Clean sweep in fourballs leaves Europe five clear at Solheim Cup
Stunning golf from Neumann’s side sets up possible first win on US soil
Anna Nordqvist celebrates her hole in one on the 17th hole in the morning foursomes with playing partner Caroline Hedwall . Photograph: Photograph: David Cannon/Getty Images
Europe produced a sensational clean sweep of the afternoon fourballs to earn a five-point lead heading into the Solheim Cup singles match-ups in Colorado and on track for a first win on American soil.
An unfancied European team went into day two of their title defence with a 5-3 lead but that was down to one point after the United States edged the foursomes on a morning highlighted for the visitors by Anna Nordqvist’s historic hole-in-one.
But on an afternoon which surpassed the expectations of even the most optimistic European supporters, they turned the scoreboard blue to stretch their advantage to 10.5-5.5 with a gutsy and skilful display headlined by Caroline Hedwall, who claimed her fourth point of the contest.
Captain Lotte Neumann appeared to have taken a big gamble in sending out five of her team’s six rookies at a time when the Americans were looking to wrest the initiative from their opponents.
But they stood up to the pressure admirably – none more so than English duo Jodie Ewart Shadoff and 17-year-old Charley Hull, who won perhaps the pick of the matches against Paula Creamer and Lexi Thompson.
In a high-quality encounter which saw birdies from one or other of the pairs on 13 of the 18 holes, Ewart Shadoff and Hull picked up shots on the last two holes for a two-up victory.
“It was pretty epic,” admitted Ewart Shadoff. “Both teams played really well, birdying nearly every hole. It was a great match to be a part of and it’s nice to finally get a point on the board for Europe.”
There was redemption for Carlota Ciganda, who bounced back from a difficult opening day to hole the decisive putt as she and Azahara Munoz claimed a one-up win over Gerina Piller and Angela Stanford.
Ciganda holed her birdie putt on the 18th and celebrated in style after going through a tough day on her Solheim Cup debut yesterday.
“It wasn’t easy,” she said. “I wasn’t feeling very comfortable, I just tried to fight to the last hole.
“I love Europe. I love winning. We’re going to win tomorrow. It was unbelievable to win on the last hole.”
“You can’t lose with her by your side,” Masson said. “It was a lot of fun today.”
There was drama still to come though as Karine Icher denied the United States even the solace of a half point in the day’s final match.
She and Beatriz Recari led by three after a birdie at 10, but the American pair clawed their way back and appeared set square the match with a birdie on 18.
Icher sunk a monster putt from off the green, though, to finish off a remarkable day for Europe.
Recari said: “I have to praise Karine. That putt on the last shows how good she is. It was a point well deserved.”
Masson preached caution heading into the final day.
“We’re in a great position but anything can happen,” she said. “But we did so well the first few days, I have a pretty good feeling about this.”
The afternoon drama overshadowed what had already been a remarkable morning, as Nordqvist recorded the first ever Solheim Cup ace in Europe’s only win of the foursomes.
The 26-year-old Swede teed off on the 17th hole alongside partner Hedwall, with the duo one up against Morgan Pressel and Korda.
She promptly drained the first hole-in-one in the history of the tournament to put Europe 6-3 up overall.
“It’s definitely one of my highlights of my career,” Nordqvist said. “It’s not many times that you can actually hole out and make a hole-in-one to actually win the match.
“I guess it might be pretty expensive for me, a lot of people are watching, but it’s one of the moments that I’m really going to remember for a long time.”
With Stacy Lewis and Creamer taking a nailbiter for the home side, and Wie holding her nerve to take another match, the score soon became 6-5, but Catriona Matthew landed a nervy final-hole putt to keep Europe in the lead heading into an extraordinary afternoon.