(Reuters) – The United States recorded their biggest victory over Europe in two decades and continued their near invincibility on home soil to retain the Solheim Cup in Iowa on Sunday.
The U.S. won by five points — 16-1/2 to 11-1/2 — the same margin as they started the final day in front of large and enthusiastic galleries at Des Moines Country Club.
Europe, needing to win eight of the 12 singles matches to achieve an unlikely victory, made U.S. captain Juli Inkster nervous with a strong start, but could only share the Sunday spoils.
Both teams won five singles matches, while the other two were halved.
“It was just nerve-racking. I felt like I had no control over anything,” Inkster told reporters after guiding her team to a second consecutive victory. She was also at the helm in Germany in 2015.
She said her team’s strength in depth had proved decisive.
“We just played a little better. I think we were a little deeper. I played everybody at least three times. And I think that really helps for the confidence of the team.”
Europe captain Annika Sorenstam said the better team won.
“We just got outplayed,” she said. “Coming in this morning we all knew that a small miracle needed to happen.”
The U.S. improved their winning record to 10-5 in the biennial event which started in 1990, and are now 7-1 at home, their only loss coming four years ago in Colorado.
The victory was their most dominant since the 17-11 trouncing in Wales in 1996.
The hosts’ superiority in four-ball matches was decisive this time.
They picked up seven of eight possible points in the format, which more than made up for the slightly better European record in the foursomes (alternate shot).
Veteran Cristie Kerr led the U.S. points, with three wins, no losses and one halved in four matches, raising her all-time points tally to 21, the most by any U.S. player in Cup history.
The top-ranked European player was Swede Anna Nordqvist, 3-0-1, with veteran Scot Catriona Matthew (3-1-0) and Karine Icher of France (2-1-1) the only other Europeans with winning records.
Europe sent out Nordqvist against Lexi Thompson in the first match, one of the most memorable in Cup history.
Thompson, four down after nine holes, launched her comeback by holing out from 112 yards to win the par-five 11th with an eagle.
She later took the lead, before Nordqvist hit an eight-iron approach stiff at the par-four 18th for a conceded birdie, winning the hole and halving the match.
“That had to be the weirdest round of golf I’ve ever played,” Thompson said.
“Front nine I don’t think I was awake and back nine I played the lights out. It was just a crazy round but Anna played great.”
Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina, editing by Pritha Sarkar / Ian Ransom