Europe stage superb fourballs fightback to cut USA’s lead to 5-3 in Solheim Cup

Emily Kristine Pedersen and Leona Maguire produced much-needed moments of magic as Europe dramatically kept their hopes of an unprecedented third straight Solheim Cup victory alive at Finca Cortesin in Spain.

After the United States won a foursomes session 4-0 for the first time ever, Suzann Pettersen’s side rallied superbly to win three points from the afternoon fourballs to trail just 5-3 heading into the second day.

Pedersen made the second hole-in-one in the history of the biennial contest on the 12th hole as she and team-mate Maja Stark halved a high-quality contest with Jennifer Kupcho and Allisen Corpuz.

And Maguire then chipped in for a birdie on the 18th to give her and Georgia Hall what looked like a good chance of halving their match with Lexi Thompson and Lilia Vu, only for Thompson to crack under the pressure and shank a simple chip shot from the edge of the green.

To her credit, Thompson hit a superb fourth shot from a far more difficult position, but Vu was unable to hole her long birdie attempt and Europe could celebrate a most unlikely victory.

Spain’s Carlota Ciganda and Sweden’s Linn Grant enjoyed a comfortable 4&2 win over Angel Yin and Ally Ewing, while Scotland’s Gemma Dryburgh and Sweden’s Madelene Sagstrom halved their match with Megan Khang and Rose Zhang.

Maguire told Sky Sports: “I feel like we played great all day and it would have been really annoying not to come away with a point.

“Georgia kept it together on the front nine and I holed a couple on the back and it’s nice to finish off in style.

“I think the Americans played incredible this morning. I think we played well as well, there was no bad golf out there and you have to play some really good golf to win a point, even a half point in these matches.

“We’ll never give up and I think we showed that today.”

Leona Maguire
Europe’s Leona Maguire celebrates chipping in for birdie on the 18th hole on day one of the 2023 Solheim Cup at Finca Cortesin (John Walton/PA)

Hall, who admitted she was feeling the effects of playing 36 holes on a very hilly course, added: “Leona’s shot on the last was phenomenal and just what we needed.

“That’s why she’s such a great player at the Solheim.”

Europe’s campaign for a third straight win had earlier got off to a nightmare start, with Pedersen and Charley Hull thrashed 5&4 by Ewing and Cheyenne Knight and the rookie pair of Grant and Stark losing 2&1 to Thompson and Khang.

Hall and Celine Boutier then surrendered their unbeaten record to Danielle Kang and Andrea Lee, while Maguire and Nordqvist lost on the 18th to Corpuz and Nelly Korda.

United States captain Stacy Lewis had seen her selections questioned after picking an out-of-form Thompson and leaving two-time major winner Vu and rising star Zhang out, but was totally vindicated by the scoreline.

Lewis told Sky Sports: “You could not ask for much more. We knew those middle two matches were going to be tough and just saw a tonne of fight in our girls and fortunately we were on the right side of it.”

Asked about picking Thompson, Lewis added: “I had a feeling yesterday.

“She wasn’t in my line-up that I’ve had for a couple of weeks. The way the last four days have gone, just the way she seemed mentally I had a good feeling about it and Meghan’s been playing amazing the last month or so.

Lexi Thompson
Lexi Thompson hit the opening shot on day one of the 2023 Solheim Cup at Finca Cortesin (John Walton/PA)

“I literally went to them with about three holes left in their practice round and said, ‘hey can you figure out some golf balls’ and fortunately they managed it and got the win.”

Former Europe captain Catriona Matthew, who led the side to victories in 2019 and 2021, admitted she was surprised by the outcome of the session.

“I don’t think anyone saw this coming,” Matthew said on Sky Sports. “I think it’s deflating for everyone. The Americans have done what they wanted to do, they’ve quietened the crowd.

“The Europeans just looked edgy this morning, we got off to a very poor start, were down in all the games, barely ever actually saw any blue on the board so I think this afternoon they’re going to have to go out there strong, try and get some blue on the board and get the crowd into this.”