Europe in Control Heading to Singles

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LODDEKOPINGE, Sweden -- Annika Sorenstam holed a 20-foot birdie putt at the 17th to halve the hole, then watched as partner Suzann Pettersen drained a 15-footer at 18 to defeat Laura Diaz and Kelly Robbins and give the European team a split in the Saturday fourball matches at the Solheim Cup.
 
The European squad will take a 9 1/2 - 6 1/2 lead into Sunday's singles matches. No team has ever gone on to capture the Solheim Cup after trailing by more than two heading into the final day, so if the United States is to defend its title, the team will have to make history to do it.
 
There are 12 singles matches on Sunday each worth a point and the U.S. has traditionally dominated the singles. They dropped three of four points in the morning foursomes Saturday and will need all of their depth if they are to bring the Cup back to America.
 
In Saturday's other fourball contests, Juli Inkster and Beth Daniel trounced Mhairi McKay and Ana Belen Sanchez, each playing for the first time in the 2003 Solheim Cup, 5 and 4. Americans Kelli Kuehne and Cristie Kerr beat Laura Davies and Sophie Gustafson, 2 and 1, and Catriona Matthew and Janice Moodie handled the U.S. team of Rosie Jones and Wendy Ward, 4 and 3.
 
The anchor match between Sorenstam and Pettersen and Diaz and Robbins was a Solheim Cup classic as the Americans tied the match with a seven-foot birdie by Diaz at the 13th.
 
Robbins chipped close with her third shot at the par-5 16th and seemed poised to take the lead. Pettersen drained a five-footer for birdie then Robbins holed her's to keep the match all-square.
 
At the 17th, Diaz nearly holed her approach but the ball settled four feet from the cup. Sorenstam landed her second on the left fringe, 20 feet from the hole while both Robbins and Pettersen were in trouble on the hole.
 
Since Robbins was away, the Americans had the honor and elected to let Diaz putt right away. She converted the birdie putt but Sorenstam, the hometown favorite and No. 1 player in the world, ran home her birdie putt to match Diaz and take the match to 18 all-square.
 
At the 18th at Barsebck Golf & Country Club, Robbins tried to cut her drive over the trees but her ball hit one and kicked right. Diaz went through the fairway, as did Pettersen but Sorenstam split the short grass with her drive.
 
Robbins hit a remarkable shot that nicked a tree but still landed on the putting surface 50 feet from the hole. Diaz landed her approach on the rough in front of the green but bounced up to three feet. Pettersen played her second to 15 feet at the 18th and Sorenstam left herself with seven feet.
 
Once again the Americans employed the strategy of letting Diaz putt first since she was closer. Diaz pulled her putt and opened a huge door for the Europeans.
 
Robbins missed her miracle birdie attempt then Pettersen completed her perfect run in the team competition with her fourth victory, thanks to that 1-up win.
 
'I'm tired. I'm worn. Physically I don't think there's a problem, but it's just mentally, especially when it's match play,' said Sorenstam. 'It's been a long day. We fought so hard. When I saw it drop, I was just like, 'great, this is over, we got a point.''
 
Diaz spoke afterwards about the missed chance at 18.
 
'Overall I putted pretty well but unfortunately my hands were a little shaky on that last putt,' admitted Diaz.
 
The U.S. seemed ready to take the momentum in the singles with early victories in Saturday's fourballs.
 
Inkster and Daniel, who bested the previously unbeaten Carin Koch and Sorenstam Friday afternoon in fourballs, wasted little time against Sanchez and McKay. Daniel sank a three-foot birdie putt at the first to go 1-up and the U.S. extended the lead when the Europeans could not save par at the fourth.
 
The Americans went 3-up when Inkster chipped in for birdie from the side of the green at the eighth. Inkster and Daniel gave one back with a sloppy bogey at the par-5 ninth but won the 10th with a par.
 
The U.S. side won the 12th and 13th to go 5-up and closed out the match on the next hole.
 
'Beth hit some great shots in the middle of some holes,' said Inkster. 'It's just a pleasure playing with her. We let up once but other than that we kept the pressure on them.'
 
Kuehne and Kerr led after a birdie at six but Gustafson drained a 20-footer for birdie to win the seventh and square the match. The Europeans captured the 11th hole when Kerr missed a seven-footer for par but the Americans knotted it up when Kuehne converted a four-foot birdie putt at the 13th.
 
The teams halved the 14th and 15th holes with some clutch putting but Kuehne once again knocked it close at 16. She rolled home her three footer for birdie and a 1-up lead.
 
Kerr played a brilliant approach from the right side to tap-in range at the 17th. Davies tried to hole her blast out of the bunker but missed and Gustafson's birdie try also failed to fall so the American tandem earned their second fourballs win of the Solheim Cup.
 
'I knew it was close but I didn't know how close it was until I walked up,' said Kerr, referring to her approach at 17. 'I tried to keep my composure because the way they were playing, they're going to make it from wherever they are.'
 
Moodie and Matthew, the Scottish picks by captain Catrin Nilsmark, continued their solid play from Saturday morning, where they halved with Meg Mallon and Robbins.
 
The European duo was 2-up heading to the back nine, thanks to four front-nine birdies. Matthew missed a 20-foot par putt at the 11th to drop the hole and cut the lead to 1-up but Moodie's hot putter carried the team from there.
 
Moodie canned a six-footer for birdie to win the 12th, then won the 14th and 15th when neither American could get up and down for par. That ended the match and gave the European pairing a 2-0-1 record as a team this year at Barsebck.
 
'We know one another well enough and if somebody else is off the hole, we know the other is strong enough to pick it up,' said Moodie. 'I think that's a big difference.'
 
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