Europe rallies to pull even with US at 8-8 going into final day of Solheim Cup


CASARES, Spain (AP) — Europe picked up the pace at the Solheim Cup on Saturday, pulling even with the United States at 8-8 after splitting the morning foursome matches and winning the afternoon fourballs.

The contest will be decided by the 12 singles matches on Sunday, when Europe will try to win an unprecedented third straight Solheim Cup. The Europeans arrived as favorites but had to come from behind after the Americans took a 4-0 lead in Friday’s first session.

The U.S. kept its two-point lead from the first day after the teams split the morning session on Saturday, but Europe was in control during most of the afternoon and ended up winning it 3-1.

“I’m out of words, but we have to remember we are not there yet, there are still 12 points up for grabs tomorrow,” Europe captain Suzann Pettersen said. “We made quite a comeback, now we are tied and we’ll put it in fifth gear and keep going. If you look at how we started after yesterday’s morning, we’ve come a long way.”

The Europeans sealed the afternoon victory when home-crowd favorite Carlota Ciganda and rookie Linn Grant defeated Danielle Kang and Lilia Vu 2 and 1.

Ciganda, the only Spaniard in the European team, made a clutch birdie for a win on the 16th hole and is the only player with a perfect record. She won three straight sessions after sitting out the opening one on Friday.

Leona Maguire and Charley Hull earlier defeated Nelly Korda and Ally Ewing 4 and 3, with Maguire — who thrived in her Solheim Cup debut two years ago — making birdies on nearly half of her holes.

“Suzann was pretty clear on what our job was today, so mission accomplished,” Maguire said. “One more day to give it our best shot and I think that’s the great thing about this team, there’s so much fight in this team. We’ve never given up.”

The Americans won its lone point in the afternoon when Cheyenne Knight and Angel Yin finished 2 up against veterans Caroline Hedwall — who had not played previously this week — and Anna Nordqvist, one of the vice captains for Europe.

Pedersen, playing in her fourth consecutive session, teamed up with Madelene Sagstrom for a 2 and 1 win over Rose Zhang and Andrea Lee.

In the morning, Swedish rookies Grant and Maja Stark kept it close for Europe by making crucial birdie putts on their final two holes to help the hosts keep the deficit at 7-5.

Stark and Grant defeated Kang and Lee 1 up in the final group to secure a 2-2 split. Stark’s putt on the 17th put Europe ahead, then Grant clinched the win by sinking hers on the 18th.

Stark and Grant, good friends off the course as well, had made their Solheim Cup debuts with a loss in the opening foursomes on Friday.

“I think we came out with a more aggressive mindset today. Losing yesterday was not fun. Our first loss ever,” Grant said. “So we kind of had a different view of it today and just went out and crushed it from the start.”

The U.S. got off to its best-ever start to take the lead on Friday morning. The Europeans rallied in the fourball matches in the afternoon to cut the lead to 5-3 going into the weekend.

The Europeans came in touted as the favorites after bringing an experienced squad to Spain. The Americans arrived with a young team but with several players who have won big tournaments recently.

Europe got the first point on Saturday with Ciganda and Pedersen winning 2 and 1 against Jennifer Kupcho and Vu, the world No. 2 who is yet to win a match at Finca Cortesin.

“It felt good to go out early and get that one point so we could get ahead of the Americans,” said Pedersen, who on Friday made the second hole-in-one in Solheim Cup history.

Korda, ranked No. 3 in the world, and U.S. Women’s Open champion Allisen Corpuz gave the U.S. its first point by cruising 5 and 3 past Georgia Hall and Celine Boutier in the final morning group. Korda clinched the victory with a long birdie putt on the par-4 15th. The U.S. duo had already won their opening foursome match on Friday.

France’s Boutier, the top-ranked European who was playing some of the best golf ahead of the Solheim Cup, remains winless.

U.S. veteran Lexi Thompson and Megan Khang picked up their second win by defeating Maguire and Nordqvist 1 up. The Americans took the lead after Nordqvist missed a mid-range putt on the 17th. Thompson and Khang were rested in the afternoon session.

“We knew that we had to bring our ‘A’ game,” Thompson said. “We got a few down going into the back nine and just stayed positive.”

Spain is hosting the Solheim Cup for the first time, 26 years after it hosted the men’s Ryder Cup at Valderrama. This year’s Ryder Cup is taking place in Rome next week. It is the first time both events are held in back-to-back weeks, and some — including U.S. captain Stacy Lewis — had expected more collaboration between organizers to better promote golf.

The LPGA, which helps organizes the Solheim Cup in the United States, said in a statement that they “recognize the logistical complications presented with bringing together two organizations,” but added that “we know more collaboration between the men’s and women’s golfers representing the United States would prove beneficial for athletes, fans and partners alike.”


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