TOLEDO, OHIO | The nice thing about match play is that it doesn’t matter. You can make a 7 on a par-3, and as long as your opponent makes an 8, you win. There were no such numbers to be seen in the opening session of the Solheim Cup, but there were a few 6s and more than a few holes that were won with par.
The four-man session ended with Europe with 3.5 to .5. But two things were obvious. The games were much closer than the end result. And the Inverness Club was the ultimate winner.
Bubba Watson, still here with a two-way radio in his pocket and a cheerleading spirit in his heart, said, “Move the tees and this could be the US Open.” And Charlie Ewing, husband of Ally and head coach at the Mississippi State University said, “This is the type of golf course that you can build an 8-under-par win or an 8-over-par win on.”
Saturday morning at the Solheim Cup it was somewhere in between.
The course was designed by Donald Ross in 1918 and renovated by Andrew Green in 2016 to restore it to what Ross originally intended. For the architectural freak, this could be called Rossnor, a combination of Ross and Seth Raynor. If you look at the angles – the vertical lips of grass on the bunkers, with sand as flat as a sheet of paper below and greens with a lot of movement – Inverness seems to have the best of the Golden Age of architecture. Standing on the fairways, some greens look like trying to stop the ball on an upturned coffee cup. So it’s understandable that four birdies were hard to find.
For example, the opening hole of the opening game was cut in half with a bogey. That was Danielle Kang and Austin Ernst against Anna Nordqvist and Matilda Castren. That match went up to 18 with Nordqvist and Castren winning, 1 lead. As exciting as it was – and exciting to the end – the Americans won four holes with pars and the Europeans won two. Kang and Ernst only made two birdies.
In the second match, Ally Ewing and Megan Khang won four holes with pars, three on the top nine and one with a birdie, while European duo Georgia Hall and Celine Boutier won four holes with pars, none bigger than the 18th, where they fought going back down from 2 to cut the game in half and go undefeated as a pairing.
Again the golf was convincing. It was not a Saturday afternoon in Gleneagles when the wind howled, the temperatures dropped, and the game of golf, to be polite, was bad.
Mel Reid and Leona Maguire won the sixth hole with a bogey and cut the seventh in half with a bogey in a fight against the Korda sisters. That match continued until the 18th, when the Europeans won 1 with, you guessed it, a par.
Most of the morning birdies came from the last game. Lexi Thompson and Brittany Altomare won three holes with birdies and halved another hole in their thriller against Charlie Hull and Emily Pedersen, while Pedersen and Hull made 15, 16 and 18 birdies to win the match by 1 lead.
All four games were played over the full 18 holes. So it was convincing, just like all major events at the Inverness Club.
But it wasn’t easy. Championship layouts are rare.