Europe carries two-point edge over Americans entering Sunday singles at 17th Solheim Cup

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TOLEDO, Ohio – Patrick Cantlay took home $15 million on Sunday for winning the FedEx Cup, which is essentially what both the American and European teams have combined to make on the LPGA in 2021.

On Labor Day in Toledo, 24 women will play for pride and country in the 17th Solheim Cup on a major championship venue.

And it’s all setting up to be an epic showdown.

“We knew the Americans were going to come back fighting at us,” said European captain Catriona Matthew.

And while they did, winning three points in morning foursomes on the heels of a rules controversy involving World No. 1 Nelly Korda, Europe took 2.5 points in the afternoon session to take a 9-7 lead heading into singles.

This marks the ninth time that Europe has held the lead going into singles; four times they’ve gone on from there to win the Cup.

Amidst of a sea of red, white a blue, a chant of “Ole, Ole, Ole,” rang out around the 18th green at Inverness late Sunday as Mel Reid knocked one close on the 18th to clinch a half point alongside Leona Maguire against Jennifer Kupcho and Lizette Salas. In one of the day’s most thrilling matches, Kupcho chipped in for birdie on the 17th hole to send the American fans in a frenzy.

Solheim Cup
Solheim Cup

Fans on the 17th hole during the Fourball Match on day two of the Solheim Cup at the Inverness Club on September 05, 2021 in Toledo, Ohio. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

“It was 136,” said Reid of her final approach into the 18th. “It was probably playing 10 into; I hit a three-quarter 8 (iron). I knew as soon as I hit it it was either going to be a little bit left and short or it was going to be good, so I was hoping for the good, and I almost willed that ball into the hole.”

Reid and Maguire just got to know each other this week and now have a 2-0-1 record together. The fearless Irish rookie is 3-0-1 on her own.

Maguire’s identical twin sister Lisa, a former player herself who know goes to dental school, was hoarse on Sunday after shouting all day. She’s the only supporter here for Maguire, though all of Ireland is back home supporting.

Maguire, the first Irish player to compete in the Solheim Cup, is the only player who will compete in all five matches this week.

“I think they’ve got to know each other,” said Matthew of the surprise partnership, “and they’ve kind of reveled in each other’s company.”

The 26-year-old Maguire spent 135 weeks as the top amateur in the world. The former Duke standout represented Europe in two Junior Solheim Cups, one Junior Ryder Cup and Great Britain and Ireland in three Curtis Cups.

“She knows how to play some amazing golf,” she said. “We’ve seen her do it college, she did it in her amateur days and I guess people are just now seeing what she can do on the big stage. It’s really impressive to watch.”

Meanwhile rookie Kupcho has come up big for the Americans, going 2-0-1 in three matches alongside Salas.

She doesn’t play like (a rookie),” said Salas, “and I never approached her like one, and she definitely doesn’t have a game like a rookie.”

Hurst said Kupcho’s and Salas’ success is a good example of the pod system at work.

“The way they’re playing and interacting with each other,” she said, “has been what we were looking for.”

Hurst looked like she might be taking a risk when she sent out a pair of rookies together in Mina Harigae and Yealimi Noh, who’d never scored a point, in afternoon four-balls. They handled a tight match against Celine Boutier and Sophia Popov down the stretch like steely vets, winning 3 and 1, to put the only full point on the board for Team USA.

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“I think we were just ready to go more than anything,” said Harigae. “We were chomping at the bit watching the morning matches, especially their comebacks. I think that motivated us more.”

The host country has won the Solheim Cup 12 of the last 16 times. For the Americans to win, they’ll need their stars to come up big on Monday. So far, Nelly Korda, Jessica Korda and Lexi Thompson are a combined 2-6-0 at Inverness.

Europe needs five points to retain the Cup and the Americans need 7.5 to win it back.

“It’s going to be tight,” said Matthew. “It always seems to come down to the singles. Every little half point here or there is going to be crucial.”