Solheim: Europe bright start despite Matthew defeat

Catriona Matthew suffered defeat but it was very much advantage Europe after the opening foursomes session of the Solheim Cup at Colorado Golf Club on the outskirts of Denver.

Catriona Matthew and Jodi Ewart-Shadoff suffered a 3 and 2 defeat in the foursomes. Picture: Getty
Catriona Matthew and Jodi Ewart-Shadoff suffered a 3 and 2 defeat in the foursomes. Picture: Getty
Catriona Matthew and Jodi Ewart-Shadoff suffered a 3 and 2 defeat in the foursomes. Picture: Getty

The visitors led 3-1, a near perfect start in the bid to win for a first time on US soil.

Anna Nordqvist and Caroline Hedwall – dubbed the ­Swedish Vikings by Captain Liselotte Neumann – were in marauding mood in the top match, inflicting a 4 and 2 defeat on Stacy Lewis and rookie Lizette Salas.

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In the second match, the ever reliable Suzann Pettersen and impressive rookie Beatriz Recari eagled the long 16th and went on to seal a 2 and 1 triumph over Brittany Lang and Angela ­Stanford.

The biggest shock of the day was the 2 and 1 win in the bottom match for Azahara Munoz and Karine Icher over the US fire power pairing of Paula Creamer and Cristie Kerr.

Creamer, the world No 11, and world No 12 Kerr are a tried and tested partnership with two wins and half from three Solheim foursomes outings. But they couldn’t cope with the European attack around the turn.

Munoz, who formed a great foursomes with Matthew when Europe won at Killeen Castle in Ireland two years ago, and Icher, making her second Solheim 
appearance 11 years after her first, birdied the eight, ninth and tenth – won all three – and went on to claim a point that was a real kick in the teeth for Mag Mallon’s USA side.

North Berwick golfer Matthew joined forces with England rookie Jodi Ewart-Shadoff, and they never quite got into free flowing mood against Jessica Korda and Morgan Pressel.

At the par-5 first, the British pair were just short in two but Ewart-Shadoff mis-hit her pitch shot and then missed a short putt for a shaky bogey start.

Winning the first hole was a real bonus for the Americans, particularly rookie Korda who had hooked the tee shot into trees and then rather spectacularly displayed her nerves by emptying her breakfast into the rough. The Europeans have now mischievously nicknamed her “spewer.”

At the short second, Matthew made a great ten-foot putt for a three-and-a-half in par to steady the ship and then a US three-putt at the fourth was a real bonus and let the European pair draw level.

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Before battle commenced, everyone had deemed form on the greens as the key and Matthew and Ewart-Shadoff again took three putts at the seventh to go behind and a bunkered second shot by the Scot at the ninth put the pairing two down at the turn.

After her rather unsettling opening hole, Korda grew in stature throughout the match. She has a great sporting pedigree – Dad Petr reached No 2 in the world in tennis and won the 1996 Australian Open. Petr played Davis Cup for the Czech Republic, but Jessica was born in Florida and is very much an All-American girl.

Among her supporters were her younger brother and sister, 14-year-old Nelly having qualified and made the cut at this year’s US Women’s Open.

The tall, blonde Korda grew in stature as the match went on and a birdie at the 13th put the Americans three up and they went on to post a 3 and 2 win and finally got some red on the board.

Laura Davies, missing from team Europe for the first time in the event’s history, is here as a TV commentator and the English favourite admitted that even she was surprised by the result of the Icher and Munoz match.

“The last pairing was a ­surprise to me but Liselotte must have seen something and they have worked out great ­together,” said the former world No 1. “That’s a real bonus for the Europeans.”

She also had a slant on the surprisingly poor form from Lewis, who was outstanding in winning the Women’s British Open at St Andrews just two weeks ago. Two years ago, the Texan won only one point out of four in Ireland and she was again out of sorts yesterday. Yet she had prepared meticulously, visiting Colorado five or six times prior to the contest.

“But some people don’t seem to play so well in team situations,” observed Davies. “It’s the same with Tiger Woods in the Ryder Cup.” But forget Lewis’s poor showing. The broad smile on Neumann’s face as she watched the first blue point go up on the board said more about the superb form of her fellow-countrywomen.

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Nordqvist – who holed a 12- foot birdie putt at the long 16th to close out the match – and Hedwall, who needed a wild card pick, were key players in Ireland and they again proved to be a winning force.