2002: Familiar format sparks U.S. afternoon rebound

Edina, Minn.

On opening day, the Americans were overjoyed to forget about the morning foursomes and return to familiar turf: four-ball, or better-ball, as it is more commonly known in the United States.

The quirky foursomes had been a letdown, and for a while it appeared the United States might not win a single match.

In stark contrast, four-ball was a pick-me-up for the U.S. team. It looked as if the Americans might sweep.

Credit this huge turnaround to the Birdie Sisters – Michele Redman and Meg Mallon (10 birdies in 17 holes), Rosie Jones and Cristie Kerr (seven birdies in 18 holes). Then there was the resurgent Laura Diaz, who had five birdies on her own as she teamed with steady Emilee Klein for a convincing 4-and-3 victory over Sophie Gustafson and Karine Icher.

Diaz was subbing for Beth Daniel, who was suffering from a flu virus and decided not to play. Said Diaz to U.S. captain Patty Sheehan: “I’ve waited and worked my whole life to be here today, so I have got no problem going 36 if you need me.”

She was needed.

Meanwhile, Sheehan’s smartest pairing of the day was to put Jones and Kerr in the lead group in four-ball. Jones, the gritty veteran, was a wonderful complement to the youthful Kerr, still smarting from the “little brat” comment of Catrin Nilsmark. The fiery Kerr birdied the first two holes. Thereafter, the resolute Jones guided the Americans to a 1-up victory over Laura Davies and Paula Marti. Beating Davies, Europe’s lead horse, was an inspiration to the U.S. team.

Although Davies and Marti were 4 down at the turn, they stormed back after Davies made an eagle 3 at the 10th. On the par-5 18th, where Davies smoked her tee shot through the fairway and into a lake, the stout Englishwoman cranked her next shot over the water and onto the green, sinking the 15-foot putt for a remarkable birdie. Jones then calmly converted a 5-foot birdie putt to preserve the United States’ 1-up triumph.

Also falling for the Europeans was world No. 1 Annika Sorenstam. She and Maria Hjorth were no match for Redman and Mallon, the red-hot birdiemakers. Even though the Europeans were 6 under par for 17 holes, they lost, 2 and 1.

Europe’s only victory of the afternoon was produced by Mhairi McKay and Carin Koch, who beat Inkster and Kelli Kuehne by a 3-and-2 margin. Both Inkster and Kuehne finished the opening day with two losses.

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