Driven Lizette Salas’ sensational play spurs Team USA to afternoon sweep in four-ball
Perhaps no one on Team USA was more motivated to succeed than Lizette Salas.
Salas, who worked her way from near the bottom of the American Solheim Cup qualifying list into the lineup with three top-15 finishes in this year’s majors, wasted no time showing she belonged Friday at Des Moines Golf and Country Club.
Salas matched the sweltering 90-degree temperatures with her blazing play, rattling off birdies on the first three holes as she and rookie teammate Angel Yin ran out to a 3-0 lead over Team Europe’s Carlota Ciganda and Emily Pedersen in the afternoon four-ball matches.
The Americans went on to win 6 and 5 amid raucous support from the high-spirited Midwestern gallery. The dominating effort tied for the second-largest margin of victory in Solheim Cup four-ball history. Pat Hurst and Rosie Jones hold the mark with their 7-and-5 win over Lisa Hackney and Sophie Gustafson at Muirfield Village in 1998.
“It all came down to just the basics, just hitting fairways and greens,” Salas said. “I didn’t putt the way I wanted to this morning and I felt like this afternoon was my redemption round. Just everything kind of fell together.”
Salas nearly drained an eagle at the par-5 fifth, settling for her fourth birdie, restoring the USA’s commanding edge. She canned another huge birdie putt at the ninth for a 4-up advantage.
After Yin’s birdie at the 12th hole — where she smashed her drive some 340 yards — put the team 6 up, Salas gestured to the crowd to get loud. Salas’ par putt at the 13th hole sealed the deal.
“She finished,” Yin said of Salas. “She made every putt she came across.”
Putting. Partnering. Cheerleading. Salas did it all better than anyone. Her big day helped boost the U.S. to a 5 ½-2½ lead as the red, white and blue swept the afternoon session for the first time in Solheim Cup annals. She was a calming influence on the effervescent, long-hitting Lin, who struggled at times and was flustered after a three-putt.
“She just told me to calm down,” Yin said.
The 28-year-old Salas, playing in her third Solheim Cup, teamed with first-year Danielle Kang in the morning foursomes collecting a 1-up victory over Ciganda and Caroline Masson. Close friends with Kang, the win was a milestone for Salas, an Azusa, Calif. native and USC product.
“It’s my first full point in alternate shot and I couldn’t have asked for a better partner — for alternate shot or just Solheim Cup in general,” Salas said. “So I’m really proud of us. And really proud of her for stepping it up and carrying me, inspiring me and pushing me through it. It was tough coming down the stretch … but we did it.”
Overall a great day for Team USA and especially for Salas, currently ranked 45th in the Rolex Rankings. Salas’ mother Martha and father Ramon were on hand to savor. Behind the 13th green, Salas reconnected with her family.
“I glanced at my dad on the last hole and he was smiling from here to here,” Salas said, indicating ear to ear. “Days like today make me cherish what I’ve been through to get here.”
This journey was major. Salas finished T-14 at the Ricoh Women’s British Open, T-15 at the U.S. Women’s Open and T-11 at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. The run punched her ticket to Iowa.
It remains to be seen where Salas’ sizzling opening day at the Solheim Cup takes her next.