Europe rides foursomes rout to early lead at Solheim Cup

·4 min read

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — Defending champion Europe rode a dominant performance in the alternate-shot format to surge to a 5 1/2-2 1/2 lead at the Solheim Cup on Saturday.

The Europeans took 3 1/2 of a possible four points during the foursome matches and split the afternoon four-ball session for some early momentum in their push to win on U.S. soil for just the second time in the event's 31-year history.

The three-point margin tied the biggest lead after one day in the 17 editions of the Solheim Cup. The Americans led by three after Day 1 in both 1998 and 2017 on their way to comfortable victories.

Playing in front of a decidedly pro-U.S. crowd at Inverness due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, Europe hardly looked intimidated by the stakes or the stage, hanging tough on a taut day in which seven of the eight matches made it all the way to the 18th green.

Europe's advantage could potentially have been even bigger if not for an inadvertent rules violation by Madelene Sagstrom during her and teammate Nanna Koerstz Madsen's four-ball match against top-ranked Nelly Korda and Ally Ewing.

The match was all square at the par-5 13th when Korda sent a 20-foot eagle putt curling right to left toward the hole. It hung on the lip as Korda dropped to her knees in exasperation. Sagstrom bent down and picked Korda's ball up quickly. Too quickly.

Rules officials determined Sagstrom didn't wait the required 10 seconds before lifting it, making Korda's putt good, a decision that put the Americans in front and opened the door for them to win 1 up.

“It was definitely awkward,” Korda said. “And you don’t want to win a hole like that. I got off the green, and we kind of were talking, and (the rules official) already came up to us and was like, ‘I’m calling it in, I want to check it out.’ We didn’t even have a say honestly.”

Sagstrom allowed she violated the rule, though she questioned whether Korda's ball was as close to going in as the officials believed it was.

“I personally don’t agree with the decision with the ball being on the edge,” Sagstrom said. “But I didn’t follow the 10-second rule, so it sucks right now because I feel like I let my team down.”

It was one of the few wayward moments on a day that largely belonged to blue-and-white clad visitors.

Rookie Leona Maguire teamed with Mel Reid to take down Korda and older sister Jessica 1-up in alternate shot, then combined with Georgia Hall to edge Brittany Altomare and Yealimi Noh 1-up in the afternoon.

Matilda Castren and seven-time Solheim Cup veteran Anna Nordqvist dropped Mina Harigae and Lexi Thompson 4 and 3 in four-ball, the lone blowout of the day.

Lizette Salas salvaged a point for the U.S. in four-ball when she made a 7-foot birdie on the 18th to give her and Jennifer Kupcho a 1-up win over Carlota Ciganda and Sophia Popov.

Salas pumped her fist in celebration, one of the displays of emotion by the Americans. Then again, there wasn't much to cheer about as the Europeans put on another brilliant display in foursomes.

The teams of Nordqvist-Castren and Charley Hull-Emily Pedersen joined Reid and Maguire in 1-up victories in the morning. Hall and Celine Boutier rallied on the 18th to earn the other half-point in a format the Europeans have frequently dominated at the biennial event.

Reid and Maguire, a Solheim Cup rookie, more than held their own against the Korda sisters. The Europeans took the lead when the Kordas made a mess of the par-4 fourth. They pushed the advantage to 2 up after the Americans posted a double bogey on the par-4 sixth and closed it out when Maguire calmly rolled in a 3-foot par putt on the 18th.

The loss was the first for Nelly Korda in foursomes and just the second in five foursome matches for Jessica. The Americans managed three birdies — two of which the Europeans matched — during the round even with former Masters champion Bubba Watson walking along with their group while serving as a volunteer assistant for U.S. captain Pat Hurst.

“It’s just tough, but we came back and gave it our best,” Jessica Korda said. “But Leona made everything coming in, and it’s tough to kind of do anything when they make no mistakes.”

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Will Graves, The Associated Press

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