Solheim Cup: USA rallies late on opening day

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Solheim Cup: USA rallies late on opening day

Solheim Cup

Solheim Cup: USA rallies late on opening day

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GLENEAGLES, Scotland – Half-points in Solheim Cups don’t always get the respect they deserve. They seem like extras among Oscar-winning stars in a blockbuster movie.

Two half-points from the United States team at Gleneagles in the dying embers of Friday’s fourballs could prove the difference between Juli Inkster’s team retaining or losing the cup. Two half-points in the final two matches mean the chance of a three-peat is still on.

They also meant the U.S. avoided something that has never happened in Solheim Cup history: they didn’t lose the first two sessions on Friday.

MORE: Photos | Scores | List of winners

After the opening two afternoon matches were split one point apiece, it looked as if Europe would head into the second day three points ahead. Up stepped Brittany Altomare and Lexi Thompson to make sure that didn’t happen. They drained birdie putts on the 18th to win the hole and earn valuable half-points.

Altomare rattled in a 25-footer to allow her and fellow rookie Nelly Korda to finish all square with Charley Hull and Azahara Munoz. The U.S. pair came back four down with six holes left and three down with three to play.

Thompson and Jessica Korda were dormie one down to Bronte Law and Carlota Ciganda when Thompson drained a 15 foot putt to ensure the session ended 2-2. The visiting team trail 4 ½ – 3 ½ heading into Saturday when it could easily have been 5 ½ – 2 ½.

“No one really ever talks about the half-point, and I have to say those two half-points at the end were huge,” Inkster said. “For two rookies to be 4-down and to come back and tie, you can’t teach that. It’s just in your belly. I’m just so impressed with them.

“And then Lexi just poured it in on 18. So two huge half-points.”

Cue questions about that intangible which often crops up in team competitions: momentum. Inkster didn’t quite bite – well, it is only Friday – and say her side has the edge heading into Saturday.

“We just gotta keep Europe in our rear view mirror, or our front mirror, so we can see them. You don’t want to get too far down.

“You keep gnawing a half a point here and point there and it adds up. You look at all the golf today and we’re only a point down. So I’m very pleased with where we’re at right now.”

So is European captain Catriona Matthew, despite the possibility of having a bigger lead.

“I think at the start of today we would have taken a lead,” Matthew said. “So we’re pleased.”

Yet the Scot knows her team let a big advantage slip.

“I’d be lying if I said obviously it wasn’t what we were looking for. But I think you have to take the positives and we’re leading. We’re a point up. If we’re leading at the end of each day, that would be great.”

Matthew’s team need to be leading by a lot more than a point going into Sunday. The U.S. is traditionally stronger in singles than Europe. Her team can’t afford to give the U.S. last minute gifts like they did today.

Those two late half-points might just turn out to be the difference in the 16th Solheim Cup.

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