WEST DES MOINES, Iowa – The lead match ended the way it started, with Cristie Kerr draining a 12-foot putt to ignite the home crowd. What happened in between for both sides was mostly scrappy golf, with Kerr and Lexi Thompson pulling out a halve against the English pair of Charley Hull and Mel Reid.
“It was pretty much a you-know-what sandwich out there from 1 to 18,” said Kerr. “I’m just glad it ended the way it did.”
Annika Sorenstam’s European team took a hit when leader Suzann Pettersen withdrew with a sore back. But the away team certainly didn’t play like underdogs, taking a 2 1/2 to 1 1/2 lead into the afternoon four-ball session.
The festivities got off to fairytale start for American captain Juli Inkster. Thompson stepped onto an electric first tee – complete with actual fireworks – and smashed a 3-wood 286 yards onto the green at the opening par 4. She left partner Cristie Kerr – one of the best putters in the game – with 12 feet for eagle. Kerr drained it and the placed exploded.
Thompson then hit the flagstick on her approach into the second hole, and it looked like the Americans might run away from Charley Hull and Mel Reid. But the only place they ran to was the rough.
Hacking out of the thick stuff most of the morning at Des Moines Golf and Country Club, both sides struggled to post red numbers. Kerr’s birdie putt on the 18th proved a critical halve for the Americans as Stacy Lewis and Gerina Piller squandered a 2-up lead with six to play.
Catriona Matthew, who started the week as a vice captain and then switched roles with Pettersen, secured her 20th career point for the Europeans with 1-up victory over the Texas duo alongside Frenchwoman Karine Icher.
Much like Bubba Watson at the Ryder Cup, Danielle Kang urged the crowd on the first tee to get loud during her opening tee shot. The KPMG Women’s PGA champion thrived on the big stage, draining a number of clutch putts throughout her debut.
American players (and Inkster) have waited years for Kang to make this team, knowing the two-time U.S. Women’s Amateur champion was built for this type of competition. Kang drained the winning par putt on the 18th to give her and Lizette Salas a 1-up victory over Carlota Ciganda and Caroline Masson.
“I just loved it,” said Kang, “I absolutely love this. It is the most exciting tournament I’ve ever played in.”
Added Salas: “She didn’t play like a rookie. She played like a major champion.”
Alternate Paula Creamer said at the start of the week that she could make big putts when she needed to (“that’s never been an issue”) and she proved that time and time again in opening foursomes, though ultimately it wasn’t enough. Creamer and Ernst never held the lead in their match against Anna Nordqvist and rookie Georgia Hall.
Nordqvist, who battled mononucleosis the past several weeks, will sit out the afternoon session while Hall partners with a fellow 21-year-old Englishwoman in Hull.
“Me and Charley, yeah, we used to play together for England when we were, like, 10, 11 years old,” said Hall. “I think we’ve got similar games, very aggressive, hit it quite long. So I’m actually very excited to pair with Charley this afternoon.”