Catriona Matthew ended yesterday’s play in style at the Solheim Cup. The Scot’s last blow was to hole a 12-foot birdie putt at the short 15th as Europe desperately clung on to a lead at St Leon-Rot in Germany.
It was just a shame that, due to excruciatingly slow play, the afternoon fourballs couldn’t be completed. When darkness, fell the score was Europe 8 USA 5, with three matches still to be completed.
The USA led in two and Matthew and Karine Icher were one up with three to play in the other. The matches will be completed this morning before the start of the 12 final day singles.
It was a great day for Matthew, playing in her eighth Solheim at the age of 46. In the morning foursomes, she partnered German favourite Sandra Gal to a one-hole win over Brittany Lincicome and the luckless Angela Stanford.
Stanford is a great player but she now has the unwanted record of losing nine successive Solheim matches. She hopes it won’t reach double figures in today’s singles.
Matthew only had time for a quick bit to eat and was out again within half an hour. But she could take a back seat over the opening holes as Icher bounded out of the blocks with unanswered birdies at the first three holes.
But Salas and Lang had levelled by the turn. It was still all square when Matthew produced the closing birdie.
In the other unfinished matches, Charley Hull and Suzann Pettersen lost the 15th to go one down and Caroline Masson and Caroline Hedwall were one down with two to play against Stacy Lewis and Gerina Piller when darkness called a halt to proceedings.
The home side, aiming to win the Cup for a third time in a row, had soared into an 8-4 lead after taking the foursomes 3-1. Hull and Pettersen summed up the morning domination by coming back from four down with seven to play to defeat Paula Creamer and Morgan Pressel on the final green.
The pendulum was swinging firmly toward the home side but Juli Inkster’s US troops rallied to the cause.
Lexi Thompson and Cristie Kerr sparked the afternoon turnaround in fortunes. They defeated the all-Spanish pairing of Carlota Ciganda and Azahara Munoz by 3 and 2 in the top match.
“We knew we had to win the match and get red on the board,” said Kerr. “But it wasn’t easy. They played great too. Tomorrow we’ve got to just take care of our singles matches one by one and see how it goes.”
Lewis, the highest ranked player on show at No.3 in the world, has a strangely dismal Solheim record. But the Texan has found the perfect partner in Gerina Piller. The pair beat the previously unbeaten European pair of Caroline Hedwall and Anna Nordqvist by 5 and 4 in the morning foursomes and continued the form in the afternoon.
The morning win was Piller’s first Solheim point and she said: “It’s great to get the first one on the board. Stacy and I both played well and now we just want to get the job done.”
In the final match, rookie Alison Lee had a great finish to a long day. She holed a birdie putt to win the 15th – and then Hull missed from inside her.
So it meant that Lee and Brittany Lincicome will have gone to sleep last night to sleep with a one hole lead with three holes to play.
And both teams are dreaming of the perfect final day. It is bound to be close and the momentum that was so firmly in Europe’s favour has just swung a little towards the red, white and blue.
The hope is that the weather – it has poured every day and there was a break for a thunderstorm on Friday – plays ball and the match is finished this evening.
It would have helped if the officials had insisted on speedier play. Strangely, Hedwall and Masson were put on the clock – but not until the back nine of the fourballs.
They weren’t the most serious offenders and anyhow, by then, it was really too late to make any difference.