Europeans take two-point Solheim lead
Saturday, September 24, 2011
DUNSANY, Ireland – Europe may have the advantage, but is it enough?
That’s the question concerning European fans after the third session of this Solheim Cup.
Europe edged the morning foursomes 2.5–1.5 to take a 7-5 advantage into the second session of four-balls. Two points might sound healthy, but Europe will need to build on it if they are to win the biennial match for the first time since 2003. They need as big an advantage heading into the singles to counteract America’s historic dominance in head-to-head play.
A big lead would also help drown out U.S. fans. This may be a home match for Europe, but you wouldn’t know it from the cheers from the gallery. Europe might lead on the fairways, but the U.S. is three or four up behind the ropes. Visiting fans have been much louder than the home crowd, even though the Irish supporters had much to cheer for.
Caroline Hedwall and Sophie Gustafson kicked off the morning session with a resounding 6-and-5 hammering of Angela Stanford and Stacy Lewis. The Swedes might be a strong pairing, but they didn’t have to do much to win.
Stanford and Lewis didn’t make a single birdie, and were 5 over for the 13 holes they played. That doesn’t get the job done in match play, especially when the opposition are 3 under par.
“You can’t really be aggressive when you play foursomes,” said Hedwall, who is unbeaten in two matches. “We tried to play smart instead and just try to make our pars. We managed to do that.”
Asked about the key to their success, Hedwall replied. “Just hitting a lot of greens. We can’t make a many mistakes if we want to beat them. That’s the key.”
The Swedish pair didn’t need to make many mistakes. Their American opposition was pretty hapless, especially Lewis. No wonder many were surprised when U.S. captain Rosie Jones selected her for the afternoon four-ball session.
Morgan Pressel and Ryan O’Toole paired well together to defeat Karen Stupples and Christel Boeljon 3-and-2. O’Toole is confirming Jones’ wisdom in selecting her as a wild card. The Californian is unbeaten in two sessions.
Stupples, meanwhile, is still looking for her first Solheim Cup point. The English woman went 0-2 in her rookie appearance in 2005 and is 0-2 here. She and Mel Reid threw away a point in the opening foursomes session when they gifted the last two holes to Paula Creamer and Brittany Lincicome. Stupples was given the job of looking after rookie Boeljon in the second foursomes session but failed to deliver.
“I didn’t play as well today as I played yesterday to perfectly honest,” Stupples said. “That’s golf some days. You have good days, you have bad days, and today wasn’t a food day for me.”
It wasn’t a good day for Brittany Lang and Juli Inkster, either. They failed to ignite in losing 3-and-2 to the all-Swedish team of Maria Hjorth and Anna Nordqvist.
It could have been a better day for Cristie Kerr and Paula Creamer. They took a 1-hole lead up the last against Catriona Matthew and Spain’s Azahara Munoz only for Kerr to find the greenside bunker. A bogey followed to give the Europeans that two-point lead.
European captain Alison Nicholas has a further advantage. She’s taken the luxury of resting three of her stronger players before the singles. Matthew, Gustafson and Nordqvist all were given the afternoon off. Meanwhile Suzann Pettersen rested in the morning.
Jones enters the singles with her two strongest players, Kerr and Creamer, having played in every session.
That might prove significant if Europe is to win this Solheim Cup. The U.S. has won eight of the 11 singles sessions, and hold a 58.5–48.5 historic advantage.
Needless to say, what happens in the second four-ball session will be crucial.
Saturday Four-ball draw
12:45 p.m.: Brittany Lang & Michelle Wie vs. Laura Davies & Mel Reid
1:00 p.m.: Morgan Pressel & Cristie Kerr vs. Suzann Pettersen & Caroline Hedwall
1:15 p.m.: Stacy Lewis & Ryan O’Toole vs. Sandra Gal & Christel Boeljon
1:30 p.m.: Paul Creamer & Brittany Lincicome vs. Maria Hjorth & Azahara Munoz