HALMSTAD, Sweden — The European Solheim Cup team may have had the fans with the cooler supporting outfits — did you see the Swedish coneheads at the first tee? — but through most of the day, the Americans had the momentum.
Indeed, on an afternoon of cold, gusting winds and apocalyptic cloudbursts, the Yanks appeared to be poised for a rare first-day rout. After taking a one-point lead in the morning’s foursome matches — a format the U.S. hasn’t won since 1998 — the Americans were in control of three of the afternoon’s four four-ball matches late into the day. But then two of Europe’s finest stepped in to save Continental face. After failing to win any holes through 17 in her match against Americans Angela Stanford and Stacy Prammanasudh, Annika Sorenstam (partnered with Maria Hjorth) came through when it counted, parring 18 to square the match and give Europe a crucial half point.
Meanwhile, Laura Davies was staring at her third straight loss to Paula Creamer in Solheim Cup matches when she pulled out the shot of the day, maybe of the year.
After pushing her tee shot on 16 far right and deep into the woods, Davies hacked out of a root-entangled downhill lie — nearly falling forward with the effort. Her ball went through the trees, over the water and onto a patch of fringe between two bunkers. On her next shot she chipped in for what she called the best par save of her career. (Morgan Pressel, Creamer’s partner, called it “the par of the century.”) Her effort won the hole, squared the match and, after Creamer and Pressel conceded a putt on 18, gave Europe a half point to stay within one point of the Americans going into Saturday.
MATCH OF THE DAY: Davies and Trish Johnson vs. Creamer and Pressel in the afternoon four-ball. When Davies and Johnson played in the original Solheim Cup in 1990, Creamer was 4 and Pressel was 2. But the Americans’ experience deficit wasn’t much of a factor in this match, which ended halved.
UPSET: Sherri Steinhauer and Laura Diaz, who had a combined 11 Solheim Cup points going into this tournament, were distinct underdogs against the European pair of Annika Sorenstam and Catriona Matthew (28 1/2 Solheim Cup points combined) in the second match of the morning. The two teams were all square after 10 holes, but then the U.S. pair birdied four of the next five holes to go 3 up with three holes to play. After Europe bogeyed 16, Steinhauer and Diaz had the upset of the day, winning 4&2. By winning the 18th hole with a par in the afternoon, Sorenstam avoided a second upset in the afternoon.
STAT: Four holes won by Nicole Castrale, a Captain’s pick rookie, on the way to a 3&2 victory (with Cristie Kerr) over Sophie Gustafson and Gwladys Nocera in four-ball.
QUOTE: Laura Davies, describing her mindset after she and Johnson both hit tee shots to the right on 16: “We walked down there feeling sorry for ourselves. Trish is in the hazard. I’m in the bush. This is just not fair. But, you know, all of the sudden it worked out for us. I hacked it out of that bush and chipped in; they both missed. Things like that happen in golf. It’s lovely when it does.”