by Jeff Skinner
The sun was shining at The Solheim Cup in Ireland this morning. Unfortunately it appeared to act like kryptonite on the American team of Stacy Lewis and Angela Stanford. The Americans never found any game at all and were behind from the start, taking an embarrassing defeat 6 & 5 at the hands of Caroline Headwall and Sophie Gustafson. The U.S. team managed to give Europe the match by carding six bogeys in the first twelve holes. This is the same team that lost on Friday but pleaded with Captain Rosie Jones for a shot at redemption. Jones said she relented, “against her instincts,” to the pair and she will have to live with their defeat as they easily are the biggest disappointment of the Cup so far.
The second match off the tee saw the spunky team of veteran Morgan Pressell and rookie Ryann O’Toole take down the European team of Karen Stupples and Christel Boeljon. The U.S. took the early advantage but soon lost it as the Euros went 1 up at the third. The U.S. got the lead back with an amazing run of birdie, eagle, birdie starting on the sixth hole. That spurt put them 2 up and they were able to keep the lead until Europe fought back to all square at the thirteenth. But the Americans birdied the next two holes and a winning par putt on the sixteenth gave them the match with a 3 & 2 victory.
Europe earned another point in the third match of the morning when Maria Hjorth and Anna Nordqvist waxed the U.S. team of Juli Inkster and Brittany Lang 3 & 2. The best the Americans could do after losing the first hole with a bogey was an all square tie at the third. After that the Euros went up and never relinquished their lead. The U.S. team made four bogeys and only one birdie all match. Assistant Captain and “Team Mom “Inkster who is usually very accommodating, was so distraught afterward she refused an interview.
At that point, the European team with had two point lead at 6.5 to 4.5 and the Americans were in deep trouble. The last match of the morning session pitted the powerhouse American team of Cristie Kerr and Paula creamer against veteran Catriona Matthew and rookie Azahara Munoz. The Euros took an early 1 up lead when the Americans bogeyed the third. Europe kept the lead until an eagle at the seventh by the Americans brought it back to all square. It remained even until the thirteenth when Kerr sank a 45 foot bomb for birdie to put the U.S. 1 up. At the par three sixteenth Munoz showed the poise of a hardened veteran as she stroked in a birdie to put the Euros all square. The Americans battled back with a birdie at seventeen to take a 1 up advantage into the last hole. This is where it fell apart for the Americans. After a good drive in the fairway by Creamer, Kerr overshot the green and landed in the greenside bunker leaving Creamer little margin for error. Matthew hit a good drive and Munoz hit the green leaving it past the hole. Matthew then left her lag putt four feet from the hole and Creamer hit a good bunker shot to 7-8 feet. Kerr needed to make that putt for par but slid it by the hole. When the surprisingly poised Munoz made the par putt the Euros had scratched out half a point and put the European team up 7 points to 5 going into the afternoon fourballs.
Captain Jones isn’t afraid to take a chance with her players as she is sending rookies Stacy Lewis and Ryann O’Toole out together in the afternoon. The two players couldn’t be in any more different places right now. Lewis was visibly upset and out of sorts during her morning whitewashing while O’Toole is basking in the glow of her winning 1.5 points already in the competition. Jones may be hoping that O’Toole’s “vibe” will rub off on Lewis and get her playing the golf we all know she is capable of. Or, it could backfire and leave the U.S team in an even bigger hole as they head into the Sunday singles matches.