KirkwoodGolf: SOLHEIM CUP CLIFF-HANGER: Europe 8, US 8: 12 singles to decide

Saturday, September 24, 2011

SOLHEIM CUP CLIFF-HANGER: Europe 8, US 8: 12 singles to decide

By BETHAN CUTLER, L E T Media Manager
It's all to play for on Sunday on the last day of the Solheim Cup with the scoreline tied up at European 8, United States 8 at Killeen Castle, Co Meath in Ireland.
Europe skipper Alison Nicholas, pictured, had expressed her fears that "America would fight back as usual" after Europe had gone 2pt ahead at the end of  the Saturday morning session of foursomes.
As the afternoon four-ball matches streamed red instead of blue, her worst fears were realised as the Americans wiped out their two-point deficit to tie the Solheim Cup at 8-8 with Sunday's 12 singles to go.
Having trailed 5-7 after losing the morning foursomes 1 ½ -2 1/2, US skipper Rosie Jones found her stars and they earned their stripes to head into Sunday's singles in buoyant mood.
Laura Davies and Mel Reid beat Brittany Lang and Michelle Wie 4 and 3 in the lead-off match this afternoon but thereafter the rest of Europe fell as the Americans hit back.
Suzann Pettersen and Caroline Hedwall narrowly went down by one hole to Morgan Pressel and Cristie Kerr, while rookie debutants Sandra Gal and Christel Boeljon lost 2 and 1 to Stacey Lewis and Ryann O'Toole.
Paula Creamer and Brittany Lincicome edged out Azahara Munoz and Maria Horth 3 and 1.
This is the third time in the last four Solheim Cups (2005 and 2009) that the end-of-day-two score was or is 8-8.
Europe has won the singles three times and on two of those occasions they won The Solheim Cup, in 1992 and 2003. Europe won the singles in 1998 but lost the match 16-12.
Team skipper Nicholas knows it's going to be one hell of a final day battle ahead, but she refused to write off her side's chances despite America's superiority in the history of the singles.
"We needed more points this afternoon but we should never look back, only forwards," said Nicholas. "I know my girls are up for it and we're going to be doing everything we can to win this cup."
Pettersen was visibly disappointed to have lost on 18, given that she and Hedwall had fought so hard to get level. Brilliant birdies on 15 from the Swede and a monster 25 footer on the par 3 16th from the Norwegian ultimately counted for little as Pressel birdied 17 to give the USA the slender advantage they held onto in the second match.
"It was another tough tight match and we played well, so we're very disappointed to lose. We gave ourselves a chance with those birdies but I can tell you that all of us believe in ourselves and our chances in the singles. We will be ready," said Pettersen.
Earlier on, Laura Davies set a new Solheim Cup points record as she and Mel Reid did their best to set Europe on the right road.
The only player to compete in all 12 Solheim Cups, 47-year-old Davies was relieved as well as delighted to reach the 24 ½ points she needed to overtake Annika Sorenstam as the event’s all-time record points’ scorer.
I’ve played in every match,” said Davies.
"So it’s great to have made it. It’s cleared the pressure and now I can relax a bit more without that extra edge in the singles."
With four birdies in a row from the third, Davies’ all-English side was four up at the turn. Reid then made her own contribution with an eight foot eagle putt at the long 12th.
For the 24-year-old rookie, who had suffered two heartbreaking final green defeats on day one, it was her first Solheim point.
Earlier in the day, it was a clean sweep for the Swedes as Europe snatched a 2 ½ - 1 ½ victory in the second day foursomes and moved two points ahead in the bid to regain The Solheim Cup at Killeen Castle in Ireland.
Needing 14 ½ points for victory, the Europeans led 7-5 and Alison Nicholas’s team were in buoyant mood.
It’s been a dream Solheim debut for Caroline Hedwall, the ‘baby’ of the European team and a three-time winner in her first year as a professional.
She partnered Sophie Gustafson to a 5 and 4 win in the Friday fourballs and the Swedish duo again hit form to trounce Stacy Lewis and Angela Stanford 6 and 5 in the top foursome.
“It’s so exciting, it’s unbelievable,” said 22-year-old Hedwall, who has her twin sister, Jacqueline, as her caddie. “Sophie is so confident and calm and that makes me the same and she is so easy to play with.”
Jacqueline managed to get time off from her studies at Louisiana State University to be part of the European set-up this week – she intends trying to qualify for the Ladies’ European Tour at the 2012 qualifying school.
“I love to caddie for my sister, especially this week,” she said. “The atmosphere and the fans are just awesome.”
And Sophie Gustafson, given a rest in the fourballs as she has a niggling knee injury, added: "In my first Solheim Cup as a rookie I lost 7 and 5, so I was working my ass off to make sure I erased that record! The putt to do that on 13 was just short but 6 and 5 is a great win and Caroline played very well."
In the third match, another all-Swedish partnership of Anna Nordqvist and Maria Hjorth beat Brittany Lang and Juli Inkster 3 and 2.
Europe’s half point came in a thrilling bottom match. One down playing the last, Catriona Matthew and Azahara Munoz won the hole when Cristie Kerr bunkered the American’s approach shot and then failed to make the seven foot par putt.
Aza Munoz was also delighted with the crowds supporting her and Matthew on the last - and she gave them something to cheer when she held her nerve to hole out from four feet to earn a vital half.
"I was just thinking I couldn't let Catriona down. We had been fighting so hard all day. I just said I've hit a million balls like this, so I just focused and I hit it.
Matthew said: "You feel a tremendous amount of pressure. It was kind of close all day, and we wanted to get the half a point so we could win that series. We hit some really good shots at some key holes."
(Catriona was rested from the Saturday afternoon session).
Karen Stupples and Christel Beoljon went down to the Americans Ryann O'Toole and Morgan Pressel 3 and 2 and was unhappy with the USA fans goading and laughing when her Dutch debutant partner left a bunker shot on 16 in the trap.
It was the Englishwoman's second foursomes defeat, having lost with Mel Reid on day one, and she was rested ahead of the singles match "she is doubly determined to win."
And when asked if being paired with rookies in each of her matches added a bit more burden, she said: "A little bit, but you know what, I'm happy to take that ball and take that putt. It's what it is. If it means that everybody else can see that Europe will win the session and win the point, that's what we're all about."
They did just that, to the joy of Captain Ali Nicholas. "It's been another great foursomes for us - just fantastic to win the session again. Sophie and Caroline got us off to a great start, they played awesome golf, while Anna and Maria got their point at just the right time, straight after Karen and Christel lost and the Americans were getting louder.
"But that stopped them and what more can I say about Aza and Catriona. That was a gutsy, brilliant half and it was vital for us. We wanted to win the session and to do it again means I'm very proud and pleased of the girls. It set us up for our four-balls nicely."

DAY ONE RESULTS – Europe 4 1/2, United States 3 1/2.

DAY TWO RESULTS – Europe 3 1/2, United States 4 1/2

Foursomes (Europe 2 1/2, US 1 1/2)
(Europe names first)
Caroline Hedwall and Sophie Gustafson bt Angela Stanford and Stacy Lewis 6 and 5
Karen Stupples and Christel Boeljon lost to Morgan Pressel and Ryann O’Toole 3 and 2
Maria Hjorth and Anna Nordqvist bt Brittany Lang and Juki Inkster 3 and 2
Catriona Matthew and Azahara Muñoz halved with Cristie Kerr and Paula Creamer
Four-balls (Europe 1, US 3)
Laura Davies and Melissa Reid bt Brittany Lang and Michelle Wie by 4 and 3
Suzann Pettersen and Caroline Hedwall lost to Morgan Pressel and Cristie Kerr one hole
Sandra Gal and Christel Boeljon lost to Stacy Lewis and Ryann O’Toole 2 and 1
Maria Hjorth and Azahara Muñoz lost to Paula Creamer and Brittany Lincicome 3 and 1


10:10 Catriona Matthew v Paula Creamer
10:20 Sophie Gustafson v Stacy Lewis
10:30 Anna Nordqvist v Morgan Pressel
10:40 Laura Davies v Juli Inkster
10:50 Melissa Reid v Vicky Hurst
11:00 Christel Boeljon v Brittany Lincicome
11:10 Sandra Gal v Brittany Lang
11:20 Maria Hjorth v Christina Kim
11:30 Suzann Pettersen v Michelle Wie
11:40 Caroline Hedwall v Ryann O’Toole
11:50 Azahara Muñoz v Angela Stanford
12:00 Karen Stupples v Cristie Kerr