With ‘the Brittanys’ leading the way, Americans open up lead on Europeans at Solheim Cup

By Nancy Armour, AP
Friday, August 21, 2009

US takes early lead at Solheim Cup

SUGAR GROVE, Ill. — The “B team” led the way for the Americans at the Solheim Cup.

Brittany Lincicome and Solheim Cup rookie Brittany Lang picked up the first point for the United States, and Paula Creamer and Cristie Kerr rallied to win their fourball match, giving the Americans a 2½-1½ lead going into Friday afternoon’s foursomes.

“We couldn’t have pictured it to go any better than it did today,” Lincicome said after a 5-and-4 victory over Laura Davies and Becky Brewerton. “We were playing so great, and we’re just happy to come out on top.”

The lead could have been bigger, but Women’s British Open champ Catriona Matthew made a clutch putt on 18 to halve her and Maria Hjorth’s match with Morgan Pressel and Michelle Wie.

“You’re looking around and you hear the cheers,” Matthew said. “We knew for us to get something out of our game was probably something really important.”

The United States needs 14 points to win its third straight Solheim Cup. Europe, which has never won on U.S. soil, needs 14½.

This is Lang’s first Solheim Cup appearance, and only the second for Lincicome. But they looked like crafty veterans, feeding off of each other — and the raucous home crowd — to go 5-up on Laura Davies and Becky Brewerton after 11 holes. The Europeans got a hole back on 12 after Brewerton put her approach shot 5 feet above the hole and knocked it in, but the Americans kept on grinding.

“Especially in something like this, definitely momentum has everything to do with it,” said Lang, who birdied 13 to put the Americans 5-up again. “Every time Brittany and I would win a hole, we wouldn’t get too excited. We just kept saying, ‘OK, birdie the next hole, keep pressing, keep pressing.’ We never let up all day, because we knew, even if they won a hole here or there, as long as we kept winning holes, they’d get worn out.”

The Americans needed only to halve the 14th hole for the victory, and the Europeans were in trouble before they even got to the green. Brewerton’s second shot had burrowed so deep in the sand behind the green only the very top of the ball was visible. She grimaced and stuck her tongue out when she saw it.

“Got any ideas?” Brewerton asked Davies, standing across the green.

One fan suggested picking up. Brewerton didn’t do that, but she may as well have. She got out of the sand but landed in the rough, still well short of the hole. That left it to Davies, whose 30-footer for birdie ran long.

Lincicome’s long birdie putt curled within a few inches of the cup, a gimme and a winner.

“I had absolutely no idea that we needed to halve that hole. I was so out to lunch,” Lang said. “When they got done and they started shaking hands, I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, that’s it?’ Honestly, I had no idea.”

A fan called out, “That’s one!” and loud cheers went up. Lincicome and Lang exchanged hugs, and were congratulated by U.S. captain Beth Daniel.

Like the Ryder Cup, the Solheim Cup is part pep rally, part sporting event — one fan came dressed as the Statue of Liberty — and the enthusiasm over Lincicome and Lang’s win quickly spread to the other holes at Rich Harvest Farms.

“We got to watch Brittany Squared play some pretty good golf in front of us there, and we were clapping for them quite a bit,” Pressel said. “It was great to watch them win on 14 there. I had told Michelle on the tee, ‘This is my turn for a birdie, and I finally made one.’”

Actually, she and Wie made three in a row, turning a 2-hole deficit into 1-up.

But they couldn’t hold their lead on 18.

Wie went into the deep rough off the tee, and could do little more than punch out on the par-5. Her ball landed in an old, muddy divot in an area rules officials had decided was ground under repair — but had failed to mark because it was between where most shots would fall. Wie was given relief, and the Europeans spent several minutes questioning rules officials.

“I guess they were just talking about why it wasn’t marked, and they just wanted an explanation,” Wie said.

It hardly mattered, because Wie’s next shot landed in the bunker in front of the green. Pressel’s chip from the rough, meanwhile, ran all the way across the green to the other side.

That left Matthew with a 12-footer for birdie, and she made it easily to halve the hole.

“Half-points are important. But for a while there it looked like we were going to pull out the full point, so that was definitely a downer at the end,” Pressel said. “But a half-point is a half-point, and we’ll see how big of a deal that is come Sunday.”

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