ANDALUCIA, Spain -- American team captain Stacy Lewis called it a tie. The European team called it a victory -- and celebrated like it had won something big -- after Spain's Carlota Ciganda took down U.S. superstar Nelly Korda to clinch her team's 14th point on Sunday.
Regardless of what you call the Europeans' 14-14 tie with the United States in the 18th Solheim Cup at Finca Cortesin this week, one thing is certain: The European team is keeping the Solheim Cup. As the two-time defending champion, Europe needed only 14 points to retain the trophy.
It is the first time the Solheim Cup has ended with a tie score.
"Does it get any better than this?" European team captain Suzann Pettersen said. "I mean, this is a dream come true. We had a massive challenge ahead of us today. We've created history yet again in the Solheim Cup, and these girls are legends."
Lewis wouldn't say her team lost, even after it squandered a 4-0 lead and failed to win the trophy again.
"I don't want to sound like a sore loser, but it was a tie, and I think that's a lot for this team to build off of, especially coming over here, coming into this environment with five rookies, a very young and inexperienced team," Lewis said. "I mean, this week was really, really good for them. I just wanted to tell them how proud I was of them. Fortunately, we only have to wait another year to go get this thing back."
With the short turnaround -- the Solheim Cup is moving to an even-year schedule and the next competition will take place at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Virginia -- there's a good chance most of their players will be back in September 2024. Lewis and Pettersen will remain captains, too.
"We're so close," Lewis said. "So no, we're going to go through the same process. We'll go to the drawing board again, come up with some new ideas to make it a little bit different behind the scenes, continue to make it fun, but the process of the pairings and how we went about putting players together, what order they put in, I don't see a whole lot of that changing because it worked this year. It works, and we're moving in the right direction, and I'm really excited about the future of this U.S. team."
Here's the best of the week from the 18th Solheim Cup:
Best player (Europe): Carlota Ciganda
Ciganda's tee shot on the par-3 17th hole, which she knocked to about 2 feet, will be remembered as perhaps the greatest of her career. She made a birdie putt to win the match 2 and 1. Fans at Finca Cortesin were chanting her name as she celebrated with teammates.
Ciganda grew up in Pamplona and played collegiately at Arizona State. She was the only player from either team to win four points and go 4-0-0 this week.
"I think there is nothing like this," Ciganda said. "To play in Spain in front of your home crowd on Spanish soil, and to have my name being chanted, it's really amazing, very special and just something that I won't forget."
Best player (United States): Megan Khang
Khang, 25, seems to be hitting her stride as a professional. She finished in the top 10 at three of the five majors this season. She picked up her first LPGA Tour victory at the CPKC Women's Open on Aug. 27, defeating Jin Young Ko in a playoff. She is ranked 14th in the world.
Khang was a force for the Americans this week. She teamed up with veteran Lexi Thompson and won both their foursomes (alternate shot) matches. Khang and Ryder Cup rookie Rose Zhang tied Scotland's Gemma Dryburgh and Sweden's Madelene Sagstrom in a Friday four-ball (best ball) match.
Then Lewis asked Khang on Saturday night if she wanted the first match in Sunday singles. Her opponent was Sweden's Linn Grant, who was playing as well as anyone this week. Khang won the match 1-up to tie the score 9-9. Khang went 3-0-1 and picked up 3½ points.
"Stacy asked me last night if I'd like to take the first tee time, and I said, 'You've got it. Whatever you need from me, I'm ready for it,'" Khang said. "I knew it was going to be a fun one, and to get the birdie on the first to go 1-up after one, it was huge. Just wanted to kind of feed and lead the team with some red on the board."
Best rookie (Europe): Linn Grant
Grant might have been a Solheim Cup rookie, but her performance probably wasn't a surprise for anyone who followed her on the Ladies European Tour. She has won five LET events since March 2022 and claimed her first LPGA Tour win at the Dana Open in July.
Grant, another former Arizona State player, was one of three European team members who played in each of the five sessions this week. Ireland's Leona Maguire and Denmark's Emily K. Pedersen were the others.
Grant, who is ranked 15th in the Rolex Women's World Golf Ranking, went 3-2 and collected three points.
On Sunday, Grant was the first player out for the Europeans in her loss to Khang.
"I think it's fun," Grant said. "I think it's a responsibility. You set some sort of pace for the day. I don't know, you've got to go out sometime. But [it's] kind of good to be out first, especially me playing all the rounds."
Best rookie (United States): Allisen Corpuz
The first-timers had a combined record of 6-9-4. Corpuz and Knight were the only rookies to win two matches. Corpuz and Nelly Korda won two foursomes matches together, taking down a few of Europe's top players in the process. Corpuz and Jennifer Kupcho halved a four-ball match against Pedersen and Sweden's Maja Stark.
On Sunday, Stark handed Corpuz her only defeat of the week, 2 and 1 in singles.
Korda and Corpuz figure to be a regular foursomes pairing in future Solheim Cups.
"For her to come out and make some really clutch putts for us, it was great to see," Korda said. "She may be a rookie, but I think she came in really clutch [Saturday] and she doesn't show that at all."
Best comeback (Europe): Caroline Hedwall
Hedwall's game was in such rough shape that she didn't play in each of the first three sessions. If there wasn't a Solheim Cup rule that said a player has to appear in at least one of the first four sessions to compete in singles, she might not have played at all.
Hedwall was ranked 121st in the world. She's from Sweden, so captain Suzann Pettersen was very familiar with her. Hedwall was a former NCAA Division I individual national champion at Oklahoma State in 2010 and played in the Solheim Cup four previous times.
Hedwall and Anna Nordqvist dropped their four-ball match Saturday afternoon. Hedwall was trailing Ally Ewing by 3 with six holes to play in singles. Then she turned it on, winning five of the last six holes. She won the match 2-up, helping the Europeans get within one point (13-12) of the U.S. team.
"You know, I never give up, and I showed that today," Hedwall said. "I mean, I'm just so proud of myself and, wow, that was awesome."
Hedwall was a captain's choice, and Pettersen was proud of the way she played.
"I also would like to give some extra credit to Caroline Hedwall [who] turned around the match," Pettersen said. "I feel like she had the crucial point. She teed it nicely up for Carlota to just bring it home on 16 and 17."
Best comeback (United States): Lexi Thompson
There were plenty of concerns about Thompson's form heading into the Solheim Cup. She missed the cut in eight of her 11 starts on the LPGA Tour this season. She was 138th in the circuit's season-long points race.
Thompson, a six-time Solheim Cup veteran, was one of the Americans' most reliable players this week. U.S. team captain Stacy Lewis gambled by sending Thompson and Khang out first in Friday morning's foursomes matches. They set the pace for the U.S. team, defeating Sweden's Stark and Grant 2 and 1. Khang and Thompson also took down Sweden's Nordqvist and Maguire 1-up in Saturday morning's foursomes.
Thompson's lone loss this week came in Friday's four-ball (best ball) when she and Vu fell to Maguire and England's Georgia Hall 1 down. Thompson was the last American on the course in Sunday singles and defeated Pedersen 2 and 1. Thompson earned three points with a 3-0-1 record.
Best of the week
Best celebration: Ciganda soaked up the moment in front of family and friends.
She did the thing in front of Spain 🇪🇸 pic.twitter.com/MWnrb0Id1E— LPGA (@LPGA) September 24, 2023
Shot of the week: Ciganda will never forget her tee shot on No. 17 on Sunday. Neither will any Spaniard who saw it.
Biggest moment: Pedersen made the second ace in Solheim Cup history on Friday afternoon, which seemed to give the European team a much-needed boost.
Best putt: Hedwall's ball kept going and going and going.
Best family moment: Kang's mother, Grace Lee, was among the loudest and most active U.S. supporters at Finca Cortesin this week.