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In the swing: Haas, Pettersen and the shots that dreams are made of

After a thrilling Sunday of golf, Neil Cullen is having trouble working out which of the day’s many highlights was the best.
Sep 27th 2011, 11:29 AM 348 0

I CAN’T DECIDE which was better: Bill Haas’ shot out of the water on the second playoff hole against Hunter Mahan or Suzann Pettersen’s three birdies in a row that essentially won Europe the Solheim Cup.

Both were absolutely outstanding individual performances, the type that amateurs dream of repeating.

In Haas’ case, he probably shouldn’t have been in the water in the first place. He was hitting in first and didn’t really need to attack. A solid position in the middle of the green would have put Mahan under pressure to hit a good shot.

When there’s $11.4m on the line though, it’s understandable that the mind may not necessarily operate with clarity and logic.

That’s what makes Haas’ recovery shot even more special. It was make or break for him.

Jonny Miller in the American commentary reckoned that one in five times he’d get it within 15 feet. Those aren’t great odds. I wonder how many times he thought Haas might get it to two feet?

Another comment made by the commentary team was, “at least give yourself a putt.” Most would have thought that leaving himself a putt was the best he could realistically have done from that position.

But he did better. He stepped in and backed himself to play a shot that was high risk and one that he can’t have practiced all that much, if ever.

The reward? He remained in the game and walked off the next green with $11.44 million.

I debated last week whether it was fair that a guy who had an average season could win the FedEx Cup by winning one event. This weekend went a long way to settling the debate in my mind.

Imagine that playoff was happening, but someone like Luke Donald or Webb Simpson had already pocketed the $10 million bonus. Would anyone really have been that bothered by the playoff? Certainly much of the attention would have been taken off it – the media probably would have been scrambling for interviews with the new multi-millionaire and FedEx Cup winner.

As it was, we got a tremendously exciting finish and a winner who played his best golf under the most pressure.

“One of those comebacks that transcends sport”

Suzann Pettersen also produced her best golf under the most pressure.

Being one down with three holes to play really isn’t a pleasant feeling, probably even worse when you’re playing against a player as talented as Michelle Wie.

The situation didn’t look great for Europe as the final players approached the closing holes of the Solheim Cup, but Pettersen was the catalyst for a dramatic turnaround.

It was one of those comebacks that transcends sport. Even someone who doesn’t know the first thing about golf could only have been enthralled by Europe’s comeback and the emotion that was invested in the game by both sides.

Pettersen’s vigorous reaction was offset by the inconsolable Ryann O’Toole on the American side who lost the last two holes to Caroline Hedwall, handing Europe a crucial half-point.

It was Pettersen’s steely nerve that facilitated such an outpouring of joy for the Europeans. To birdie three holes in a row at any point in any game is remarkable, but to do it in a ‘backs against the wall’ situation like that is a perfect example of what it takes to become one of the world’s top players.

In many ways, it was unfortunate that the Tour Championship and Solheim Cup fell on the same weekend, as both tournaments are really worthy of having the spotlight all to themselves.

The Solheim Cup particularly has become the battlefield for one of the most heated rivalries in sport.

While this year we didn’t quite witness the animosity of years gone by, the dramatic finale went a long way to captivating the audience and whetting the appetite for the next renewal.

WATCH: The incredible water shot that won Bill Haas $11.4m

More drama as Tiger nabs rival’s caddie

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Neil Cullen.


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