Europe take one-point lead in Ireland

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Europe edged the opening day of the 2011 Solheim Cup at Killeen Castle by one point on Friday.

Suzann Pettersen and Anna Nordqvist won 2-up on the last in their fourball tussle with Cristie Kerr and Michelle Wie to give Europe a slender and valuable one point lead after a thrilling opening day of the Solheim Cup.

It ensured Alison Nicholas’ side emerged buoyant and ahead of Rosie Jones’ gutsy USA, whose star performer Paula Creamer was unbeaten in her two matches.

So was Peterssen, who said: “Our goal is to win every day, and we won today. That’s a good start and today only reinforces our belief we can win the Solheim Cup.”

Naturally, it was a matchplay encounter that ebbed and flowed.

It was Creamer and Morgan Pressel who broke the hearts of Mel Reid and Laura Davies with a final hole victory after overturning a 2-down deficit.
And Laura Davies, who sat out the morning session, said: “I think putting was the difference. We were great tee to green, just didn’t make the putts. There’s nothing you can do when they start making theirs and they go right in the middle.”

Debutant Reid added: “Golf’s a cruel game sometimes. To have played both matches and to have lost on the last twice is gutting. But it’s the best we could have done.”

Davies agreed but added: “The good thing is that the team is in a good position and that’s the most important thing. Hopefully it will go our way the rest of the day and I think it’s great we are ahead by a point.”

Earlier on, the Swedish duo of Sophie Gustafson and rookie Caroline Hedwall thrashed Vicky Hurst and Brittany Lincicombe 5&4 to give Europe its first point of the Fourballs.

And Hedwall said: “Well, I think we have a good team, and I think Sophie and I make a good pair. I’m not surprised we won.”

The Foursomes session had ended in a 2-2 tie, the first time the matches have been tied in the history of the Solheim Cup.

And it looked as though Catriona Matthew and Sandra Gal would add to Europe’s point haul, only to be pegged back by some superb US putting from Ryan O’Toole and Christina Kim, who birdied 16 and 17 before a final hole putt-out failed to yield the decisive birdie.

Matthew said: “They birdied 16, 17, but, obviously, we were disappointed being 2‑up with three to go.

“But to make birdies on tricky holes like 16, there’s not much you can do. I think Sandra played really well today, like she said, and I played not too badly on the front and kind of crumbled. And she helped me on the back.”

German debutant Gal added: “No, I don’t feel we lost the match. It was just a good game, good golf. And that’s the result and we’ll take it.”

But the vital half point was added to by a full point when Suzann Pettersen and Anna Nordqvist, playing in the deepening gloom at Killeen Castle as night drew in, sealed their narrow win.

In the morning Foursomes, Pettersen gave Europe a huge boost by holing an eight foot birdie putt on the final hole to make it honours even after the opening series of foursomes at the Solheim Cup at Killeen Castle in Ireland.

Pettersen, the world No.2, and Sophie Gustafson had lost the 17th to stand all square in the bottom match against Juli Inkster and Brittany Lang but they pulled a full point out of the bag to make the score 2-all.

European Captain Alison Nicholas greeted the win with a jig of joy and Pettersen said: “It was great to hear the cheers ringing round the 18th. Sophie played a brilliant shot and then the putt was straight in the middle.”

She added: “It’s turned out well for us. That was a huge putt from Suzann on the last. She was going to make that and that’s what champions are made of.

“Foursomes is a tough game and you have to keep in there fighting and we did that. It did look like it was getting away from us at one stage, when America were ahead in 3 matches, but that was heart at its best.

“It’s been up and down and all about. We looked like we’d get the second match and a 3-1, the bottom match went all the way, but you have to expect the nips and tucks. It’s tight.

Suzann Pettersen said: “I had missed a few short putts to keep them in the match earlier on, but Sophie left me the easiest putt on the last with a great approach and my putt was right on the middle, so no, I wasn’t feeling too nervous over it! We played and dovetailed well today as a pair.

“It’s a great feeling to win our point. We did our job and we knew it was going to be a battle against Juli and Brittany. We know they will never give up and we kind of screwed up 17.

“We had got our noses in front but could never quite get away. But when Juli missed her birdie putt on the last I knew what I had to do.”

Sophie Gustafson said: “I think 2-2 is a pretty good job. It’s not easy. It’s hard to get your rhythm going in foursomes so our plan was to hit greens in regulation to make sure we had lots of putts each. It’s hard in the wind and sometimes you hit shots that don’t get rewarded. But we got the point in the end.”

But the USA team, bidding to win the trophy for the fourth year in a row, showed their own grit and determination with an unlikely win in the second match.

The all-English pair of Karen Stupples and Melissa Reid had looked to be in control against Paula Creamer and Brittany LIncicome when they stood two up with four holes to play.

But they lost the 15th to a birdie, the 17th to a par and then took six down the 18th after Stupples hit her drive into rough and then bunkered the third shot.

It was a one hole victory for Creamer and Lincicome and one of the massive momentum swings that make the Solheim Cup such an absorbing spectacle.

“It’s obviously devastating for Karen and Mel to be 2up with 3 to play and lose it,” said Nicholas.

“I’ve spoken to Karen Stupples and we’re looking forward. You can’t change the past. You have to put it behind you. We’re not dwelling on what might have been. Let’s move forwards.

“I am pleased with the way the rookies played. They were awesome. To me they aren’t rookies. This afternoon we want our 4-balls to put 2 balls on the fairways, 2 on the greens. That’s the best way to win the session.”

But there was a great point for Europe from the ever reliable Catriona Matthew and Spanish rookie Azahara Munoz. Never behind in the third match, the home duo were three up after five holes and went on to beat Stacy Lewis and Angela Stanford by a comfortable 3 and 2.

“It was my first Solheim so I didn’t really know what to expect, but it was really exciting,” said Munoz. “Catriona was an awesome partner. She keeps her emotions so calm.”

SOLHEIM CUP (KILLEEN CASTLE, IRELAND) RESULTS

Foursomes (Europe names first):
Maria Hjorth and Anna Nordqvist lost to Michelle Wie and Cristie Kerr 2 and 1
Karen Stupples and Melissa Reid lost to Paula Creamer and Brittany Lincicome one
hole
Catriona Matthew and Azahara Munoz beat Stacy Lewis and Angela Stanford 3 and 2
Suzann Pettersen and Sophie Gustafson beat Brittany Lang and Juli Inkster one
hole

Europe USA 2-2

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