Late rallies help U.S. stick with Europe after Day 1 of the Solheim Cup

September 13, 2019

Lexi Thompson made a clutch putt on the 18th green to earn the U.S. Solheim Cup team a half point and end Friday’s afternoon four-balls session in a 2-2 tie, making the Americans’ deficit 4.5-3.5 after one day at Gleneagles in Scotland.

Europe, trying to avoid a third straight loss in the event, grabbed a 2.5-1.5 lead in foursomes on Friday morning and nearly added to it in the afternoon — if not for some late-day heroics from the final two groups.

“We just gotta keep the Europes in our rearview mirror, or our front mirror, so we can see them,” said U.S. captain Juli Inkster. “You don’t want to get too far down. It was looking like we could be 2 1/2 points down.”

While there was little drama in the first two groups of the afternoon — Suzann Pettersen and Anne van Dam won 4 and 2 over Danielle Kang and Lizette Salas after Ally McDonald and Angel Yin beat Europe’s Anna Nordqvist and Caroline Hedwall 7 and 5 — there was plenty late.

Nelly Korda and Brittany Altomare were 1 up over Charley Hull and Azahara Munoz early, but the European duo fought back and was 3 up with 3 to play. Needing to win all three holes to halve the match, the Americans didn’t let up. Altomare won the 16th with a birdie, Korda stuck it on the par-3 17th and made birdie, and Altomare added the last blow, birdieing the par-5 18th to complete the comeback.

In the final group of the day it was Jessica Korda and Thompson versus Carlota Ciganda and Bronte Law. No team ever led by more than 1 hole until Thompson made back-to-back birdies on 13 and 14 to go 2 up.

But just when it looked like the Americans would close it out, Europe won Nos. 15-17 — Law won 16 with a birdie and Ciganda made birdies to win the next two — to grab a 1-up lead on the 18th tee. But Thompson had one final punch left, rolling in her birdie putt to halve the match.

“You have to dig deep for your partner and your country and your whole team,” Thompson said. “There is nothing like having a putt on the last hole to halve the match. We all live for that moment. We were all very cold but I was thinking, ‘Alright, just get it to the hole.'”

In the first match of the afternoon session, Pettersen and van Dam won four holes in a six-hole span to go 4 up at the turn and cruised the rest of the way. Behind that group was another one-sided affair. McDonald and Yin won the first three holes and were 5 up at the turn before closing it out on the 13th. It was a dominating performance for a duo that faced much uncertainty days ago. McDonald was an alternate and didn’t know she was going to play until Stacy Lewis withdrew on Tuesday, and Yin’s clubs were lost during her flight to Scotland and she didn’t get them until Tuesday night. Their 7-and-5 win tied a Solheim Cup record for largest margin of victory in four-balls.

“I was just fired up, ready to go,” McDonald said. “Just to be paired with Angel and just do our best out there and get a point on the board. I was just super excited, and not knowing a few days ago obviously if I was going to be on the team, this was big — very exciting.”

Both teams will be back at it for another long day on Saturday, with four foursomes matches and four four-balls matches, followed by 12 singles matches on Sunday.