It was a super Saturday for Europe at the 18th Solheim Cup as the home side made another incredible fightback in the fourballs at Finca Cortesin in Spain to leave the match firmly in the balance tied at 8-8 overall going into the 12 singles matches on Sunday.
Carrying a two-point deficit into the afternoon session, with America leading 7-5 after the teams tied the morning foursomes, the home team made a strong start. The standard of golf from both teams was exceptional, but in the end, the session ended 3-1 in favour of Europe to level up the scores.
“I’m out of words. You have to remember, we’re not there,” European captain Suzann Pettersen said. “There are 12 points up for grabs tomorrow. We made quite a comeback and now we’re tied. We just keep going. This is like climbing a mountain, but coming back down is just as important. We’re going to regroup before we go to bed and we’ll be ready tomorrow morning.”
In the first match of the afternoon fourballs, featuring Charley Hull and Leona Maguire against Nelly Korda and Ally Ewing, Europe won their point to close within one of the US. The duo won the second, fourth, seventh and eighth holes with birdies to go four up over the visitors. The Europeans lost the 10th, but a birdie from Maguire on the par-3 12th saw the pair move to 4 up again. Hull’s par putt on the 15th green was conceded to see the Europeans win the match 4&3, taking the overall tally to 7-6 in America’s favour.
Maguire said: “Suzann was pretty clear of what our job was today, so mission accomplished so far. We knew we had to bring our A games this afternoon. So, yeah, just played really solid and didn’t really give them a chance to fight back at all.”
The second fourball match, between Anna Nordqvist and Caroline Hedwall and Cheyenne Knight and Angel Yin, was a tightly fought contest. Europe won the first hole with a birdie, but the US tied with another on the third hole. It was vintage Hedwall as the Swede holed huge putts on the fifth and eighth holes to go two up, but then the US turned it around with three birdies on the bounce from the 11th.
Yin launched a drive down the 18th fairway and then reached the green in two, with an iron on the par-5, before taking two putts for a birdie to win the hole and to seal the first victory of the session for the United States team, edging them ahead again on 8-7, moments after the third match had seen Europe tie on 7-7.
In the third match – Sagström/Pedersen v Zhang/Lee – the United States won the first hole thanks to an eagle on the driveable par four from 20-year-old sensation Zhang. Europe won the third and fourth holes, before Lee then tied with a birdie on the par-3 sixth. Pedersen sank a long putt on the seventh to take the duo 1 up and turn the leader board completely blue with Europe up in all four of the matches at that stage. The Dane then holed a birdie putt from off the green on 15 to go 2 up, and closed out the match 2&1. The score was tied at 7-7 with two matches still on the course.
Pedersen said: “I think we were 10-under today, so it was pretty solid golf all the way around. And then just we backed each other up. I think when I backed out a little bit, Madelene stepped up, and so I had a lot of fun playing with Madelene.”
The last fourball match pitted home favourite Carlota Ciganda and Swedish breakout star Linn Grant against Danielle Kang and Lilia Vu. The standard of golf was off the charts, with the European duo eight under par through nine holes, yet still only 1up over their rivals. Grant opened with six straight birdies. Ciganda also played her part, draining a tram liner on the sixth for birdie to take the pair 1 up. She then holed another huge putt on the seventh before Kang replied with her own birdie to halve the hole.
Kang birdied the short 10th to tie the match before a fired-up Grant drained a long birdie putt on the 11th to go 1up again. Ciganda sank a five-foot putt for a par on 12 to take Europe 2 up. The Europeans lost the 13th, but a huge birdie putt from Ciganda on the 16th took the Europeans 2up with two to play. The 17th hole was tied with Europe taking the match 2&1 moving the overall score to 8-8 heading into the singles.
Grant said: “We played some great golf today, both teams. We just had a blast out there. A lot of birdies, a lot of good putts. Just a great game of golf.”
Ciganda added: “Playing in Spain, in front of my family, home crowd, friends, I just love it. I love this. I’m embracing this week. I think it’s been great. I still have a big day tomorrow, but I’m just trying to enjoy it. I want to win the cup here in Spain tomorrow.”
As the current holders, Europe need six points on Sunday to retain the cup, while USA will need 6.5 points to win it back.
SUNDAY SINGLES MATCHES (ORDER OF PLAY)
11:10 a.m. – Megan Khang vs. Linn Grant
11:22 a.m. – Rose Zhang vs. Leona Maguire
11:34 a.m. – Danielle Kang vs. Charley Hull
1:46 a.m. – Jennifer Kupcho vs. Anna Nordqvist
11:58 a.m. – Andrea Lee vs. Georgia Hall
12:10 p.m. – Cheyenne Knight vs. Gemma Dryburgh
12:22 p.m. – Angel Yin vs. Celine Boutier
12:34 p.m. – Ally Ewing vs. Caroline Hedwall
12:46 p.m. – Lilia Vu vs. Madelene Sagstrom
12:58 p.m. – Allisen Corpuz vs. Maja Stark
1:10 p.m. – Nelly Korda vs. Carlota Ciganda
1:22 p.m. – Lexi Thompson vs. Emily Kristine Pedersen