Solheim Cup: US lead Europe 5-3 after opening day at Finca Cortesin

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Europe fought back superbly in Friday’s afternoon session to trail 5-3 in the Solheim Cup after the United States won all four of the morning matches.

The US recorded just their second clean sweep of a session as they raced into a 4-0 lead at Finca Cortesin, in Spain.

However, defending champions Europe edged a sensational second session 3-1 with two wins and two halved matches.

“I’m immensely proud of the way the entire team fought back,” said Europe captain Suzann Pettersen.

“It is not easy to start the afternoon knowing you are four down. Hats off to all my players for the way they fought and showed their character.”

US skipper Stacy Lewis accepted the morning session score was “unexpected”.

She added: “All the matches were close all day long. The two halves this afternoon were really key for us but we were a hole-in-one and a chip away from leading 6-2. It was a really good day for us.”

Lewis was referring to Emily Pedersen’s ace on the 12th and a winning Leona Maguire chip on the 18th.

Pedersen hit just the second hole-in-one in Solheim history, on the par-three 12th in the afternoon fourballs and she celebrated with hugs from her caddie and playing partner Maja Stark, while even US opponent Allisen Corpuz gave her a high-five.

The European pair never led in a tight match that went down the last all square and Stark holed a 12-footer to ensure they picked up a half point.

That followed a 4&2 victory for home favourite Carlota Ciganda and Sweden’s Linn Grant, who always looked comfortable against Angel Yin and Ally Ewing. They were two up after four and lost only one hole as they secured the first full point for the Europeans.

The other two matches had also been level going down the 18th.

Maguire chipped in for a four and then watched as Lexi Thompson and Lilia Vu failed to match her score as the Irishwoman and England’s Georgia Hall snatched victory.

“To finish off the way Leona did, she is made for that,” said Pettersen. “She turned round to me and said ‘how would you have done it? And I said, ‘just the same’.”

That win came moments after Scotland’s Gemma Dryburgh and Sweden’s Madelene Sagstrom earned a half point against Rose Zhang and Megan Khang.

It was a remarkable turnaround in fortunes for the Europeans who had endured a chastening morning in Andalucia, southern Spain.

But there were crumbs of comfort for Europe in that three of those lost matches were see-saw battles that could have gone either way.

And in the afternoon session, matches that were equally as tight, turned the blue of Europe.

Dryburgh and Sagstrom won three holes in four from the 11th to turn the top match from one down to one up. The match was back level after the 15th and they halved the next two.

Zhang, 20, then had a 10-foot putt to win the match on the last but her effort curled wide of the hole.

The second match saw Hall and Maguire move ahead on the fourth hole, a lead they would keep until the par-four 14th hole, when Thompson drove the green and holed her eagle putt.

Europe won the next in par but world number two Vu birdied the 17th to restore parity. The 18th was equally tight. Maguire chipped in from 25 yards for a four but Thompson had a chance for a three.

However, the American, who was 15 feet from the pin, shanked her chip from the rough and ended up 30 yards away. Vu then missed from 20 feet and Europe had another point.

US dominate morning session

Grant and Stark had demanded that Pettersen put them out first in the foursomes – a format where the players share one ball and hit alternate shots – but they got off to a poor start, losing the first three holes against Thompson and Khang.

Stark holed short putts on the sixth and 11th holes to drag them back into the match before Grant rolled in from a dozen feet on the 13th to level the match.

But Thompson, who has been in poor form this season, repaid the faith shown in her by US skipper Lewis with an eight-footer to win the 15th, and when Grant missed a tiddler on the 17th the US had a second point on the board.

The first had been posted by Ally Ewing and Cheyenne Knight in the bottom match as they steamrollered Charley Hull and Pedersen 5&4.

Hull, who has been battling a neck injury this week, and Pedersen had an error-strewn front nine, losing six holes. They won the 10th with a six-foot birdie putt from Pedersen, but it was too little, too late.

“Charley is OK,” said Pettersen. “She probably didn’t feel the best on the front nine and the more she played she felt better, so she’ll be fine.

“Charley and Emily had a tough match and sometimes the numbers look quite ugly. She felt good this afternoon and you will see her [on Saturday].”

The middle two matches went to the 18th, which did not surprise US captain Lewis, who said: “We knew just seeing the pairings that those were going to be tough and fortunately we were on the right side of it.”

The previously unbeaten partnership of Hall and Celine Boutier were always in their match with Kang and Andrea Lee, and there was never more than one hole in it. But Boutier was unable to knock in from 15 feet on the last as the Americans won a third point.

In the third match, world number two Nelly Korda had gifted Maguire and Anna Nordqvist the first hole, hitting her opening shot into a lake when attempting to drive the first green.

But Korda and US Open champion Corpuz won three holes in succession from the third, and also took the ninth, after the Europeans had drawn level by winning the sixth and seventh.

The US went two ahead by the 11th but Maguire, who was unbeaten in five matches on her Solheim debut in 2021, birdied the 16th to reduce the deficit and rolled in another lengthy putt on the 17th to ensure the match went to the 18th.

But Corpuz holed a short one to crush any hopes of Europe salvaging a half point from the morning session.

As defending champions, Europe need 14 of the 28 available points to retain the Solheim Cup, while the US need 14½ to regain it for the first time since 2017.

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