Five point lead for Europe in Solheim Cup

LUSS, Scotland, AP

Europe won Saturday’s opening two fourball matches in the Solheim Cup and took a five-point lead over the United States before play was suspended with all-day rain turning the rough into a trough of water and the spectator areas into troughs of mud. With two of six fourball (best ball) matches completed, Europe has 7 1/2 points to 2 1/2 for the United States, which leads 4-1 in the women’s biennial version of the Ryder Cup. The Americans need 13 points to retain the cup and Europe needs 13 1/2 to win it, which would be its second victory in the competition. Twelve singles matches were set to end the event on Sunday with the bad weather making it likely the fourball matches would have to be completed first. In miserable conditions bordering constantly on the unplayable, Europe picked up where it left off after building a 5 1/2-2 1/2 lead in Friday foursomes (alternate shot). On Saturday, Swede Sophie Gustafson and England’s Trish Johnson stayed unbeaten in three matches, this time beating Rosie Jones and Becky Iverson 3 and 2. Europe’s Helen Alfressson and Alison Nicholas also defeated Juli Inkster and Sherri Steinhauer 3 and 2 on the strength of six Alfredsson birdies. That match ended just minutes before officials suspended play at the Loch Lomond Golf Club, which has been waterlogged by heavy rain in September and almost daily showers since Solheim practice began Tuesday. In the four matches still on the course, Europe led in two, was level in one with the Americans leading in the other. Gustafson dropped five birdies — four on the front nine as the Europeans shot 4-under 32 — and were 4-up after the par-3 11th, where the Swede struck a 210-yard 3-wood uphill into driving rain, and then dropped her birdie from 20 feet. Johnson closed out Jones and Iverson on the 16th with a birdie. “I like coming out and fighting from the first tee rather than waiting to go for it on the back nine on Sunday in a regular event,” said the 26-year-old Swede, the youngest player in the event and the only one with all her fingernails painted blue dotted with European Union’s yellow star motif.

Johnson, who has played in every Solheim but had won only three matches coming to Loch Lomond, summed up the momentum the so-called underdogs have built from the opening tee shot Friday. “We’re sick of being beat, to be honest,” she said. “We all play over there (United States), 90 percent of the team play in the States all year long. It’s not much fun every two years going back to play there when you know what they’re thinking.” Nicholas had a similar summary. “We’re always the underdogs, we’re always told we’re no good and I think that’s inspired the team,” she said. The three-point lead Europe had after Friday was the largest any team has enjoyed after the first day, matching the edge the Americans had two years ago as they won 16-12 at Muirfield Village. Europe’s 4-0 sweep in Friday morning foursomes (alternate shot) marked the first time any team has been shut out in a session. It also marked the first time since ‘92 that Europe won the opening match. That year — also in Scotland at the Dalmahoy in Edinburgh — Europe captured its only Solheim.