Europeans Take Commanding Lead

By Sports NetworkSeptember 12, 2003, 4:00 pm
LODDEKOPINGE, Sweden -- The European team collected 3 1/2 of a possible four points to take the lead after Friday morning's foursomes matches at the Solheim Cup.
Annika Sorenstam, the No. 1 player in the world and hometown favorite, delighted the galleries Friday as she teamed with Suzann Pettersen in defeating the American tandem of Laura Diaz and Heather Bowie, 4 and 3.
'It's nice to win but to play in front of the home crowd - you can feel how much they're pulling for us,' said Sorenstam. 'The atmosphere is just fantastic and it makes it even more special.'
The first match of Friday's morning alternate-shot session was the closest as the American team of Beth Daniel and Kelly Robbins halved their match with Laura Davies and Carin Koch for the only points on the United States side.
Catriona Matthew and Janice Moodie, the Scottish duo selected to the team by captain Catrin Nilsmark, clobbered the American team of Juli Inkster and Wendy Ward, 5 and 3.
Sophie Gustafson and Elisabeth Esterl dispatched captain Patty Sheehan's heavily favored U.S. pair of Rosie Jones and Meg Mallon with relative ease on Friday. The Europeans won, 3 and 2, as they cut off an American rally on the back nine at Barsebck Golf & Country Club.
In the first Solheim Cup outside of the United States or United Kingdom, play began under foggy conditions and with heavy hearts. All participants are sporting black ribbons in honor of the slain Swedish foreign minister Anna Lindh, who was murdered earlier in the week.
Play was contested for almost 30 minutes before the fog became too much. The session was stopped for over 90 minutes but when play resumed, the Europeans took full advantage.
Sorenstam and Pettersen won the first hole Friday when Bowie missed a short par putt. The rout was on from there as Diaz drove into the water at the third and the Americans lost that hole to fall 2-down.
Bowie canned a 12-foot birdie putt to win the fifth hole but she missed another short putt to drop the seventh and fall 2-down once again. The Americans bogeyed 10 and 11 and fell 4-down, a deficit they were never able to overcome.
The Europeans closed out the match at 15.
'I think our games are very similar,' said Sorenstam, referring to her partner. 'We complimented each other really well today. When he needed to, we made a putt or when we needed to, we hit it close.'
The opening match started with a 30-foot birdie putt by Daniel to go 1-up but the Europeans took two of the next three holes to go 1-up.
On the second nine, Europe held their 1-up lead until the U.S. won the 11th with par. Europe took back the lead with a win at 13 when Robbins failed to save par from six feet.
The U.S. side won the 14th with bogey to square the match, then took the 15th with par to go 1-up for the first time since the first hole. Koch ran home a long birdie putt at 16 to draw even and both teams made par at 17, thanks to a clutch 15-footer by Robbins.
On the closing hole, Robbins sank a 12-foot bogey putt but Koch, normally the steadiest putter on the European side, missed a 10-foot, par-saving putt right of the hole. The bogeyed left each team with a half point, the only match that kept the Europeans from a clean sweep.
Koch is still undefeated in this her third Solheim Cup with a record of 7-0-2.
Inkster and Ward were even with Moodie and Matthew at the turn but the Scottish pair caught fire on the second nine. Matthew drained a 25-foot birdie to win the 10th, a seven-footer to win the 11th and Moodie rolled home a 10-foot birdie to capture their third hole in a row and go 3-up.
Europe won the 14th with par then Matthew canned a 15-foot birdie putt at the 15th to polish off the 5-and-3 win.
'We both played really well this morning,' said Matthew. 'We both judged the pace well. It's great to get off to a good start.'
Gustafson set the tone at No. 1 with a chip-in birdie but Mallon matched her with a 10-footer at the same hole. The European side built a 4-up lead after 11 holes when Jones left her bunker shot on the fringe at No. 11.
The U.S. side did not give in as they took the 13th and 14th holes to cut their deficit to 2-down but Gustafson and Esterl won the 16th to close out the match.
Friday afternoon will feature four fourball matches.
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