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Sweden savors Europe’s Solheim Cup win

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Annika Sorenstam of Sweden celebrates after making a crucial putt.

Annika Sorenstam of Sweden celebrates after making a crucial putt.

John McConnico, Associated Press

LODDEKOPINGE, Sweden — The singing and chanting started on the first tee and never let up until Europe won the Solheim Cup.

The Swedes have never seen a golf competition quite like this. They rarely get a chance to see their most famous athlete, Annika Sorenstam, at her very best.

It was a lethal combination Sunday, and the Americans never had a chance.

"We've always thought they were so much better," Sorenstam said. "This year, I didn't think the gap was that big. And the advantage we had was being over here."

It led to the biggest blowout ever in the Solheim Cup, 17 1/2-10 1/2, a score that was slightly skewed by a chaotic conclusion at Barseback Golf & Country Club.

Sorenstam won her fourth match of the week, 3 and 2 over Angela Stanford, to put Europe on the cusp of winning.

Catriona Matthew, left off the last two teams, earned the decisive point with a shot from the right rough that stopped 10 feet from the hole. Rosie Jones conceded after missing her own birdie putt.

That set off a wild celebration as fans pushed past the ropes surrounding the 17th green, their cheers resounding across the course to the other five matches in progress.

None of the Europeans felt like playing, instead wanting to join the party. Ultimately, everyone stopped playing, and whoever was trailing conceded the match.

Europe was 1-up in three matches, the United States was 1-up in another. Elisabeth Esterl, 4-down to Laura Diaz, conceded the match from the 15th fairway.

"All of a sudden, it's like everybody quit," U.S. captain Patty Sheehan said. "I didn't know what was happening. Usually, we just sort of play in, and that's it."

The previous record for largest margin of victory was 17-11 by the Americans in 1996.

Sheehan said the final margin didn't matter.

The crowd sure did.

"Playing against the European team in Europe is very, very difficult," Sheehan said. "They have the 13th man. And when you're in your home country, 13 can be a very lucky number."

It belonged to the Americans last year in Minnesota, when they charged back from a 9-7 deficit on the final day to capture 8 1/2 points from the 12 singles matches.

Catrin Nilsmark sent some of her best players out early, hoping to build some momentum with blue scores of Europe on the board, and she could not have asked for a better start.

"It's a huge difference for the crowd," Nilsmark said.

The victory was especially sweet for Nilsmark, a Swedish captain for the first Solheim Cup played in Sweden. A severe back injury kept her on crutches all week.

The United States still leads the series, 5-3, but has to wait until 2005 for a chance to get the Solheim Cup back.