Americans lead, but Davies makes great escape to keep Europeans in it

Americans lead, but Davies makes great escape to keep Europeans in it

Morgan Pressel and Paula Creamer halved their match in the afternoon fourball.
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

HALMSTAD, Sweden (AP) — Par of the century. Best par in history. Unbelievable.

And that’s just what the other team was saying about the magic act Laura Davies conjured up on the 16th hole at the Solheim Cup on Friday.

Davies called her amazing par from the bushes and bramble behind a sinister creek called Backen a “hit and hope,” a “500-1 shot,” “something that a 36-handicapper might try for.”

Or, quite simply, the best par of her life.

Even with the half point Davies helped salvage with that par, the United States still led the Europeans 4 1/2-3 1/2 after a windy, wet and frigid slog in Sweden — a good sign for a team that hasn’t been ahead after the first day of this event since 1998.

But it was the Europeans who walked off the course with all the momentum and buzz.

And all because of Davies, who cemented herself in Solheim Cup lore with a hack through the tree roots and a 50-foot chip-in for par, saving her match and turning a rough opening day for the Europeans into something much better.

“Considering the circumstances … it was beyond belief, really,” Davies said. “I would say it was a pretty good moment.”

Playing in the final fourball match of the day, she was the last player to hit on the tricky par-3 16th hole. She didn’t learn a lesson by watching Americans Morgan Pressel and Paula Creamer along with her own teammate, Trish Johnson, all push their shots and hit to the wrong side of Backen — the creek that runs in front of and down the right side of the green.

In fact, Davies hit the worst shot of the foursome.

So bad, that she found herself climbing through the shrubbery simply to get to her ball.

“We’re walking by. I’m like, ‘Where’s your ball?”‘ Creamer said. “She’s like, ‘Oh, I’m just hoping to get through those trees.”‘

Davies did more than that. Pulling out her wedge — or was that a machete? — she took a wild swing and a huge gash of underbrush. She blasted the ball out to the fringe on the opposite side of the green. Still away, she chipped in her next shot from 50 feet to win the hole and draw even in a match she and Johnson had trailed all day.

“We both kind of looked at each other and just went, ‘Wow,”‘ Pressel said. “I think that’s the par of the century.”

“Probably the best par you’ve seen in history,” teammate Cristie Kerr added.

Then Creamer: “It was unbelievable.”

But what could have been academic — a collapse by the Americans after watching such a spectacle — wasn’t anything like that.

Pressel and Creamer played the last two holes to a draw and actually had two decent looks at winning the match on the 18th green. They missed. Still, given the things went down on No. 16, maybe it was really the young Americans who salvaged the half point.

“What are you going to do?” Creamer said when asked how she and Pressel rebounded. “We had two holes left. It’s not over. At that point, it was all-square. There’s a lot of golf left.”

It was definitely a moment to remember, and on the 18th green, Pressel and Creamer added another.

After they missed their putts, Davies and Johnson each had testy 3-footers to ensure the tie. The Americans conceded the putts to finish the match, which took nearly six hours to complete, at all-square. It was a classy act of sportsmanship that events like these are designed to bring out in players, but too often don’t.

“We both deserved to win that match with the finish we had on the last couple holes,” Creamer said. “I think that’s the way you play the Solheim Cup.”

Besides the shot by Davies, it was the weather that made this day memorable.

The day started with breezy conditions under foreboding gray clouds, then turned nasty with a cutting wind, lashing rain and an occasional heavy squall. Then sunshine, then more squalls. And finally, a rainbow on the horizon as the Davies foursome finished the day’s best match.

“From start to finish, probably one of the worst I’ve ever seen,” said Johnson, who is from England and is used to bad conditions.

“You don’t get a lot of this in South Florida,” said Pressel, a native of Boca Raton.

It could be more of the same Saturday with a low pressure system coming in off the North Sea that isn’t expected to clear out until late in the weekend.

“The course is very, very long and with these conditions, it’s almost too long for them, too,” Kerr said, speaking to the conventional wisdom that the big-hitting Europeans have an advantage at lengthy Halmstad Golf Course.

Given the crazy finish and the wild weather, neither team was too disappointed with where it stood.

The Americans don’t often play as well in fourball and foursome games as they do in the Sunday singles, so they’re in good position to win the Solheim Cup on foreign soil for only the second time in history.

The Europeans were trailing all four afternoon matches at one point, so salvaging two points from that set seemed like a victory to them. Annika Sorenstam and Maria Hjorth also grabbed a half point in the afternoon with a late rally, though it wasn’t nearly as dramatic as the Davies-Johnson comeback.

“It’s not a bad day, considering,” Davies said.

Easy for her to say.

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