Europe holds the lead, US has the momentum in Solheim Cup

GLENEAGLES, Scotland (AP) – The Europeans have the lead. The Americans have the momentum.

An opening day of swinging fortunes in the Solheim Cup reached a crescendo in a tension-filled last hour at Gleneagles, with the final two matches of the fourballs going to the 18th hole and the United States (US) team staring at a three-point deficit.

Two long birdie putts later, first from Lexi Thompson then from Brittany Altomare, the US had escaped with two half-points and only trailed Europe 4 1/2-3 1/2.

As shadows lengthened across the PGA Centenary Course, it was the US players and their flag-waving fans who were cheering the loudest.

“You keep gnawing a half-point here and a point there, and it adds up,” said US captain Juli Inkster, who cut an animated figure beside the 18th green as Day One drew to a close.

“You look at all the golf today and we’re only a point down. So I’m very pleased with where we’re at right now.”

Jessica and Nelly Korda played central roles in both sessions on Friday, firstly teaming up as the first siblings to play together in the competition and winning six and four in the morning foursomes. It was the only win for the US, which went into the fourballs trailing 2 1/2-1 1/2.

The sisters were split up by Inkster in the afternoon and placed in the final two matches, a decision that looked like backfiring as the Americans went to the 18th hole losing in both.

Thompson – playing alongside Jessica Korda – rolled in a 15-foot birdie from left to right to grab a half from a match against Bronte Law and Carlota Ciganda in which neither side led more than two up.

Altomare – Nelly Korda’s partner – went even better, holing a birdie from 25 feet up the slope to complete a US comeback from four down with six holes to play against Charley Hull and Azahara Munoz.

“Even though we’re ahead, we’re going to act like we’re behind,” said Law, a European rookie whose fist pumps, glares and animated reactions have already drawn comparisons with ‘Mr Ryder Cup’ Ian Poulter. “And we’re going to go and get every point we can.”

Inkster praised the performance of the record six rookies in her team, with Nelly Korda and Altomare digging deep for that crucial half-point after Ally McDonald and Angel Yin delivered a record-tying seven-and-five win over Swedish pair Anna Nordqvist and Caroline Hedwall in the fourballs.

Europe’s three rookies didn’t do badly, either, with Law picking up two half-points, Celine Boutier earning a two-and-one win with Georgia Hall in the foursomes and Anne van Dam excelling in a four-and-two win with veteran Suzann Pettersen in the fourballs.