Carlota Ciganda likens her starring role as Europe retained the Solheim Cup last month to a Hollywood script and there could be a sequel of sorts at this week’s Aramco Team Series in Hong Kong.
The Spaniard beat major-winning US star Nelly Korda 2&1 in Sunday’s singles session to secure the point that ensured Europe would at least tie the contest and keep hold of the trophy for another two years.
It capped a perfect performance of four points from four matches for Ciganda, who was mobbed on the 17th green by her teammates after holing the decisive short putt, and completed a stunning European comeback from 4-0 down.
That it unfolded in her native Spain, at Finca Cortesin in Andalucia, and in front of the watching King Felipe VI, made it all the sweeter.
“It was very special and for sure one moment that I won’t forget,” Ciganda told City A.M. “For me, it was the most fun I’ve had in a Solheim Cup.
“I didn’t think I would play a Solheim Cup in Spain. Everything was like a movie with a happy ending and I was just very happy to be a part of it.
“It’s more fun because you are playing for something bigger than yourself. You’re playing for your teammates, for the captain, for the whole Team Europe. You just want to win for them.
“It is more fun and more adrenaline, and for me at least I focused more because I really want to do well.”
Ciganda would have been forgiven for throwing in the towel as she watched her teammates whitewashed in an opening foursomes session that appeared to confirm pre-match expectations that the American line-up would be too strong.
But Europe have made overcoming the odds something of a speciality, having confounded expectations to beat the US in Ohio two years ago, and the 33-year-old from Pamplona in the Basque Country insists she never lost hope.
“It’s not the start that you want to have but I still thought we had a good chance to go and win the next session,” she said.
“We won 3-1 that afternoon and then went into the singles 8-8. I knew it was going to be very close because Americans are very good in singles always but European golf is in good hands, we all compete on the LPGA so we are not afraid to play against them.”
Once again, a supposedly weaker European team proved greater than the sum of its parts. It was a storyline repeated just days later, as Luke Donald’s men regained the Ryder Cup from the US in Rome.
“Anything can happen in Solheim Cup and Ryder Cup. It’s a lot about momentum and making putts to win matches,” Ciganda said.
“I think Europe is more united, we always spend more time as a team. Foursomes and fourballs we do better than the Americans I think, and then the singles they are usually better than us.
“But I think it’s also your character, your personality, what motivates you, and I think Europeans become stronger as a team.”
Ciganda has been much in demand since her Solheim Cup heroics but she has found time to rest — and cheer on Donald’s Ryder Cup team — before embarking on another run of tournaments in the last few weeks of the year, including two Aramco Team Series events.
“I haven’t [been practising] because I was very busy with interviews and TV and just resting,” she said.
“I have a very busy few weeks now so I think rest is important and I still have a couple more days to get my game where I want.
“I’ve been watching the Ryder Cup. I went home and rested for a few days and then on Friday I was pretty much all day on the couch watching. Saturday I watched the morning foursomes and then Sunday I was playing but I was following it also. So I watched most of it.”
Ciganda set to face Vu and Zhang again in Hong Kong
Hong Kong offers a Solheim Cup reunion of sorts, just two weeks after the event.
Among the high-profile players Ciganda will be up against are two stars of the US team, world No1 Lilia Vu and rookie sensation Rose Zhang, who are both set to play in their first Aramco Team Series event.
The Spaniard will also be pitted against her European teammate Caroline Hedwall, whose astonishing comeback on the final day denied the US victory, in the $1m tournament, which combines individual and team scoring.
“It’s always nice to see them and spend time with them. Europeans are always very close and have a great time together,” said Ciganda.
Solheim and Ryder Cup performances can have a tea formative effect on players’ form, lifting their game to new heights, and she is hopeful of taking her form into the looming run of events.
“I think I’m very motivated and it’s going to give me some momentum going to the end of the season,” she said. “Hopefully I can keep playing the same and win a few events from here to the end of the season.”
Ciganda has already tasted individual success at an Aramco Team Series event this year, in Florida back in May. Her seventh career win on the Ladies European Tour, it laid the platform for a strong campaign in which she claimed a 10th top 10 finish at a major, the Women’s PGA Championship.
“I think I’ve been playing pretty good, consistent golf. Five or six top 10s, finished third at a major, win in Florida, Solheim Cup,” she said.
“It can always be better but I’m pretty happy and excited for the end of the season.”
Before the year is out she will also play the Aramco Team Series finale, this year to be played in Riyadh at the end of the month. Ciganda has reason for optimism, having achieved three top-five finishes in her last four trips to Saudi Arabia.
“Winning is always special and I am sponsored by Aramco and Golf Saudi so it’s always nice to play in their events,” she said.
“Usually they do everything very nicely – the set up, how they look after the players – so it should be a great week for all of us.”