Europeans expand Solheim Cup lead

Denis Georgatos, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

PARKER, Colo. -- Everything from a hole-in-one to an unseemly, heated green-side exchange involving an American golfer and her European counterpart to a shocking swing in momentum late in the day unfolded on Saturday in the Solheim Cup at Colorado Golf Club.
Beginning the second day down two points to the Europeans and still steaming over a blown official's ruling allowing an improper drop that helped swing a critical first-day match against the Americans, the U.S. team initially cut the deficit to a point despite losing one of the four morning matches on a hole-in-one by Sweden's Anna Nordqvist.
But Europe fought back in the afternoon four-ball session, sweeping all four matches in stunning fashion to take a 10.5-5.5 lead going into Sunday's final round when all 12 members from each team square off against each other in singles match play.
The Europeans, trying to beat the Americans on U.S. soil for the first time, clinched the afternoon sweep when Karine Icher of France chipped in for a birdie on the par-4 18th. The shot allowed the Europeans to halve the hole, giving Icher and Beatriz Recari a 1-up victory over Cristie Kerr and Morgan Pressel in a match that included another prolonged rules dispute over a drop when Recari put a shot into a hazard on the 16th hole.
Earlier in the afternoon session, Carolina Masson and Caroline Hedwall were 2-and-1 winners over Michelle Wie and Jessica Korda; Carlota Ciganda and Azahara Munoz beat Gerina Piller and Angela Stanford 1-up, and Jodi Ewart Shadoff and Charley Hull won 2 up over Paula Creamer and Lexi Thompson.
The tournament has been tightly contested and intense with emotions on both sides occasionally boiling over. That was the case on the green at the seventh hole when Creamer got into a verbal exchange with the Ewart Shadoff and other members of the European contingent in full view of the gallery.
In a game known for its decorum on the course, it was a surreal scene more reminiscent of an ill-tempered baseball batter jawing with a pitcher who just threw a brush-back pitch.
After Ewart Shadoff, who was teamed with 17-year-old Hull, hit an approach shot to tap-in distance for a conceded birdie on the seventh hole, Creamer's long birdie attempt came up a couple of feet short. As she lined up to tap in the par putt, the Europeans made a last-minute concession, forcing Creamer to pull off the shot and pick up her ball.
Creamer, wanting to take the shot to help teammate Lexi Thompson with her line on her upcoming birdie putt attempt, was visibly angered by the move and let the Europeans know it.
A rules official intervened to try to calm the situation and apparently reiterated the Europeans' right to concede the putt.
However, there were reports that a caddie for one of the European players may have voiced the concession on Creamer's attempted shot. Under the rules, only player-issued concessions are supposed to be recognized.
Thompson, at 18 the youngest ever to play on the American squad, punctuated the brouhaha by draining a pressure-packed birdie putt to keep the match square. But the tie was short-lived as a fired-up Ewart Shadoff drained a birdie putt on the par-4 eighth hole as the Europeans went 1-up.
The Americans came back to square the match when Creamer sank a 5-foot birdie putt on the par 5 16th. On the par-3, 180-yard 17th, though, both Thompson and and Hull, the youngest player in Solheim Cup history, landed their tee shots within a few feet of the hole. Thompson just missed her birdie putt and Hull sank hers, pumping a fist and then wiping her brow with her forearm and sighing in relief as the Europeans again went 1-up.
The Europeans won the final hole, and in a sign of some conciliation after the blowup on the seventh, Creamer and Thompson both gave congratulatory hugs to Ewart Shadoff and Hull.
At the same hole during the morning session, Nordqvist, who was paired with fellow Swede Caroline Hedwall, put the Europeans up 6-3 when she aced the hole using a 7-iron. The ball took a couple of bounces on the green and rattled in off the flagstick, clinching a 2-and-1 victory over Pressel and Jessica Korda.
"It's definitely one of the highlights of my career," said Nordqvist, who ceremoniously walked up the green to retrieve the ball as a keepsake. "It's not many times that you can actually hole out and make a hole-in-one to actually win the match. It's one of the moments that I'm really going to remember for a long time."
The Americans nearly completed a sweep of the three other matches in the morning session, However, Catriona Matthew of Scotland, teamed with Masson, drained a birdie putt on No. 18 to win the hole and halve the match for the Europeans.
Wie and Brittany Lang were as many as four holes up early in their match against Suzann Pettersen of Norway and Recari. The Europeans fought back to square it before Wie made a short birdie putt on the 17th hole for a 1-up-victory for the United States.
Lewis and Creamer were 1-up winners for the U.S. over Munoz and Icher in the morning session.

What to Read Next