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Solheim Cup takeaways: Leona Maguire’s bright future, American rookies on the rise

Leona Maguire celebrates with the Solheim Cup. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Matilda Castren brought foresight to her role in Team Europe’s 15-13 victory at the 2021 Solheim Cup at Inverness Club on Monday.

At the start of the week, the rookie and the first player from Finland to wear the blue and yellow, talked about Suzann Pettersen’s impact on the team this year. Pettersen, Team Europe’s vice captain and a nine-time Solheim Cup veteran, retired after making the winning putt at the 2019 Solheim.

“There’s a big photo of [Pettersen making the winning putt] in our locker room and, walking past it every day, I just look at it,” Castren said. “And I’m like, wow, that’s so cool and I hope that I can be there one day making that winning putt.”

She didn’t have to wait long. Castren’s 12-foot, right-to-left breaking putt on the 18th hole Monday helped the Europeans edge the Americans, notching the team’s 14th point and securing their second victory on American soil and fourth win in the last six Cups.

“It’s hard to put it into words right now. I think I’m still shaking,” Castren said. “I just knew I was looking at the board, and I knew it was going to be an important putt, and I wanted to make it.”

The win delivers Team Europe captain Catriona Matthew her second and final Solheim Cup win. The 52-year-old acknowledged in her victory press conference that someone else would take the reins for the 2023 Cup in Spain.

Here are five takeaways from Team Europe’s victory.

1. The Iron Irishwoman makes Solheim history

Leona Maguire finished 4-0-1 in her rookie debut for Team Europe. The 4 1/2 points she earned for her side were the most ever by a rookie in the Solheim Cup. Maguire joins Carin Koch in 2002 (4-0-1) and Caroline Hedwall in 2013 (5-0-0) as the only three players to go undefeated in five matches in Solheim history.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better start to my Solheim career,” Maguire said. “I’m very fortunate to have had two great partners the last two days as well, and Mel [Reid] made me feel so comfortable out there and let me go do my thing. It just worked really well.”

Maguire set the tone in her first match, defeating the Korda sisters 1-up in foursomes, their best event as a duo. Then she teamed up with Georgia Hall to beat Yealimi Noh and Brittany Altomare 1-up in four-ball for a clean sweep on Saturday.

The largest margin of victory at Inverness this week was 5-and-4, achieved three times. Maguire played a part in two of those wins. Alongside Mel Reid, she dispatched world No. 1 Nelly Korda and Ally Ewing in Sunday foursomes, and then she handed Jennifer Kupcho her only loss of the weekend in an easy Labor Day singles victory. In Sunday four-ball, Maguire’s lone tie came against Lizette Salas and Kupcho, the two Americans with the best record at this year’s Cup.

Maguire, the longest-reigning world No. 1 amateur, will undoubtedly be on the Americans’ radar for the foreseeable future.

“She’s good,” U.S. captain Pat Hurst said Monday. “She’s going to be around for a long time. She’s the one we’re going to have to fear, like I said, for a long time. She played at Duke and she was good there, and I think this is only going to elevate her game even that much more.”

The 26-year-olds Maguire and Castren (3-1-0) carried the banner for Team Europe, forming a powerful tandem for many Solheim Cups to come.

2. Europe’s fast starts keep Solheim crowd quiet

A record number of fans poured through the gates at Inverness over the weekend, with 130,000 total attending the Solheim Cup. They lined up well before 6 a.m. and were ready to roar once they took their seats in the pavilion surrounding the first and 10th tees, encouraging Team USA to get off to a hot start with their enthusiasm.

Instead, the Americans stumbled out of the gate. Of the 28 matches played at the Solheim Cup, Team Europe led through five holes in 17 of them. The United States led in just five, trailing in eight consecutive matches through the five-hole mark from Saturday four-ball through Sunday foursomes.

“I think obviously, with the home crowd advantage this year, it’s been tough,” Matthew said Sunday. “I thought the crowd was great today, but as you can imagine, there were a lot of USA chants. We were just trying to quiet that.”

There’s never a clear victor in a match through five holes, but 16 of the 28 Cup matches played out to the 18th hole. The early mark is a barometer for how involved the fans will get: As more European flags were raised, the more subdued the fans became. That affected the significant edge the United States should have had, given that European fans couldn’t travel to Inverness due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Matthew’s goal of keeping the fans anxious with Europe’s strong play early may have been the difference.

“I wish we could have given them a little bit more to cheer about today and kind of help get the momentum in our favor,” assistant Team USA captain Stacy Lewis said. “But the fans killed it this week.”

The United States put itself in a difficult situation, having to climb out of early holes time and time again. The pressure Europe was able to maintain through the weekend contributed to their historic second win on American soil.

3) The top Americans struggle

Team Europe’s top-ranked player in the Rolex Rankings was Anna Nordqvist, currently 16th in the world after her victory at the AIG Women’s Open in late August. Nelly Korda (No. 1), Danielle Kang (No. 8), Lexi Thompson (No. 12), and Lizette Salas (No. 14) all ranked ahead of the Swede, with Jessica Korda (No. 18) sitting only two spots behind Nordqvist.

With nearly half of the roster in the top 20 of the world rankings, the Americans were the favorites on paper and their stars were expected to lead the way. Instead, only Salas (2-1-1) won more than half of the points available to her. Nelly Korda (2-2-0), Kang (1-3-0), Thompson (1-2-1), and Jessica Korda (1-2-0) combined to leave 8 1/2 points on the board.

If 1 1/2 of those points flipped, Team USA would have taken the Cup back. Instead, the top three Europeans in our power rankings combined to go 9-1-2, with Nordqvist, Castren and Maguire leading the charge.

4. American rookies provide a glimpse into the future

Twenty-year-old Yealimi Noh (2-1-0) and 24-year-old Jennifer Kupcho (2-1-1) shined in their rookie debuts for Team USA as two of three players to secure over half of the points available to them.

“I feel like the MVP of our team is this one right here,” Salas said, pointing to Kupcho after they split four-ball with Reid and Maguire on Sunday afternoon.

Kupcho and Salas found success as a duo, going 2-0-1 together and securing 2 1/2 of a possible three points. The 2019 Augusta National Women’s Amateur champion, Kupcho thrived on the pulsating energy from the fans in Toledo.

“It’s super fun just to be able to hear the crowd roar,” Kupcho said. “I think it’s super exciting for me. I mean, I love the sound of it.”

Noh lost her first match to Maguire and Hall alongside Brittany Altomare. Teamed up with 31-year-old Mina Harigae in four-ball, Noh then defeated Team Europe’s Celine Boutier and Sophia Popov 4-and-3. The Bay Area native took down Solheim veteran Reid by one in singles Sunday, surging to a 4-up lead through four holes en route to notching her second point for Team USA.

“I’m so happy to be a part of this team last minute,” Noh said Monday. “It’s just been so amazing that I keep wanting to play. I hope I play in a couple more Solheim Cups in my career.”

5) Bubba Watson raises the bar for supporting the women’s game

Two-time Masters champion and current PGA Tour player Bubba Watson initially intended to travel to Inverness to participate in the celebrity matchup on Thursday. Once signed up for that, he reached out to captain Hurst to see if he could expand his role beyond the celebrity cameo.

“Bubba called a couple weeks ago … wanting to help women’s golf out,” Hurst said last week. “He’s got a wife, he’s got a daughter, and he loves golf and, like I said, he just wants to support women’s golf.”

Watson’s first bridge to the American team was Nelly Korda. The 23-year-old credited the perspective Watson shared with her at the U.S. Open with the career-low 62 she carded at the Meijer LPGA Classic. The performance vaulted Korda to her second victory of the season a week before she won the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and became the No. 1 player in the world.

Watson put in the work as a helper for Team USA, filling in divots, doling out advice from his four Ryder Cup appearances and listening in on his official “Helper” Team USA radio.

Watson punctuated his support in an interview on the first tee Saturday with Amanda Balonis.

“The world needs to see that the ladies have just as much talent, if not more than we do,” he said.

Clark, Martin Square Off in First Pro WNBA Matchup

Kate Martin #20 of the Las Vegas Aces and Caitlin Clark #22 of the Indiana Fever look on during the game
Things looked a little different Saturday night as the former Iowa teammates went head-to-head in Las Vegas. (Jeff Bottari/NBAE via Getty Images)

Former Iowa teammates Caitlin Clark and Kate Martin shared the court once again on Saturday, this time as professionals.

It was Martin’s Aces that got the 99-80 win over Clark’s Fever in Las Vegas. The pair's former coaches Lisa Bluder, Jan Jensen, Jenni Fitzgerald, and Raina Harmon were all in attendance to watch their Hawkeyes — Clark, Martin, and former national player of the year Megan Gustafson — take the court.

"It’s super special. It’s cool for our program, cool for Lisa, for Coach Jan, for all of them," Clark said in a pregame press conference. "They’ve known me since I’ve been 13 years old and now I’m 22 getting to live out my dream and they’ve been a huge part of that and helping me get here and helping Megan and Kate to get here too. It’s a great moment for them and I’m sure they’re not complaining about a trip to Vegas."

As for her college teammate, Clark had nothing but good things to say ahead of the showdown. 

"I’m just really happy for her and everything Coach [Becky] Hammon says about her is so true," she said. "Every person that played at Iowa and was around her knows that to be true. She’s the ultimate teammate, ultimate person, ultimate leader."

In the end, Martin stole the show with 12 points and seven rebounds in 22 minutes, while Clark amassed eight points, seven assists, and five rebounds over 29 minutes of playing time. 

"It was weird," Martin admitted after the game. "I'm not going to lie — just looking out on the court and seeing her in a different jersey than me, it was obviously different. But it's really fun. We're both living out our dreams right now."

The Aces next meet the fever on July 2nd at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Barcelona Beat Lyon to Win Back-to-Back Champions League Titles

Barcelona's Aitana Bonmatí and Alexia Putellas celebrating after beating Lyon at the 2024 Champions League final
Ballon d'Or winners Aitana Bonmatí and Alexia Putellas helped Barcelona to a second-straight UWCL title on Saturday. (Ramsey Cardy - Sportsfile/UEFA via Getty Images)

Barcelona was crowned champion of the Champions League on Saturday with a 2-0 win over Lyon in Bilbao.

Alexia "La Reina" Putellas, who recently re-signed with Barcelona, came off the bench to score the team's second goal. Fellow Ballon d’Or winner Aitana Bonmatí provided the team’s first. After the game, defender Lucy Bronze said Putellas was nicknamed "the queen" for a reason.

"Alexia is the captain of the team and she's the queen of Barcelona for a reason,"  defender Lucy Bronze told DAZN. "She's got the quality to do that in the last minute of the Champions League final when we were up against it at the end and it just sealed the win for us. It was amazing."

The victory marked Barcelona's first win over Lyon in a UWCL final, having previously gone up against the French side at both the 2019 and 2022 Champions League finals. It's also Barcelona's second Champions League title in a row.

"It's hard to win it once, but to do it back-to-back, Lyon showed how difficult it is and this team has finally done that," Bronze said. "I think we go down in history as one of the best teams in Europe."

This season, the team also secured a quadruple for the first time in club history, having already won Liga F, the Copa de la Reina, and the Spanish Supercopa. The win ensures that coach Jonatan Giráldez — who has officially departed the team to join the NWSL's Washington Spirit — leaves Europe a champion.

"It was an incredible game. I am really happy, it's one of the best days of my life for sure," Giráldez told broadcaster DAZN after the game. "We did an amazing job. I am very proud of all of them."

Following the win, Putellas said her team "can't ask for anything else."

"Our objective was to win four out of four," the Spain international told reporters. "We have achieved everything we wanted. Every minute of sacrifice has been worth the effort — and I'd say that not after the game, but before, just entering in the stadium, with all the support we had here, it was worth it."

2024 Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Aitana Bonmatí said that the crowd support made it "feel like Camp Nou."

"I am on cloud nine right now," she said. "It is an historic day which we will remember forever."

Sun’s Alyssa Thomas Ejected After Flagrant 2 on Sky Rookie Angel Reese

Angel Reese said there were "no hard feelings" stemming from Alyssa Thomas's flagrant foul. (Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Angel Reese might have gotten knocked down on Saturday, but she got right back up again. 

Connecticut’s Alyssa Thomas was ejected from the Sun’s 86-82 win over Chicago following a flagrant foul 2 on Reese — the first of her career. While the two were battling for a rebound, Reese took a clothesline hold around the neck courtesy of Thomas before hitting the ground.

After the game, Reese told reporters that there were "no hard feelings" and she appreciated Thomas for playing her hard beneath the basket.

"I know she purposely probably didn’t do it towards me," Reese said. "But just being able to come out there and just be strong and stand on two feet, it was going to be a tough game and that’s what I’m built for. And my teammates had my back throughout the whole game. So I was prepared for it."

She also didn’t buy into the idea that it was a "Welcome to the WNBA" moment, but thanked Thomas "sending a message" because it helped her get back up and "keep pushing."

"It’s not just because I’m a rookie. I’m a player. I’m a basketball player. They don’t give a damn if I’m a rookie. I mean, I want them to come at me every day. I want them to come at everybody," she added. "I mean, they’re not supposed to be nice to me. I hope y’all know that. They’re not supposed to be nice to me or lay down because I’m Angel Reese or because I’m a rookie."

Reese finished the game with 13 points, five rebounds, and two assists over 33 minutes.

Barcelona to Face Lyon in Champions League Rematch This Weekend

UEFA Women's Champions League Final"Barcelona FC - Olympique Lyonnais"
Saturday's game will be the third UWCL final meeting for Barcelona and Lyon, having previously gone up against each other in 2019 and 2022. (ANP via Getty Images)

The UEFA Women's Champions League final kicks off in Bilbao on Saturday, with a couple of familiar foes set to face off for the trophy.

Olympique Lyonnais Féminin, making its 11th final appearance since 2010, will go head to head with a Barcelona side making its fourth final appearance in a row.

This will be the third time these two teams meet in the UWCL title game, having previously appeared in the 2019 and 2022 finals. Lyon won both of those prior games against Barcelona, alongside a total of eight Champions League trophies. That’s double that of any other club, with Eintracht Frankfurt coming in a distant second with four. 

Should Barcelona win, this would be the team's third title — breaking a tie for the third in the UWCL total titles race. 

But as these teams return to the UWCL final, it also marks the end of an era for both clubs. The game will be the last for both club managers, as Barcelona’s Jonatan Giráldez and Lyon’s Sonia Bompastor depart for new jobs after the season's end.

Giráldez is set to leave for the NWSL's Washington Spirit, while Bompastor will take over for incoming USWNT coach Emma Hayes at Chelsea. Both coaches have earned one UWCL trophy during their tenures, while Bompastor also brought two Champions League trophies to Lyon as a player. She was the first coach to win a UWCL trophy as both a coach and player.

This season, Barcelona is looking for its first quadruple, having won a fifth Liga F title alongside the Copa de La Reina, and the Spanish Supercopa. 

"We hope he can go out with the four trophies because we know how competitive and ambitious he is," Barcelona midfielder Patri Guijarro told ESPN. "It has been a winning era with him in charge and for him to go out with all four trophies would be historic and incredible."

But Lyon's Damaris Egurrola is excited about her team's chances of overcoming Barcelona once again — and to do it in front of family and friends.

"Lyon have something special," she told Forbes ahead of the weekend's final. "We have a great team and we have the players with enough talent to win any match."

The game will be a homecoming for Egurrola, who began her professional career with Athletic Bilbao.

"I’ve been thinking of this day and night," she said. "I’ve been dreaming of playing this match. Having the opportunity to play in San Mames is amazing. This is where it all started for me."

The UEFA Women's Champions League final kicks off Saturday, May 25th at 12 PM ET and is free to stream on DAZN.

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