Friday, January 28

Europe takes 9-7 lead over USA on final day of tense Solheim Cup | Solheim Cup

The tense, tremendous fight from Toledo. Those who feared a Solheim Cup that might have a hard time gaining attention because it collides in part with the PGA Tour’s flamboyant conclusion to the season shouldn’t have worried. The only shame associated with this gripping battle between the US and European teams is that there is only one more chapter left.

The most extraordinary Sunday act, fittingly, was the last. Mel Reid’s 136-yard approach to 18 for all intents and purposes seemed like a short club half. Reid and Leona Maguire, the undoubted star of this event thus far, needed to win the hole to snatch half off Jennifer Kupcho and Lizette Salas. Reid’s ball somehow evaded a bunker next to the grass, bounced on medium hard, and dribbled 15 inches from the cup. Reid tapped for his three; giving Europe a 9-7 lead heading into the final singles day. “I knew I had to achieve something,” Reid said. “The crowd was getting behind them, interrupting us a bit.”

Catriona Matthew would have happily accepted this position before a ball was hit in anger at the Inverness Club. Europe needs “only” five points out of a possible 12 to retain the Solheim Cup. “I’m very confident,” Matthew said. “I am delighted to come in with an advantage.”

Yesterday’s four-ball session was one of breathtaking drama, embodying the best of women’s golf. That Europe would win this phase seemed unlikely for so long. The United States led in three games; in the end they took a point from one, Celine Boutier and Sophia Popov fell in a 3-1 loss to Yealimi Noh and Mina Harigae.

Charley Hull of Europe hits from the bunker on the 13th hole in his fourballs match
European Charley Hull hits from the bunker on the 13th hole in her four-ball match. Photograph: David Dermer / AP

Carlota Ciganda’s deadlift putt from 20 feet at 16 was crucial as she and Nanna Koerstz Madsen defeated Megan Khang and Jessica Korda, one up. Charley Hull and Emily Pedersen’s 3-2 win over Austin Ernst and Danielle Kang seemed easy in the context of such close competition. The best fourball match left Maguire and Reid, who have combined superbly, treating a draw as a victory.

Later, Matthew admitted that he feared Reid’s iron shot on 18 was destined for the sand. “He had a pretty lucky rebound,” added the captain. “I have learned over the years that every half point is absolutely crucial. That half a point has encouraged us. “

It was easy to forget that the United States seemed to gain momentum with a 3-1 victory in four sessions. Kang and Ernst defeated Madelene Sagström and Georgia Hall by one hole. Lexi Thompson and Brittany Altomare fired Hull and Pedersen. Salas and Kupcho won 3 & 1 over Anna Nordqvist and Matilda Castren.

Given that this is typically the weakest of the US matchmaking formats, the increase in crowd noise was totally understandable. However, this European team and its captain are made of harsh material. Maguire, the only player from either team to participate in each session, has claimed three and a half points out of four possible. “I couldn’t have asked for a better start to my career at Solheim,” said the 26-year-old from Cavan County.

The lasting shock to Nelly Korda after a high-profile rules controversy on Saturday became apparent a day later. The world number one had benefited from a hotly contested call-up during the narrow win on day two fourballs. The feeling that Korda was uncomfortable about what happened only intensified when she produced uneven play alongside Ally Ewing amid her 5-4 loss to Maguire and Reid.

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Hurst knocked Korda out of the fourball session, and the US captain just said she wanted to give her star player “a little more time to rest.”

Stacy Lewis, one of Hurst’s vice captains, had revealed to the broadcasters that the US backroom team had to keep insisting that Korda had done nothing wrong. If the United States regains the trophy by one point, and that scenario is entirely plausible, it is safe to say that the incident in question will continue to be a source of debate. Hopefully we are saved from that; the level of play here deserves a sunnier benchmark.

Monday Singles (US Eastern Time, Europe Players First) 12:05 PM: Anna Nordqvist v Lexi Thompson; 12:15 pm: Madelene Sagstrom in Ally Ewing; 12:25 pm: Leona Maguire in Jennifer Kupcho; 12:35 pm: Georgia Hall at Nelly Korda; 12:45 pm: Celine Boutier at Mina Harigae; 12:55: Nanna Koerstz Madsen at Austin Ernst; 13:05: Matilda Carsten in Lizette Salas; 1:15 PM: Carlota Ciganda at Brittany Altomare; 1:25 pm: Sophia Popov in Megan Khang; 1:35 PM: Mel Reid at Yealimi Noh; 1:45 PM: Charley Hull at Jessica Korda; 1:55 PM: Emily Pedersen in Danielle Kang

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