Matthew in top form as Europe lead Solheim Cup

Europe's Melissa Reid tees off during the foursomes on the first day of the Solheim Cup. Picture: AP

Europe's Melissa Reid tees off during the foursomes on the first day of the Solheim Cup. Picture: AP

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Catriona Matthew claimed her 13th win in the Solheim Cup at St Leon-Rot in Germany yesterday and helped catapult Europe into a handsome lead over the USA.

All square with the USA after the morning foursomes, the home team got the upper hand in the afternoon fourballs and moved 4-2 ahead overnight. So Europe’s bid for a third win in a row remains firmly on track.

With an hour’s play having been lost due to a thunderstorm, Europe won two of the fourballs and two matches were unfinished due to bad light.

In a dramatic finale to the third match, Cristie Kerr and Lexi Thompson were one up with two to play. But, in near darkness, Carlota Ciganda holed out for an eagle with her second shot at the 17th to make the match all square. They will play the 18th in the morning.

“I have no words to describe that final shot,” said the Spaniard after holing the full nine iron from 140 yards. “This is what you dream about.”

In the final match, the German pair of Sandra Gal and Caroline Masson were one up with three to play on Gerina Piller and Brittany Lang.

Matthew and her German partner, Gal, were in scintillating form in the morning foursomes and contributed one of the two wins.

Playing in her eighth Solheim – a record for a Scot – Matthew holed 15-foot birdie putts at the tenth and 11th to put her side two up and Gal finished the match against Stacy Lewis and 
Lizette Salas by holing from eight feet for a winning four at the long 16th.

It was a very welcome 3&2 victory – and a first full Solheim point for Gal who featured in the win at Killeen Castle in Ireland 2011 but missed out at Colorado two years ago.

Matthew, the oldest player on show at 46, was rested in the afternoon fourballs, but Europe didn’t let up and even an hour’s delay for a thunder and lightning storm couldn’t dampen home side spirits.

“It was fantastic to get the first point,” said Matthew, who made her debut way back in 1998, “It was nip and tuck most of the way but we made a lot of important putts.”

For Gal it was extra special to be in front of a home crowd. “They were great,” she said. “They really pulled us along. Catriona is always a great person to play with. She is so steady and has a great attitude.”

The other home point came from the all-English duo of teenager Charley Hull and Melissa Reid. They defeated Michelle Wie and Brittany Lincicome by 2&1.

Anna Nordqvist, assisted by Caroline Hedwall, set the tone in the fourballs with a comprehensive 4&3 win over Paula Creamer and Morgan Pressel in the top match.

The same two Americans had beaten Nordqvist and Suzann Pettersen by 2&1 in the foursomes but the Swede was determined for revenge. She was in outstanding form, packing six birdies into the 15 holes.

Having halved the long second in four, she won the short third with a two and then made four more birdies in a row from the eighth.

Hedwall, who won a record five out of five matches in Colorado two years ago, has been out of sorts this season, but her confidence grew and she also played her part as the pair continued a successful run that began in 2013.

“We didn’t play badly but I couldn’t make any putts in the morning,” said Nordqvist. “I actually thought I might be left out in the afternoon, but I was back with Caroline and we just seem to work well together.”

Hedwall added: “I think I was too pumped up at the start, but Anna played some absolutely unbelievable golf.” The super talented Hull and Gwladys Nocera claimed the second of the fourballs with a 3&2 victory over newcomer Alison Lee and the unfortunate Angela Stanford, who has now lost her last eight Solheim ties.

Hull, just 19, made four birdies in a row from the tenth to gain control. “It felt great, a great day,” said the happy-go-lucky teenager. “Felt I played well all day and now just can’t wait for tomorrow.”

Lee was on an intravenous drip on Thursday due to food poisoning and there were doubts over whether she would even manage to play in tomorrow’s singles. She had recovered enough to gain the nod from captain Juli Inkster, but it turned out to be an unhappy debut.

European captain Carin Koch was proud of her troops. But she knows there is still a long way to go.

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