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Europe leads U.S. by a point at Solheim

Suzann Pettersen
Getty Images

DUNSANY, Ireland – Europe survived a spirited comeback by the United States in the fourballs to lead, 4 ½ - 3 ½, after the opening day of the Solheim Cup at Killeen Castle.

With the sides level at 2-2 following the morning foursomes, rookie Caroline Hedwall and fellow Swede Sophie Gustafson put Europe 3-2 ahead with a 5-and-4 win over Vicky Hurst and Brittany Lincicome.

Europe was up in the other three matches at that stage but Morgan Pressel and Paula Creamer came back from 1 down with two to play to beat Laura Davies and Melissa Reid, 1 up.

Creamer birdied the 17th from 18 feet to level the match and Pressel then holed a 25-foot birdie putt on the 18th for the win, which left Davies still needing one more point to overtake Annika Sorenstam and become the Solheim Cup record points scorer.

Catriona Matthew and Sandra Gal were 2 up with three to play against Christina Kim and Ryann O’Toole. But the Americans salvaged a half point when Kim birdied the 16th and O’Toole birdied the 17th to level before the 18th was shared at par.

“It’s not over until it’s over,” U.S. captain Rosie Jones said. “That’s why they put all 18 holes up in there. That’s why I give this team so much credit is because they don’t give up, they don’t like to lose.”

Europe held on to win the fourball session 2 ½ -1 ½  when Suzann Pettersen and Anna Nordqvist, who where 3 up at the turn, won the 18th to beat Cristie Kerr and Michelle Wie, 2 and 1.

European captain Alison Nicholas refused to dwell on missed opportunities.

“Could have, would have, fantastic words, but you can’t change anything,” Nicholas said. “They tried their best, and that’s all they can do. They gave a hundred percent.”

In the opening session, Pettersen sank an 8-foot putt on the last hole to give Europe a win in the final foursome and even the score at 2-2.

The U.S. had trailed in three of the four matches on a windy morning at the Killeen Castle course, but took a 2-1 lead after Creamer and Lincicome came back from two down with four holes to play to beat Karen Stupples and Reid.

Pettersen and Gustafson then lost the 17th hole to be all square with Americans Juli Inkster and Brittany Lang going into the 18th. But Inkster missed a 10-foot birdie putt and the second-ranked Pettersen made hers for Europe to pull even.

The Americans are looking for their fourth consecutive victory in the biennial match-play series, and Wie and Kerr gave the visitors an ideal start by beating Swedish duo Maria Hjorth and Nordqvist, 2 and 1, in the opening match.

But Europe’s Matthew and Azahara Munoz responded with a convincing 3-and-2 win over Stacy Lewis and Angela Stanford, before the late drama in the last two matches.

Creamer and Lincicome began their comeback with a birdie to win the 15th and the Europeans then collapsed with double bogeys on the last two holes.

“It was a crazy last couple of holes, but we just told ourselves even if we get a half that’s all we’re trying to do is get back,” Creamer said. “We watched it go to 1 (down), then all square, and to walk away with a win, we’ll take it any day.”

U.S. captain Jones wasn’t worried about heading into Day 2 trailing Europe.

“I’m really proud of the three-and-a-half points that we have,” she said. “I think it’s a great start with Day 1. We did real well on foursomes this morning. It could be even better tomorrow.”