TOLEDO, Ohio – As Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” played on the loudspeakers and hundreds of fans – decked mostly in American paraphernalia – chanted and sang, the 17th Solheim Cup kicked off Saturday morning at a raucous Inverness Club.
“We’ve had some great venues, but to have this open-area environment is incredible,” said John Solheim, son of Karsten Solheim, for whom the event is named.
With stands horseshoeing a double-teeing area for the first and 10th holes, the first to hit was Europe’s Anna Nordqvist, the only multiple major winner on either side.
But for all the early-morning excitement, it felt like it was just hype leading into the 7:59 a.m. ET main event – Jessica and Nelly Korda vs. Mel Reid and Leona Maguire.
Nelly Korda was introduced as the world’s No. 1 player and received the loudest ovation of any player, which is saying something considering it was a boisterous bunch.
Boxing comparisons in other sports can be trite, but Match 3 in Day 1 foursomes felt like two fighters trying to feel each other out early and break into a proper sweat.
The two sides halved the first three holes before Jessica Korda hit her tee shot left, into a water hazard at the par-4 fourth.
Europe, 1 up.
At the par-4 sixth, the Euros won the hole with a bogey as the Kordas compounded a mistake.
Short of an elevated green, with a severely sloped front, Jessica hit a low pitch out of the rough, and it never stood a chance at reaching the hole. Instead, it tumbled down said slope. Nelly then took her shot and, likewise, didn’t carry the ball far enough on the green and saw it come back in her direction.
“These greens are so treacherous,” said 2013 U.S. captain Meg Mallon, who was walking along with the group.
Europe, 2 up.
Players had raved about the course conditions throughout the week, saying it was major-ready. It felt like a major as well, but one coated in partiality.
A chorus of “Jelly!” and “Sister power!” chants had greeted the Kordas over the first 90 minutes of their match, but they walked stone-faced off the sixth green and onto the seventh tee.
Of the two Kordas, it was Nelly who shouldered the load as Jessica appeared a bit off her game. Reid and Maguire, however, couldn’t take advantage nor extend their advantage.
The two sides halved Nos. 7-12, with only one birdie for each side – both making 3 at the par-4 11th.
A tentative match finally produced an icebreaker when Nelly chipped in for birdie at the par-5 13th. The ball was only 15 feet from the hole, but on the back of the first cut of fringe. Nelly chipped, the ball dropped, and Nelly released a couple hours’ worth of pent-up emotion in an enthusiastic left-handed fist pump.
Europe, 1 up.
But there was no carry-over as pars halved the 14th, 15th and 16th holes.
And the 17th.
And, ultimately, the 18th. When Maguire made the near-gimme at the last, Europe secured a 1-up win.
Forget boxing analogies, this match was more of a defensive struggle.
After going 2-0 in 2019 as partners – and winning both matches convincingly – the Kordas were dealt their first 'L' as a team. They congratulated the winning pair, hugged one another and then it was time to move on.
Nelly had to prepare for her afternoon fourball match with Ally Ewing. Jessica, sitting for Session 2, would be there to cheer them on.
Those cheers would be much needed. The crowds that roared, “U-S-A! U-S-A!” had been muted by lunch time.
Europe, 3 ½ - ½.