the women's game with a much needed boost.
For the Solheim Cup to survive and for the matches to be genuine contests, Europe would need to expand to a Rest of the World team in the future, so it was said in many quarters ahead of the clash at Rich Harvest Farms in Illinois.
But such claims were well and truly bunkered, indeed plugged under the lip, by the inspired effort of the European side led by Alison Nicholas.
Daniel made some dodgy decisions for her pairings over the first two days, implementing a curious policy of resting each of her players at least once.
Some might say that helped the European cause, but Nicholas and her players should still take full credit for ensuring the match was level heading into the final day singles.
And for a while a historic first away win looked a distinct possibility for Europe. At one stage they were ahead in six singles, down in five and only one was all square.
All this was being played out in a fervent atmosphere being stirred up by the young Americans who formed the backbone of Daniel's team.
Her wildcard pick Michelle Wie had learned how to smile at last and revelled in displaying to the world her magnificent ball striking in between stoking up the willing crowds.
It would be disingenuous to suggest the Americans went over the top in this regard; European players and crowds are capable of being equally boisterous when at home in Solheim and Ryder Cups.
But Christina Kim could do with installing a robust volume control system, although she shouldn't be condemned outright for her boisterous antics because she worked as hard at keeping order on behalf of her opponents as she did in pumping up the noise levels the rest of the time.
I just wouldn't fancy being on an adjacent fairway when she's yelling instructions to her ball - which, by the way, is a complete waste of time. Balls don't have ears - lucky them.
But such antics did serve to illustrate just how much the Solheim Cup means to the Americans. They clearly feel it is well worth winning.
Kim, hoarse from three days of imploring her ball to fly where she wanted it to go, summed it up by saying: "In (women's) golf nothing can cap the Solheim Cup."
And team-mate Morgan Pressel added: "Solheim Cup is the highlight of your career, having your whole country behind you."
Wie, meanwhile, bemoaned the loss of half a point in her most impressive debut, the 19-year-old gleaning 3 ½ points out of 4, while looking every inch a team player.
"People have seen a different side of me," she said tellingly in the wake of her crucial singles win over Helen Alfredsson.
These past three days in Illinois may prove the making of Wie.
Europe competed gamely and had Laura Davies been able to turn two up with two to play into a full point, momentum may have switched sufficiently to take the match to the wire.
It's a shame that didn't happen because the occasion seemed to deserve a knife-edge denouement, but there was still sufficient excitement keep one watching to the end.
It wasn't all perfect. The slow play in the morning fourballs on the first two days was dreadful. Six hours for a game of golf is inexcusable and it should never be allowed to happen again.
Things can be done. For a start, allowing caddies to line up players, which is prevalent in the women's game, adds time and should be outlawed.
Ultimately the slow play cost the event television viewers and newspaper readers, especially on this side of the Atlantic, with the foursomes matches stretching so late into the night.
The Solheim Cup can ill-afford this and it suffered its lowest profile in years. Up against the Ashes, World Athletics, Formula One and Premier League football, sports editors were reluctant to spend money on sending reporters to Illinois.
This appeared to make even more sense given the apparent likelihood of a no a contest.
But that's not quite how it turned out. Europe put up a brave fight, the result was in doubt until late on the final day. The match stirred passions, created stars and reminded us that women's golf is well worth watching.
So roll on 2011 and Killeen Castle. Ireland awaits its first Solheim Cup with no need for a change in format or line-up. All we need is for the golf to be played a bit quicker and a pair of earplugs would be handy if the effervescent Kim makes the American side.
Finally for now, on the subject of Europe v USA golf, listen out on Thursday evening from around 7.45 when Five Live Sport comes live from Ryder Cup skipper Colin Montgomerie's front room.
Monty will appear on a panel with European Tour boss George O'Grady to discuss the Celtic Manor clash exactly a year out from the naming of the European team.
Any thoughts/questions you may wish to add, make them here and I'll endeavour to include as many as possible in the programme.