U.S. trails by 1, could have been more
DUNSANY, Ireland -- It looked as if Europe was set to bed down with a comfortable lead at the end of the first day of the Solheim Cup. After splitting the morning foursomes Friday at Killeen Castle, they were shaping up to run away with all four of the afternoon four-balls, if the phrase "run away" can be applied to matches taking in excess of five hours.
Instead, the Europeans ended up with nothing more than a 4½-3½ advantage as the Americans came from behind to snatch 1½ points from the first two games.
"The girls dug it out when they had to," U.S. captain Rosie Jones said. "I'm very proud of the three and a half points we have."
The Swedish pair of Sophie Gustafson and Caroline Hedwall had just enjoyed a knockout of a 5-and-4 win in the third four-ball when the Americans started turning the tide.
It was Paula Creamer and Morgan Pressel who made the first move. Although the pair had been 2-up most of the front nine against Laura Davies and Melissa Reid, they were one behind after Davies holed from 12 feet for a birdie down the long 15th -- and still one down after the 16th.
Creamer had recovered from one down with two to play in the morning, and now this supremely confident young golfer had it in mind to do the same again. Although her back nine had been relatively quiet as opposed to the front where she had notched four birdies, she banged home an 18-footer across the 17th green to square the match.
Then Pressel, not wanting to be outdone by a girl who has been a friend and rival since junior days, made an even longer putt to claim the match and leave Davies and Reid looking understandably shaken.
"It was my turn to contribute," Pressel said with a laugh.
The Americans knew precisely what it meant to take out Europe's top pair.
"Laura," Creamer said, "is queen of the Solheim Cup, so it was a huge match to win. I haven't seen her play as well as she did in a long time. We had to make birdies on top of birdies to beat her and Melissa."
In the second match, Christina Kim worked in tandem with Ryann O'Toole to notch an unlikely half. In the fourth match, the second all-Swedish pairing did their bit for Europe. Although Suzann Pettersen and Anna Nordqvist had lost a three-hole lead, they came back to win on the 18th against Cristie Kerr and Michelle Wie.
There was a day's worth of excitement crammed into the morning foursomes. Killeen Castle was still lit up against the night sky as the players came to the first tee. The Americans were dressed in red and navy, the Europeans in green and black shirts.
The starter was nervous, calling the wrong player from the wrong team to tee off first. But she was not half as shaky as the European golfers, who went two down after two holes in the first match and the second. They lost both, the first in spectacular fashion when Nordqvist and Maria Hjorth, who had drawn level after 15 holes, hit into the lake from a bunker on the 16th.
That put Wie and Kerr back in front, and the American pair clinched the point for the U.S. at the 17th as the Europeans three-putted.
"It sends the right message back to the rest of our team," Kerr said about winning the first American point.
Kerr said the key hole was the par-4 ninth, where she holed her bunker shot to stop the Europeans from getting back to square for a second time.
"It was a long bunker shot, too," she said. "So unexpected. It stopped us from losing our momentum."
In the second of the morning matches, the Europeans were two up after 14 but squandered the lead and lost the match on the final hole. Here, Creamer and Brittany Lincicome played it safe, while Karen Stupples of the European team, chipped into the greenside bunker.
It was the Americans who got off to the bad start in the third match, going five over par on the first five holes. They never recovered against Catriona Matthew and Azahara Munoz.
In the final match of the morning, the Europeans had lost their one-hole lead, but Norway's Pettersen reclaimed it by holing an 8-footer on the 18th green.
Much to her relief, Alison Nicholas, the European captain, jumped in the air with joy.