If there was one specific time that Team USA really needed its veteran players to come through in the powder keg of pressure that is the Solheim Cup, it was in Sunday's singles matches. Even with a huge lead entering the final day, the Americans needed, and got, a steadying influence to repel any chance of a dramatic comeback from their European counterparts.
Team USA posted two early singles-match victories and a halve in the first three pairings on the way to a 16 1/2-11 1/2 victory in the 15th Solheim Cup, which concluded play on Sunday at Des Moines Golf & Country Club in West Des Moines, Iowa.
After building a 10 1/2-5 1/2 points lead over the first two day of competition, the Americans needed to earn just 3 1/2 points in the singles matches on Sunday to retain the cup and post back-to-back victories in this event for the first time since 2007 and 2009.
Juli Inkster sent four of her most experienced players to the course first in singles, and three of them came through with points. First Lexi Thompson fought back from a 4-down deficit against Team Europe's Anna Nordqvist of Sweden to halve the lead match. Paula Creamer followed with a 1-up win over Georgia Hall of England and Cristie Kerr defeated England's Mel Reid 2 and 1 to put Team USA on the brink of victory.
Creamer was added to the team when Jessica Korda had to withdraw because of a shoulder injury. She played in four matches over the three days and posted a 3-1 record.
"I know that Juli got a hard time for picking me, but I told her I could do it," Creamer said. "For her to play me four times as an alternate, it means that she believes in me. And I'm so glad that I came out and played my game and didn't let any other noise bother me. And I just have had such a great week. It's been awesome. I've had so much fun."
Team Europe fought back with victories by Catriona Matthew of Scotland over American Stacy Lewis, 1 up, and a 4 and 2 win by Germany's Caroline Masson over Michelle Wie, but by then the only thing that could keep Team USA from retaining the Cup would be a huge collapse.
That never came close to happening, but the Europeans fought to the very end, matching Team USA with five wins in singles.
The Americans clinched at least a tie in the competition when rookie Angel Yin holed a five-foot par putt on the 18th hole to halve her match with Karine Icher of France to give Team USA 14 points. At that juncture, there were five matches still being played with the Americans leading in three of them, Team Europe leading in another and another all square.
Lizette Salas pushed Team USA's point total to 14 1/2, assuring a win rather than just a tie, when she holed a six-foot putt for par to beat Jodi Ewart Shadoff of England, 1 up. By that time, the American team - and its boisterous, but respectful, crowd - had already started celebrating.
"I'm just proud of my team," Inkster said. "The Europeans fought hard today -- I'm glad we had a lead because Europe came out firing. And I knew they would. They made it really close. I really haven't been nervous all week. But today I was a little bit nervous. So it's just an honor to captain this team and I'm really proud of the girls."
Inkster and Team Europe captain Annika Sorenstam had agreed before this competition started that all matches would be played to their conclusion even if one team clinches the victory earlier during the Sunday singles matches.
Team USA also posted wins by Gerina Piller over Florentyna Parker of England, 4 and 2, and by Daniele Kang over Emily Pedersen of Denmark 3 and 2.
Team Europe's other victories came from England's Charley Hull over Brittany Lang, 1 up, by Carlota Ciganda of Spain over Brittany Lincicome 4 and 3, and Madelene Sagstrom of Sweden over Austin Ernst, 3 and 2.
"We just got outplayed -- there's no doubt about it," Sorenstam said. "I'm so proud how hard my team fought. And it's not easy coming out here on a Sunday with the team so far behind. But I'm proud of them. They're out there fighting every single match, every single point. What can I say? Just congratulate the U.S.A. because they played some awesome golf.
"Sometimes it's not always about the results," Sorenstam added. "I must say that this has been a lot about the journey. I've learned a lot the last 18 months. It's been a pleasure to represent the European Tour. I'm so proud of these young girls, and to get to know them, new friendships, new memories."
Team USA now holds a 10-5 lead over the Europeans in the Solheim Cup.
NOTES: American captain Juli Inkster became just the second captain of Team USA to win back-to-back Solheim Cups, joining Judy Rankin. ... The 2019 Solheim Cup will be held at Gleneagles in Scotland on Sept. 13-15. ... Team USA's victory margin was built in the fourball (better ball) competitions on Friday and Saturday, when it won seven of the possible eight points in those matches. Team Europe earned a 4 1/2-3 1/2 edge in foursomes (alternate shots) on Friday and Saturday.