Fourball sweep hands USA Solheim Cup advantage

Competition hosts and defending champions dominate Europe on opening day in Iowa

Lexi Thompson and Cristie Kerr celebrate halving a match during the opening day of the Solheim Cup. Photograph: Stuart Franklin/Getty

Lexi Thompson and Cristie Kerr celebrate halving a match during the opening day of the Solheim Cup. Photograph: Stuart Franklin/Getty

 

The United States completed a sweep of the afternoon fourball matches to move into a dominant position over Europe in the Solheim Cup after the opening day’s play in Des Moines.

Catriona Matthew, a late addition to the team, had helped Europe get off to a strong start in the morning as they led 2 1/2 to 1 1/2 after the foursomes.

But the pendulum swung sharply in the United States’ favour in the afternoon as they took a 5 1/2-2 1/2 lead.

It was a first ever fourball sweep for the Americans, who are looking to retain the cup after their victory in Germany two years ago.

“It wasn’t the afternoon we had wished for, but the players fought very hard,” European captain Annika Sorenstram said on the tournament website.

“I must say the US team played very well. They made a lot of birdies. They made a lot of putts. And we just didn’t have the same flow. So overall, just still feel pretty happy how we had the setup. And like I said, the girls fought to the end.”

Lizette Salas — who took the United States’ only full point in the morning alongside tournament debutant Danielle Kang — teamed up with another rookie, Angel Yin, for a convincing 6&5 win over Carlota Ciganda and Caroline Masson, while Kang partnered Michelle Wie in a 3&1 win over Madelene Sagstrom and Jodi Ewart Shadoff.

Salas and Yin had set the tone, with Salas recording three straight birdies to take the first three holes, and they won on back-to-back par fives to end the contest in 13 holes.

“I was just fortunate to have great partners,” Salas said. “I felt like I let myself down and Danielle down a little bit this morning and I kind of used the afternoon as redemption. I really focused on feel. These greens are very tricky. I went back to basics and went to a style of golf I know how to play.”

Brittany Lincicome and Brittany Lang beat Masson and Florentyna Parker 3&2, while Stacy Lewis and Gerina Piller beat Charley Hull and Georgia Hall 2&1.

That changed the mood considerably after Europe had made the better start on Friday morning.

Assistant captain Matthew was only brought into the team to replace the injured Suzann Pettersen on Thursday, but took to the task well alongside France’s Karine Icher in the foursomes.

The Scot, 47, was playing the fourth match at Des Moines Golf and Country Club and the European pair won on the last hole against Lewis and Piller.

Earlier, Hull and Melissa Reid were forced to halve the opening match against Cristie Kerr and Lexi Thompson after the American pair picked up birdies on the final two holes.

The English duo were two shots clear after the 13th hole but the resilient Kerr kept her cool to sink a decisive birdie putt on the 18th.

Kang and Salas then claimed victory in the second match on the last against Ciganda and Masson.

Fellow Solheim Cup rookie Hall, of England, and the experienced Anna Nordqvist were clinical in beating Austin Ernst and Paula Creamer 3&1.

After the setback of Friday afternoon, Sorenstam promised her players would regroup ahead of Saturday’s play.

“I’ll tell (my players), but I think they know, that this is a distance run,” she said. “It’s a marathon. It’s not a sprint. We have to do the work. We have to do the process.

“We gotta go out there, and 36 holes, we got eight points out there tomorrow. That’s a lot of points and we need to get a lot of those. And that’s what I’m going to tell them.”

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