Caroline Hedwall goes from unlikely captain's pick to out-of-nowhere hero with incredible singles comeback
You would be forgiven if you forgot about Caroline Hedwall was playing for Europe at the Solheim Cup. Suzann Pettersen did not dust off her captain's pick until Saturday afternoon four-balls. But instead of being an afterthought, the 34-year-old Swede delivered one of the best stretches of golf on Sunday in Solheim Cup history, going from 3 down on the 13th tee and birdieing five of the last six holes to flip her match to a 2-up win over Ally Ewing that prevented the Americans from walking off with the overall victory.
"Now I realize how important that point was and I'm just really proud that I could turn my match around," Hedwall said afterward, noting that without her point, Europe loses 15-13.
Questioned for using a captain’s pick on the 121st-ranked player in the world, Pettersen’s decision became even more cloudy when she left Hedwall on the bench for the first three sessions. A five-time Solheim Cup veteran, Hedwall was the only player on either side who did not play in a session on Friday, as Pettersen felt pressure to play her best players after the Americans swept the opening foursomes session.
"We have to put our ‘A team’ out, and she's [Hedwall] completely in with that," Pettersen explained.
Hedwall does not profile as an A-team member. She was the second lowest ranked player on the European squad and made her last Cup appearance was in 2019, where she played two sessions and went 0-2. Her best Solheim Cup moment was a decade ago, when in 2013 she went 5-0-0.
Hedwall's play Saturday afternoon didn't exactly foretell her becoming a Sunday hero. She lost in four-ball alongside Anna Nordqvist, 2 and 1, the only European loss of the final team session.
It made sense then that Hedwall trailed Ewing 3 down with six holes remaining in the eighth singles match out Sunday, a path to Europe even retaining the Cup looking in doubt.
Georgia Hall and Gemma Dryburgh had squandered their 2-up leads with four holes to play, turning into only half points and nudging the U.S. to 11½ points. Hedwall and Emily Kristine Pedersen faced multiple-hole deficits against the Americans, and Celine Boutier, Maja Stark, and Carlota Ciganda were all in tight matches.
Instead, the Swede started a throwback performance with six holes left, beginning the crucial comeback with her second and third birdies of the day for wins on Nos. 13 and 14.
"I was just trying to stay patient," Hedwall said. "I didn't make any putts on the front and it was frustrating, for sure, and the wind was turning around. But somehow I just felt like it has to turn around at some point and it truly did, which I'm very happy for."
After a tie on the 15th, Hedwall faced a 15-foot birdie putt on No. 16 to win her third hole in the last four, with the line going straight to the pavilion of European fans waiting to erupt. The Swede delivered, raising both arms like a conductor after draining the putt to send another roar pulsating throughout the back nine.
The importance of Hedwall completing the comeback increase as Yin took down Boutier, 2 and 1, putting the U.S. at a 13-11 lead, and with Thompson holding a commanding lead in the anchor match. A half point from any other American else would yield a likely U.S. victory. Yet Hedwall, headed to 17 tied up with Ewing, remained oblivious to what her match could mean for Europe's chances.
"I wasn't aware, to be honest, because Suzann told me this morning to just focus on myself and try to get my point, and that's what I kept doing," Hedwall said.
Hedwall's head-down approach continued her triumphant comeback charge by hitting a dart at the par-3 17th's flag. Hedwall drained her 12-foot birdie putt to take her first lead Sunday, cleaning up an uneventful 18th after reaching the green in two to win her match, completing one of the Solheim's best-ever comebacks and Hedwall's first singles victory in a decade, a needed point for Europe to retain the Cup.
"Somewhere I just found that power and I managed to finish this off and I'm just really proud of myself," Hedwall said.