U.S. blitzes way to 5-point lead at Solheim Cup, but Euros not giving up hope

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U.S. blitzes way to 5-point lead at Solheim Cup, but Euros not giving up hope

LPGA Tour

U.S. blitzes way to 5-point lead at Solheim Cup, but Euros not giving up hope

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa – When Cristie Kerr holed out for eagle from the bunker on the 15th hole on Saturday, former Solheim Cup captain Judy Rankin said the Americans were starting to rub it in. The quality of golf in Iowa was so good it was silly.

While Team Europe put up a valiant fight, the Americans showed no mercy. Juli Inkster led a team of heroes to an unprecedented 10 1/2 to 5 1/2 advantage heading into singles play.

“I mean, I’ve never seen anything like it,” said a stunned Annika Sorenstam.

Incredibly, this marks the first time the U.S. has led heading into singles since 1998. Sorenstam’s European squad will have to make history to win. No Solheim Cup team, or Ryder Cup team, has ever overcome a five-point deficit in singles. Inkster’s team rallied from four back in Germany two years ago, and twice the Ryder Cup has seen a four-point comeback: 1999 (U.S. win at Brookline) and 2012 (European win at Medinah).

Sorenstam has passed out mantra bands every night to her team. On Saturday, she gave ones that read “She believed she could and so she did.”

“I’m going to tell them that every ‘she’ is every player,” said Sorenstam. “Just have to go out there and believe in themselves, focus on their own matches and don’t look at any leaderboard. Like you’re getting in a boxing match with an opponent, just punch ’em.”

The Americans struck blow after blow on in Saturday four-ball. Seconds after Austin Ernst came within inches of acing the par-3 14th, Lizette Salas was on the ground in disbelief that her approach into the 15th didn’t drop for eagle. When Ernst holed a chip shot on the 15th for birdie, Kerr came up in the group behind and holed a bunker shot for eagle.

Team Europe poured in 34 team birdies and one eagle in afternoon four-ball and got beat 3-1 in the session.

The difference? Each American match boasted an eagle.

“I’m telling you right now,” said Inkster, “this golf course is not easy.”

Don’t tell that to Lincicome, who birdied the first six holes of four-ball competition. Her partner, Brittany Lang, eagled the seventh. Lincicome and Lang – the Killer B’s – are now 4-0 in Solheim four-ball, though they weren’t paired together two years ago in Germany.

Lincicome said she and husband Dewald Gouws have a running joke that if she makes three birdies in a row, he has to send her a shirtless picture.

“I’m not sure what six gets us,” she said, laughing. “Is my face red?”

Shots on Saturday that weren’t holed out, rattled off the flagstick or barely scooted past the hole. Kick-in birdies somehow became the norm.

Inkster began the morning shaking it to Bruno Mars on the first tee, but she’ll go to sleep on Sunday hearing the roars that ripped through the Midwest.

Paula Creamer and Ernst went 2-0 on Saturday, leaving Inkster to admonish the doubters.

“All those Twitter people out there that told me that I shouldn’t have picked Paula, shame on you,” she said, wagging her finger at the cameras.

Kerr and Lexi Thompson told each other it might take a 59 to beat the ageless Catriona Matthew and newcomer Georgia Hall, the only player on either side to play the first four sessions. It took 11 team birdies and an eagle from the Americans to dust the Brits, 4 and 2.

Kerr became the first American player to earn 20 points in Solheim play. Inkster joked that she almost sat the gritty vet to keep her record safe.

“She’s an animal out there,” said Thompson of Kerr.

Inkster expected Sorenstam to front-load her lineup on Sunday as she did two years ago in Germany. So she loaded the front of her singles list with veterans like Thompson, Creamer, Kerr and Stacy Lewis.

Sorenstam knows what it’s like to make history. She brought up March 16, 2001, in her press conference – the day she shot 59.

“Hope is the last thing that’s going to leave us,” said Sorenstam. “And we’re determined. We didn’t fly these miles to not put up a fight.”

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