Solheim Cup: Europe with advantage heading into final day
It was a day that saw almost 12 hours of golf yet when the shadows lengthened at St Leon Rot on Saturday evening there were still three afternoon fourball matches left unfinished and the destiny of the Solheim Cup remained unclear.
The scoreboard shows that the home team hold an 8-5 overnight lead but that could yet be wiped out ahead of the Sunday singles. Make no mistake, the trophy could be returning to America despite the fact they have trailed since Friday afternoon.
The first hour of play promises to be fascinating with America one hole ahead with two to play in the second match, holding the same advantage with three to play in the third match while Europe are one up in the last game, also with three to play.
Conceivably, Europe could go into the singles leading 11-5 – or level at 8-8. Should the matches finish as they stand overnight, they would take a two-point advantage into the final series.
Saturday began dramatically with Lexi Thompson matching Mel Reid’s birdie at the last to halve the match of the week so far. Both teams were an estimated 11 under par.
Behind them, Gerina Piller was turning the last match on its head, holing from off the green at the 16th and then adding another birdie on the next to lead for the first time.
But Germany’s own Sandra Gal hit her hybrid approach to the last so close that she wasn’t even asked to putt and that secured the half point for Europe.
Germany’s own Sandra Gal hit her hybrid approach to the last so close that she wasn’t even asked to putt and it secured a half point for Europe in the Friday fourballs With the momentum on their side, Europe took the first three foursomes matches. Reid and Carlota Ciganda were brilliant again in thrashing Alison Lee and Michelle Wie in the top match, while Gal and Catriona Matthew teamed up for a second foursomes point.
The real bonus, though, came when Suzann Pettersen and Charley Hull turned round a four-hole deficit after 11 holes to win at the last. This was through nothing less than sustained brilliance from arguably Europe’s strongest two players.
They birdied the 12th, parred the next two and then reeled off four successive birdies to see off Morgan Pressel and Paula Creamer.
It was so harsh on the Americans – to be four up with seven to play in foursomes and par every remaining hole yet walk off having lost is difficult to conceive.
Stacy Lewis and Gerina Piller’s dismantling of Anna Nordqvist and Caroline Hedwall was the only ray of light for the away team, who deserve great credit for the way they responded in the fourballs.
Going into the session trailing 8-4 and facing the humiliating prospect of Europe needing just two or three points from the 12 last-day singles, they fought hard to reduce the deficit.
Thompson and Cristie Kerr led the way, beating the Spanish pair of Ciganda and Azahara Munoz 3&2.
Lewis and Piller lead Caroline Masson and Hedwall one up with two to play, while Alison Lee and Brittany Lincicome have the same advantage over Hull and Pettersen with three left. In the final game, Karine Icher and the indefatigable Matthew are one up with three to play against Lizette Salas and Brittany Lang.
The singles draw will be made upon completion of the fourball matches. The only shame following two stirring days of competition is that the pace of play this week has been so poor that the time lost in Friday’s delays for electrical storms has not been made up.
You would think that 12 hours of play would be enough to conclude the remaining three holes from Friday’s matches and then conclude a normal day of foursomes and fourballs. Sadly not, and players from both sides have a lot to answer for.
Notwithstanding this considerable gripe, the final day should be a thrilling one.