(Reuters) – A red-hot European team stormed out to a three-point lead over the United States on the first day of the Solheim Cup at a windswept Inverness Club in Toledo on Saturday.
Europe took a 3-1/2 to 1/2 lead after the morning round of foursomes, winning three matches and tying the fourth on the final hole to stun the hosts and their throngs of red, white and blue-clad fans.
The morning results were a gut punch for the home side, especially European veteran Mel Reid and rookie Leona Maguire’s 1-up victory over world number one Nelly Korda and sister Jessica.
The U.S. team managed to stop the bleeding in the afternoon session of four-ball but will need to take better advantage of their opportunities over the next two days to stop the defending champions from repeating at the biennial competition.
The Americans had a chance to cut into the deficit at the last but Brittany Altomare left a birdie putt short and Europe’s Georgia Hall and Leona Maguire secured the 1-up win over Altomare and Yealimi Noh.
“It was good fun,” Hall said.
“I think we played a better back nine and hit some good shots coming in so we’re just very pleased to get a point.”
Controversy struck when Europe’s Madelene Sagstrom picked up an overhanging ball hit by Nelly Korda on 13 after seven seconds instead of the required 10 to concede a birdie putt.
The rules official said the ball could have yet fallen into the hole and Korda was awarded an eagle to give the Americans the hole and a 1-up lead, which Korda and partner Ally Ewing maintained until the end of the round.
“You don’t want to win a hole like that,” Korda said after the round.
“We didn’t have a say honestly, but we just told ourselves we need to focus on golf, take it one shot at a time and try to finish it off.”
Day two of the competition will feature four matches of foursomes and four matches of four ball. Monday will consist of 12 singles matches.
The three-day competition is expected to draw more than 100,000 fans to the newly renovated course and is scheduled to wrap up on Monday, the Labor Day holiday in the United States.
The Americans lead the overall series 10-6.
(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Editing by Ken Ferris and Alistair Bell)