By Elspeth Burnside
DUNSANY, Ireland (Reuters) - Europe regained the Solheim Cup for the first time since 2003 after a dramatic 15-13 final day victory over the United States at Killeen Castle on Sunday.
The outcome hinged on the last three matches and they all swung in Europe's favor.
Spaniard Azahara Munoz clinched the vital point in the final match with a one hole win over Angela Stanford.
In the penultimate match, Caroline Hedwall, who was two down with two to play against Ryann O'Toole, won the last two holes for a vital half point.
Suzann Pettersen had started the final half hour of drama when she fought back from one down with three to play to beat Michelle Wie by one hole. The world number two birdied the final three holes, holing from eight feet at the last.
It was a first ever singles win for Pettersen and only a fourth Solheim Cup victory for Europe in 12 contests.
"My team played with such heart and passion. The rookies were fantastic and the experienced players have done so well. They are all champions," Europe captain Alison Nicholas told reporters.
"This is my proudest moment ever. The players had such grit and I thank everyone of them. I can hardly believe it -- it is amazing. A huge team effort."
U.S. captain Rosie Jones was proud of her team who had been level with their opponents with three matches to be decided.
"I'm disappointed to lose but I couldn't have asked for a better experience, a better team or a better course," she told reporters.
"They just played better than us in the last 35 minutes. They just stripped the Solheim Cup from us."
Tied 8-8 overnight, Europe were handed a surprise when American Cristie Kerr was forced to withdraw from the final singles against Karen Stupples with an injured wrist. Her point was forfeited and Europe moved 9-8 ahead.
On the course, Catriona Matthew gave Europe a great start with a crushing 6 and 5 victory over Paula Creamer in the top singles and Sophie Gustafson added a second point for the home side with a final green win over Stacy Lewis.
Brittany Lang claimed the first point for the United States with a 6 and 5 margin over Sandra Gal and Morgan Pressel made sure of four wins out of four with a great comeback against Anna Nordqvist.
The American was two down after eight holes but, following a short rain delay, she came back and won five holes in a row and went on to win by 2 and 1.
The veterans' match between 51-year-old Juli Inkster, the oldest ever Solheim player, and 47-year-old Laura Davies, the only one to play in all 12 contests and who later said this year's win was the best of all, came down to the wire.
Davies, the home crowd favorite, was one up playing the par-four 18th and both players bunkered their second shots. But Inkster nearly holed her third from 30 yards, while the Briton failed to make a ten-foot par putt.
The match ended all square and it was a vital half point for the visitors.
"This is the first time that we have been dead and buried and come back to win," Davies said. "The other three wins were from the front. That makes this one by far the most exciting and the best."
Christina Kim comfortably defeated Swede Maria Hjorth before two rookies both finally won their first Solheim Cup points.
American Vicky Hurst beat Melissa Reid by two holes and Europe's Christel Boeljon overcame Brittany Lincicome by the same margin.
(Editing by Justin Palmer and Sonia Oxley)