Europe widen the gap

It was a clean sweep for the Swedes as Europe snatched a 2 ½ – 1 ½ victory in the second morning’s Solheim Cup foursomes.

It was a clean sweep for the Swedes as Europe snatched a 2 ½ – 1 ½ victory in the second morning’s Solheim Cup foursomes and moved two points in front in their bid to regain The Solheim Cup at Killeen Castle in Ireland.

Needing 14 ½ points for victory, the Europeans lead 7-5 with 16 points still to be decided.

Yes, there is still a long way to go before the fat lady sings, but Alison Nicholas’s team were in buoyant mood after their morning effort..

It’s been a dream Solheim debut for Caroline Hedwall, the ‘baby’ of the European team and a three-time winner on the European Ladies Tour in her first year as a professional.

She partnered Sophie Gustafson to a 5 & 4 win in the Friday fourballs and the Swedish duo again hit form on Saurday morning to trounce Stacy Lewis and Angela Stanford 6 and 5 in the top foursomes match.

“It’s so exciting it’s unbelievable,” said 22-year-old Hedwall, who has her twin sister, Jacqueline, as her caddie. “Sophie is so confident and calm and that makes me the same and she is so easy to play with.”

Jacqueline managed to get time off from her studies at Louisiana State University to be part of the European set-up this week – she intends trying to qualify for the Ladies’ European Tour at the 2012 qualifying school.

“I love to caddie for my sister, especially this week,” she said. “The atmosphere and the fans are just awesome.”

And Sophie Gustafson, given a rest in the fourballs as she has a niggling knee injury, added: “In my first Solheim Cup as a rookie I lost 7&5, so I was working my ass off to make sure I erased that record! The putt to do that on 13 was just short but 6&5 is a great win and Caroline played very well.”

In the third match, another all-Swedish partnership of Anna Nordqvist and Maria Hjorth beat Brittany Lang and Juli Inkster 3 and 2.

Europe’s half point came in a thrilling bottom match. One down playing the last, Catriona Matthew and Azahara Munoz won the hole when Cristie Kerr bunkered the American’s approach shot and then failed to make the seven foot par putt.

Aza Munoz was also delighted with the crowds supporting her and Matthew on the last – and she gave them something to cheer when she held her nerve to hole out from four feet to earn a vital half.

“I was just thinking I couldn’t let Catriona down. We had been fighting so hard all day. I just said I’ve hit a million balls like this, so I just focused and I hit it.

Matthew said: “You feel a tremendous amount of pressure. It was kind of close all day, and we wanted to get the half a point so we could win that series. We hit some really good shots at some key holes.”

Karen Stupples and Christel Beoljon went down to the Americans Ryann O’Toole and Morgan Pressel 3&2 and was unhappy with the USA fans goading and laughing when her Dutch debutant partner left a bunker shot on 16 in the trap.

It was the Englishwoman’s second Foursomes defeat, having lost with Mel Reid on day one, and she was rested ahead of the singles match “she is doubly determined to win.”

And when asked if being paired with rookies in each of her matches added a bit more burden, she said: “A little bit, but you know what, I’m happy to take that ball and take that putt. It’s what it is. If it means that everybody else can see that Europe will win the session and win the point, that’s what we’re all about.”

They did just that, to the joy of Captain Ali Nicholas. “It’s been another great Foursomes for us – just fantastic to win the session again.

“Sophie and Caroline got us off to a great start, they played awesome golf, while Anna and Maris got their point at just the right time, straight after Karen and Christel lost and the Americans were getting louder.

“But that stopped them and what more can I say about Aza and Catriona. That was a gusty, brilliant half and it was vital for us. We wanted to win the session and to do it again means I’m very proud and pleased of the girls. It set us up for our afternoon Fourballs very nicely.”