On Saturday morning the Americans took two of the first three matches, pinning losses on the teams led by Annika Sorenstam (the world's No. 1 player) and Neumann. The final foursome match was brilliantly played, with Pepper and Inkster reaching Muirfield's brutal par-4 18th all square with Alfredsson (ranked fourth in the world) and France's Marie-Laure de Lorenzi. With the Europeans short of the green in two, Inkster had a terrifying 45-foot downhill birdie putt to win the match. Her lag took about two days to trickle down the green before settling within a foot and a half of the cup. The Europeans conceded that putt, giving the Americans par for the hole. When a jittery De Lorenzi flushed her chip 15 feet by and Alfredsson couldn't make the tricky par putt coming back, the U.S. was up 8½-3½. But that's not what had the European team seething.
After collecting Inkster's gimme, Pepper nearly blew out her rotator cuff pumping her fist and giving the now antiquated raise-the-roof hand gesture to the crowd. This was bad form, since the Europeans had yet to finish out the hole. Davies, who was watching greenside with all the other players, was so torqued she buttonholed U.S. captain Judy Rankin after the match and gave her an earful, and she blasted Pepper to any reporter within earshot. "It was unsporting," Davies said. "That was just unprofessional, unnecessary, and it spurred us on. It was a big mistake." Davies later took out her aggression on a punching bag in the European locker room.
Pepper was hardly contrite. "To me, it was patriotism," she said. "No motion was made to another player or caddie. It was only toward the crowd to get them into it. Emotion is part of this game."
It certainly is for her. No player is as rah-rah for the Solheim as Pepper. On Saturday she accented her blue shorts and white shirt with red and white shoes, a red, white and blue manicure and bright-blue eye shadow. She didn't, however, dye her hair red, as she had for the '94 match. As over the top as all of this was, it's hard to argue with Pepper's play. With her singles victory on Sunday, Pepper became the first player to go 4-0 in the Solheim, and her 12-4-1 career record is the finest in the event's history. When Rankin was asked if she thought Pepper rubbed the Europeans the wrong way, she said, "That's why I played her first Friday morning."
Perhaps to ensure Pepper's safety, Rankin gave her a breather during Saturday afternoon's four ball, and while Pepper was napping (literally), the Euros made a little rally, taking two of three matches and leading the fourth at the turn. But Neumann, who was the unofficial goat with her 1-3 record, blew a two-foot putt on the 14th hole that put the U.S. one up, and Inkster closed out the match on the 17th with a dramatic 35-foot birdie putt in the gloaming. That sent her twirling across the green in a little boogie that she later described as "weak."
Inkster's second crucial putt of the day had pushed the U.S. lead to 10½-5½, meaning the Europeans needed to win nine of 12 singles matches on Sunday to take home the crystal trophy. They had a paradoxical bit of inspiration from the 1996 Solheim Cup, when the U.S. went 9-1-2 in singles to storm to victory from a two-point deficit. Nilsson didn't leave any bullets in the chamber, sending Davies, Alfredsson, Sorenstam and Neumann out in the first four matches. Each produced a victory—Davies and Alfredsson sullying the 3-0 records of Hurst and Inkster, respectively—but the U.S. countered with early blowouts by Pepper and Jones, pushing the Europeans to the brink.
Their hopes all but vanished when Robbins birdied 16 and 17 to close out Charlotta Sorenstam, who had impressed all week with her ball striking and tenacious 'tude, though she did show her sister's inconsistency on the greens. The Solheim Cup was then officially clinched in a battle of captain's selections when Sherri Steinhauer made two late birdies to beat Catriona Matthew, a rookie from Scotland, 3 and 2.
Afterward the Americans were openly emotional. They talked about how lonely it felt playing singles, and they reveled in the fresh memories of the laughter and camaraderie of their evenings spent together, of intimate gatherings of 13, in contrast to the sprawling parties of the Europeans, which included caddies, significant others and a random assortment of guests.
For their part, the Europeans were gracious losers, all the way through the end of the closing ceremony, when their various national anthems were played and selected team members lowered the flags of the represented countries. And with that, the European players headed for the Muirfield clubhouse, slipping away one by one.