HALMSTAD, Sweden (AP) — Another day ended at the Solheim Cup and the Americans still had the lead. Yet for the second straight evening, it felt as though the Europeans were leaving Halmstad Golf Club with the better chance to win.
Led by Suzann Pettersen, Europe overcame windy, frigid weather and late deficits Saturday to once again earn ties in two of four matches that had looked decidedly lost.
That helped the Europeans split the four points in the morning’s foursome matches and enter the afternoon fourball trailing only 6 1/2 -5 1/2. And when those fourball matches were suspended by darkness, Europe led in three matches and was even in the other.
Those matches will be completed early Sunday, then followed by 12 singles matches that will determine whether the Americans can win the Cup for only the second time on foreign soil.
The jam-packed Sunday schedule comes because the start of Saturday’s play was delayed by more than two hours due to 40 mph gusts that toppled fences overnight and had golf balls oscillating on the greens when the players arrived to warm up. The weather wasn’t much better when they finally took to the course.
Despite its slim deficit, Europe seemed to be handling the conditions and the pressure better.
In the wind and rain on Friday, Europe’s comeback was sparked by Laura Davies, whose fantastic 50-foot par save on No. 16 helped earn a tie. That, along with another half-point in a comeback by Annika Sorenstam, kept Europe within a point after the first day.
On Saturday, when the rain disappeared but the wind got worse, it was Pettersen, the reigning McDonalds LPGA champion, who came up with the most memorable shot. Standing in the rough to the left of the 18th fairway, she played a big hook around some trees in her path and nearly skimmed the flagstick with a shot that stopped 4 feet from the hole.
Her teammate, Sophie Gustafson, made the putt to win the hole and earn a half-point in the match that Juli Inkster and Paula Creamer led after 17 holes.
Moments earlier, Maria Hjorth and Gwladys Nocera finished a rally from two holes down with three to play for a tie against Americans Sherri Steinhauer and Laura Diaz. Steinhauer missed a 3-foot putt that would have won the match, then Hjorth followed by making one of about the same length to complete the comeback.
Meanwhile, the Americans were en route to a rousing comeback of their own when Nicole Castrale and Cristie Kerr won four of five holes down the stretch against Sorenstam and Catriona Matthew to take their match from 5 down to the 18th hole.
But Castrale’s 6-foot birdie putt to tie barely curled out while Matthew made a testy 3-footer for par to help the Europeans escape with their lone victory of the morning.
The Americans also got a 4-and-2 victory from Pat Hurst and Angela Stanford over Iben Tinning and Bettina Hauert in the only match that didn’t come down to the 18th hole.
Indeed, not all the news was bad for the Americans. They have won 59 percent of the singles matches over the lifetime of the Solheim Cup. Because of their dominance in singles, the last Cups they’ve won have come without them carrying the lead into the final day.
This time, they’ll have that lead, though it’s precarious.
Tournament officials planned to resume play early Sunday, then thought they’d get in all 12 singles matches without having to resort to a Monday finish.
The forecast Sunday called for calmer winds, temperatures in the mid-50s with a chance of rain.