Hold off on the celebrations, Europe ties it up with impressive fourballs finish

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Not so fast: Europe battles back in Solheim Cup

SUGAR GROVE, Ill. — Not so fast.

With Michelle Wie and Christina Kim partying on the green and their teammates leading or squared in another two matches, the United States looked as if it was in for a big day at the Solheim Cup. Europe had other ideas, though, making an impressive rally to win the fourballs 2½-1½ and even the Solheim Cup at six points apiece ahead of Saturday afternoon’s foursomes.

The United States needs 14 points to win its third straight Solheim Cup. Europe needs 14½ to win its first on U.S. soil.

Wie and Kim had the already festive crowd in a frenzy with an easy 5-and-4 victory over Helen Alfredsson and Tania Elosegui that showcased Wie’s considerable talents. They were still exchanging hugs and high-fives on the 14th green when Cristie Kerr holed in from the fairway on 12 to even her and Nicole Castrale’s match with Anna Nordqvist and Suzann Pettersen, and chants of “The Cup stays here!” began to ring out across Rich Harvest Farms.

“All you need is a little momentum,” Kim said.

And Europe has it now.

Women’s British Open champion Catriona Matthew and Diana Luna were down two through 16 holes and hadn’t made a birdie since the turn. But Brittany Lang and Angela Stanford gave them an opportunity on 17th. Lang’s tee shot went into a bunker on 17 and she dug out for all of about 70 feet, while Stanford overshot the green.

Matthew then buried a 30-footer from the left edge of the green for a birdie.

Lang had a chance to win the match, but her 30-foot birdie putt from the bottom of the green stopped 5 feet short. Luna then buried a 12-footer to halve the match, pumping her right fist and leaping as the ball went in the cup.

“It’s just amazing,” said Luna, a Solheim Cup rookie who didn’t play Friday. “Catriona said to me, ‘Come on, knock it in for the glory.’ I had a great partner, we got really lucky.”

There was more to come, too.

Pettersen birdied 14, and Nordqvist made a 20-footer on the 16th to go 2 up on Kerr and Castrale. Castrale gave the Americans a chance to salvage a half-point, making a 15-footer for birdie on 17 after Nordqvist had missed a short putt. But Kerr landed in the frontside trap and, with Castrale crouching at the side of the green with her head bowed, Nordqvist made a birdie from 12 feet to win the match.

The rookie pumped her fist and yelled when the ball dropped in the hole and Pettersen — who had lost both her matches Friday — jumped up and down.

Maria Hjorth and Gwladys Nocera were 3-up after 10, but Brittany Lincicome and Kristy McPherson made three straight birdies to even the match through 15. But Hjorth put her tee shot within 18 inches on the par-3 16th, and knocked it in for what would be the decisive birdie.

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