ANDALUSIA, Spain — After getting thumped 4-0 by the United States team in Friday morning’s opening session of the 18th Solheim Cup at Finca Cortesin, European captain Suzann Pettersen was looking for something to spark her squad in the afternoon.
Denmark’s Emily K. Pedersen delivered that moment when she made the second hole-in-one in Solheim Cup history on the par-3 12th hole. Pedersen’s ace seemed to rally the European team, which couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start.
After the European team dropped each of the four foursome (alternate shot) matches to the U.S. for the first time, the four four-ball (best ball) matches were far more competitive. The Europeans won two and tied two to cut the Americans’ lead to 5-3 heading into Saturday.
“I’m really proud of the way the entire team fought back in the afternoon,” Pettersen said. “It’s not easy to stand on that tee in the afternoon knowing you’re down four after the first session. I got to say, hats off to all my players, the way they fought and the way they showed their character. I mean, you get knocked down, you stand up, and you try it again, and that’s kind of what I told the girls, and they did.”
With Pedersen and Sweden’s Maja Stark trailing Jennifer Kupcho and Allisen Corpuz by 1, Pedersen hit her tee shot left of the green. Her ball took a hard right turn and rolled about 60 feet into the hole for an ace, which tied the match.
Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist, a playing assistant captain this year, made the only other hole-in-one in Solheim Cup history in 2013.
The same format of four foursomes and four four-ball matches will be played Saturday, followed by 12 head-to-head singles matches Sunday. The team with at least 14½ points wins the Solheim Cup.
Europe is trying to win the Solheim Cup for the third straight time, which it has never done since the event’s inception in 1990.
The Europeans might have gotten even closer Friday afternoon. In the final match on the course, Corpuz made about a 20-foot putt from the fringe for birdie. Stark answered with about a 9-footer to tie the match.
Three of the four four-ball matches were all square with one or two holes to play. Solheim Cup rookie Rose Zhang and Megan Khang both had good birdie looks on the 18th hole to win their match. Both narrowly missed. They ended up tying their match with Scotland’s Gemma Dryburgh and Sweden’s Madelene Sagstrom, giving Europe its first half-point of the day.
“I think halves are one of the most important things when it comes to team match play,” Zhang said. “You never know how important it is until it’s down to the last half-point. So being able to really start out without losing is just huge for the next couple days when we come back.”
Then Ireland’s Leona Maguire, one of best match-play performers in the game, holed out from just short of the 18th green. That left Americans Lexi Thompson and Lilia Vu needing to match Maguire’s birdie to tie the match.
Thompson’s second shot had settled in the deep rough above a greenside bunker. Thompson badly shanked her third shot, and her ball rolled off the green. Her fourth shot back up the green nearly went in the hole.
“It was a bad lie,” Thompson said. “I didn’t hit a good chip, but it was pretty much impossible.”
Vu’s long birdie try didn’t have enough steam, giving the Europeans their first victory, 1 up, to cut the Americans’ overall lead to 4½-1½.
The only four-ball match that wasn’t competitive was Spain’s Carlota Ciganda and Sweden’s Linn Grant taking down Angel Yin and Ally Ewing, 4 & 2, which reduced the deficit to 4½-2½. The Europeans grabbed the lead with Ciganda’s birdie on the first hole and never relinquished it.
Fortunately for the U.S. team, it had plenty of cushion after a historic performance in the opening session. It was the first time the U.S. started 4-0 in the Solheim Cup. The Europeans led for only four holes in the entire opening round.
The team that won the opening session has captured the Solheim Cup in eight of the previous 11 instances (there were also six ties).
“It was a great day,” U.S. team captain Stacy Lewis said. “Obviously, the start, I would say, was somewhat unexpected but it was a great, great start. I’m proud of the girls and the way they fought.”