Europe grab slender lead at Solheim Cup

Dunsany: Europe`s women snatched a 4 1/2-3 1/2 lead over United States after a dramatic opening day in the Solheim Cup at Killeen Castle on Friday.

The morning foursomes were shared 2-2 but the home side had the advantage in the afternoon fourballs, winning them 2 1/2-1 1/2 after being up in all four matches at one point.

"My team played with passion and purpose," Europe captain Alison Nicholas told reporters. "It`s been a long day and I`m exhausted but it was entertainment from start to finish.”

"Tomorrow I want the crowd to come out and shout and scream for Europe. This is a home match and I want them to really get on our side -- they mustn`t be shy."

Suzann Pettersen and Sophie Gustafson both picked up two points for Europe while Paula Creamer shone for the visitors.

The 25-year-old American teamed up with Brittany Lincicome to defeat Karen Stupples and Melissa Reid one up in the morning after winning the last two holes.

Creamer then combined with Morgan Pressel to overcome Reid and Laura Davies by the same margin after again taking the final two holes, Pressel sinking an 18-foot birdie putt at the last.

It means Briton Davies, who has played in all 12 Solheim Cups, must wait to record the half-point she needs to overtake Swede Annika Sorenstam as the all-time leading scorer in the event.

World number two Pettersen rolled in a birdie putt on the final green to win her foursomes with Gustafson and then joined Anna Nordqvist in a stunning two-hole win over U.S. pair Cristie Kerr and Michelle Wie.

Kerr is the world number three while Wie was unbeaten as a teenage rookie in the 16-12 victory in the women`s equivalent of the Ryder Cup in Illinois two years ago.

In the afternoon fourballs Gustafson was sent out to "mother" 22-year-old newcomer Caroline Hedwall and the two Swedes scored a crushing 5 & 4 win over Lincicome and Vicky Hurst.

"I had so much fun out there and Sophie was great to play with," said Hedwall. "I loved every moment."

Catriona Matthew, the 2009 British Open champion, was handed the task of guiding two rookies and did so with aplomb, winning her foursomes with Spain`s Azahara Munoz and adding a half-point in the fourballs with German Sandra Gal.

The afternoon match against Christina Kim and rookie Ryann O`Toole reflected the swinging change in fortunes. Two down after five holes, Matthew then birdied five in a row.

The Europeans were two up with three to play but then the U.S. duo hit form, Kim holing a monster putt for a two at the short 16th and O`Toole making a 25-foot putt at the 17th.

"My side showed a lot of heart to come back in the fourballs after there was a lot of (European) blue on the board," said American captain Rosie Jones.

"It was really exciting golf to watch. I just can`t give these girls enough praise for digging it out when they really needed to."

Jones picked Angela Stanford and Stacy Lewis to lead out Saturday morning`s foursomes against Hedwall and Gustafson.

The U.S. have won eight of the 11 Solheim Cups including the last three editions.

Bureau Report

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