Cat combines with rookies to boost Europe’s chances

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North BERWICK’s Catriona Matthew was a shade upset not to make it two wins out of two but, she did contribute 1½ points to help Europe grab a narrow 4½-3½ lead over the USA after the first day of the Solheim Cup at Killeen Castle in Ireland.

The USA has claimed eight of the 11 Solheims and started favourites to continue a winning run and make it four in a row.

But after sharing the morning foursomes, Europe edged ahead thanks to a 2½-1½ scoreline in the fourballs. It was a dramatic afternoon series Europe ahead in all four matches before being pegged back to a 2½-1½ advantage.

Matthew played a key role. In the morning foursomes, she partnered Spanish rookie Azahara Munoz to a 3 and 2 win over Stacy Lewis and Angela Stanford.

In the fourballs, the 42-year-old was again partnered with a rookie in Sandra Gal and they ended up sharing the spoils with Christina Kim and Ryann O’Toole.

Matthew, making her sixth Solheim appearance, and the German were two down after five holes but the Scot then reeled off five birdies on the trot in a magnificent run from the sixth. The home pair led by two holes with just three to play but Kim downed a massive putt for a winning two at the short 16th and rookie O’Toole did the same at the 17th for a victorious three.

“It was great golf in theses conditions,” said Matthew. “We birdied about every hole on the front nine. Obviously we were disappointed to be two up and lose 16 and 17 – but they made birdies. Sandra played really nicely. I played well on the front nine but then slightly crumbled and she helped me back on course.”

Suzann Pettersen, the world No. 2, and Sophie Gustafson both were 100 per cent contributors to the European cause. Playing together in the foursomes, the Norwegian holed a vital eight foot birdie putt to win the match against Juli Inkster and Britany Lang on the final green.

In the fourballs, Pettersen joined Anna Nordqvist in a great final hole win over Michelle Wie and Cristie Kerr. Kerr is the highest ranked of the visitors at No. 3 in the world, while it was Wie’s first Solheim defeat.

In today’s foursomes, Matthew again partners Munoz in the match against Kerr and Paula Creamer, who won two out of two points on the opening day.