ST. LEON-ROT, Germany – Carlota Ciganda’s caddie didn’t need a towel to tend to his player’s club after she holed out from 135 yards for eagle in a spectacular end to Friday’s play at the Solheim Cup.
He needed a fire extinguisher.
Charley Hull and Anna Nordqvist brought just as much heat on the Americans helping Europe turn momentum its way in afternoon fourballs, and yet the Europeans still have some work to do closing out the session. With Friday’s suspension of play due to darkness, the United States has a chance to neutralize Europe’s good work in Saturday morning’s resumption of fourballs.
Europe won the first two afternoon fourball matches to take a 4-2 lead with two suspended matches still to complete.
Ciganda and Mel Reid are all square with one hole to go in the other.
The Europeans owned the afternoon. They put some frenzy into the end of the day with Ciganda and Reid turning around their match late against Cristie Kerr and Lexi Thompson. With the Euros 2 down, Reid birdied the 16th to cut the deficit to 1 down. Ciganda followed by holing out with a 9-iron at the 17th to square the match.
The shot put a jolt into the European ranks, who didn’t want the session to end. Ciganda and Reid moved on to the 18th tee, but Kerr and Thompson never made it there, not wanting to finish with the sun disappearing on the horizon.
“It got pretty dark,” Kerr said. “It’s too dark to be out here.”
Though momentum tilted hard to the Europeans, so much still depends on Saturday’s finish to the suspended fourball matches.
The Europeans could sweep the fourballs, taking a 6-2 lead, or the Americans could still win the two suspended matches, pulling to a 4-4 tie.
Two years ago, the Europeans swept the Saturday afternoon fourballs on their way to a record 18-10 rout of the Americans.
Morgan Pressel reminded Kerr what is still possible Saturday morning.
“I told her the best part is (Ciganda) holed out and Mel made that great putt on 16, but you can still come out tomorrow morning and win this match,” Pressel said. “So, it doesn't really matter. It will make those shots meaningless, in the sense of points put on the board.”
A 65-minute rain delay Friday afternoon led to the suspension of play due to darkness.
Pressel was glad to see play halted.
“I think with the rain delay, we definitely needed a little break in their momentum,” Pressel said. “Same thing with darkness. The girls were running to 18 to tee off, but it was so dark it wasn't appropriate. They wanted to finish, because they know the momentum is in their favor.”
Ciganda was explaining her hole out to reporters outside the interview room in the media center Friday evening when U.S. captain Juli Inkster passed by on her way in.
“Really?” Inkster teased Ciganda. “Are you kidding me?”
Ciganda’s terrific shot reverberated into the night, with European fans celebrating as they left the grounds in darkness, chanting, dancing and singing their theme song, “Ole, Ole.”
Standing over her last shot, Ciganda said she wanted to hit pitching wedge.
“I thought I could hit it that hard,” Ciganda said. “My caddie told me a 9-iron, `You have to hit it hard. It's cold now, so it's not going to fly much.’ And I hit it, and it looked really good.
“I have no words. It’s unbelievable.”
Inkster, who has played more Solheim Cups (9) than any American, knows how quickly things change in these matches.
“Hopefully, tomorrow we'll turn things around and get some momentum,” Inkster said.
Thompson was the American star of the fourballs. She made five birdies and an eagle in a fireworks show against Ciganda and Reid, but the Europeans had more firepower.
Hull and Nordqvist joined Ciganda as the European stars of the afternoon fourballs.
Hull, the quirky 19-year-old Englishwoman, won both of her matches Friday closing out with clutch walk-off putts.
In the afternoon fourballs, Hull made a 15-foot putt for par at the 16th to help her and Gwladys Nocera defeat Angela Stanford and Alison Lee, 3 and 2. Hull made seven birdies in the match, five in a row on the back nine.
“I feel like I putt well under pressure at the Solheim,” Hull said.
Hull’s flighty sense of humor has endeared her to European and American fans. Two years ago, she charmed American audiences as a fearless rookie in the matches in Colorado, going 2-1. She routed Creamer, 5 and 4, in singles and then asked for her autograph.
“I just speak and what comes out of my mouth comes out of my mouth,” Hull said. “Sometimes, they love it. And I'm just me.”
Nordqvist also made seven birdies in her fourball match. She almost didn’t need fellow Swede Caroline Hedwall to defeat Morgan Pressel and Paula Creamer, 4 and 3. While Hedwall’s Solheim Cup record improved to 8-1-1, she struggled.
“Anna did great,” said Pressel, who teamed with Creamer to win a morning foursomes match. “She was pretty much out there on her own today.
“We just made too many mistakes, didn't put any pressure on them. Anna played great, every iron was inside 10-15 feet.”
As great as Nordqvist, Hull and Ciganda were, the Americans can minimize the damage done with a strong Saturday morning finish.