The Saturday afternoon four-ball matches began with Team Europe leading Team USA by 1 point. By mid-afternoon Team Europe was controlling all 4 matches and the gallery went silent. As the afternoon wore on, the heat took its toll. Balls went astray, into trees, into the rough, into bunkers. Team USA struggled repeatedly on the putting surface.
Paula Creamer, barely having enough time to change into Team USA’s scarlet red afternoon uniforms after her terrific morning match, was paired with Lexi Thompson, who also played a spectacular game Saturday morning. They played against rookies Jodi Ewart Shadoff and Charley Hull.
Team Europe drew first blood. Ewart Shadoff and Hull held the lead for 3 holes. Then Thompson birdied to bring the match all square and Team USA pulled ahead by 1 on the 5th hole, only to relinquish it to Team Europe on 8. Creamer’s birdie on 12 returned the match to all square.
Thompson’s greenside bunker shot, a delicate flip out of the sand and onto a sloping green that let the ball trickle down to within 3 feet of the cup, was, for me, the shot of the match, even though Team Europe took the lead on 14 with Ewart Shadoff’s birdie. Creamer returned the match to all square with a birdie on 16 and Hull came right back with a birdie on 17, after Creamer and Thompson both missed their birdie putts. The match went to 18 with Team Europe 1 up. Ewart Shadoff birdied and the Team Europe rookies took the match.
Gerina Piller and Angela Stanford playing for Team USA were paired against Spaniards Azahara Munoz and Carlota Cignada. Piller birdied 1 and Cignada birdied 2 and the match was all square until the 5th hole. By the 7th hole Team USA was up by 2 but birdies by the Spaniards on 8, 10, and 11 put Team Europe ahead by 1. Piller’s birdie on 14 returned the match to all square and there it stayed until Ciganda’s winning putt on the 18th hole put another point in Team Europe’s column. Match play just isn’t over until it’s over, and matches are won and lost on the putting surface.
Michelle Wie and Jessica Korda represented Team USA against Caroline Hedwall, another European rookie who’s playing an impressive game, and Caroline Masson. Wie and Hedwall slugged it out from one tee box after another, but match play is won or lost on the putting green. The Europeans had 2 birdies to Team USA’s 1 although Wie’s birdie on reduced the lead to 1, but the Europeans controlled the match through to the end.
Christie Kerr and Morgan Pressel were paired against Beatriz Recari, who’s playing a practically unbeatable game, and Karine Icher. After a balanced start, Team USA conceded the 3rd hole, seeming to give Recari and Icher a mental advantage. From that point Team Europe dominated the match. Icher birdied 8 and Recari birdied 10. Team USA took back a hole on 11 with Pressel’s birdie, but was still down 2.
When Kerr and Recari both hit into the hazard on 16, the match stalled while a 2nd rule dispute ensued. The wrong ruling of Friday probably made the players a bit more vocal and the officials a bit more cautious, but the delay in rendering a decision took the steam out of the 4th match.
When the dust had settled on 16, Pressel took 16 with a birdie and the teams halved 17, so they went into 18 with Team Europe dormie. It was the last chance for the Americans to salvage the afternoon with half a point. But it wasn’t to be. Icher putted for birdie from off the green and her ball rolled straight and true for a good 15 feet, without a single hesitation, into the cup, adding a 4th point into the Team Europe column.
In the end, the Americans simply couldn’t get their flat sticks working in the Saturday afternoon rounds. Team Europe made a clean sweep. With everybody in the clubhouse on Saturday evening, the score stood at Team Europe – 10.5, Team USA – 5.5.
Going in to the Sunday singles matches, the Europeans are hot. It will take the largest comeback in Solheim history for the Americans to win this tournament and take back the cup.
The Golf Channel will provide live coverage of the Sunday matches from 2:30-8:30pm EST, and I’ll provide a wrap-up as well, just in case you’re on the course playing your own game Sunday afternoon.