It's been two years since the United States won its third consecutive Solheim Cup match over Europe. But as the 13th offering of this biannual event shifts to foreign soil for the US troops, both Team USA and Team Europe are confident in their abilities to win.
Predominantly stellar play on opening day for both teams proved that to be true.
Three days of matches began today with Session 1 and Session 2 at Killeen Castle Golf Resort in County Meath, Ireland. Team Europe took a slim one-point lead—4.5 to 3.5—heading into the weekend's play.
In the morning round of foursome matches, both teams secured two points.
Michelle Wie and Cristie Kerr got the first score on the board for the US team, beating Maria Hjorth and Anna Nordqvist 2 & 1. But Catriona Matthew and Azahara Munoz tied things for the European team with a decisive 3 & 2 win over Stacy Lewis and Angela Stanford.
The Team USA pairing of Paula Creamer and Brittany Lincicome came from two down to win their match 1-up against Karen Stupples and Melissa Reid. That gave the US team a brief lead until the European duo of Suzann Pettersen and Sophie Gustafson birdied No. 18 to win their match against Juli Inkster and Brittany Lang.
It was two points each for Team USA and Team Europe.
In the afternoon four-ball matches, it appeared a clean sweep was a distinct possibility for the European team. But two of the four matches saw Team USA come from behind to win or halve. Creamer and Morgan Pressel managed a 1-up victory over Laura Davies and Reid, while Christina Kim and Ryann O'Toole eventually got their match All Square with Matthew and Sandra Gal.
The other match was an easy 5 & 4 victory for Gustafson and Caroline Hedwall over Vicky Hurst and Lincicome.
The final tally after one day of action—Team Europe 4.5, Team USA 3.5.
The pairing of Kim and O'Toole was a bit of a gamble for US captain Rosie Jones. Jones was already under intense scrutiny for selecting O'Toole in the first place, but it proved to be a good decision Friday.
Kim hasn't been playing well in 2011 thus far, and O'Toole is an unproven LPGA Tour rookie—albeit one with a lot of confidence and promise. But Kim brings a lot of spirit and enthusiasm to the team, and O'Toole, I believe, doesn't know enough to be bothered by the pressure of this event. That might serve her well moving into the weekend. She made five birdies in her first Solheim Cup match today and proved herself as one of the best players in the field during the opening round.
In her post-round presser, Jones said:
"I just can't give these girls enough for digging it out when they really needed to. It's that kind of fight that really makes this team great. I'm really proud of the three and a half points that we have. I think it's a great start with day one. We did real well on foursomes this morning. It could be even better tomorrow."
Sessions 3 and 4 on Saturday will repeat the foursome and four-ball format before the closing singles matches on Sunday.
UPDATE: The Saturday morning foursome schedule is set as follows:
- Caroline Hedwall/Sophie Gustafson vs. Angela Stanford/Stacy Lewis
- Karen Stupples/Christel Boeljon vs. Morgan Pressel/Ryann O'Toole
- Maria Hjorth/Anna Nordqvist vs. Brittany Lang/Juli Inkster
- Catriona Matthew/Azahara Munoz vs. Cristie Kerr/Paula Creamer