Swedish rookies Maja Stark and Linn Grant kept it close for Europe at the Solheim Cup on Saturday, making crucial birdie putts on their final two holes to help the hosts split the morning foursome matches and stay only 7-5 down against the United States.
Stark and Grant defeated Danielle Kang and Andrea Lee 1 up in the final group to secure a 2-2 split in the early session. Stark’s putt on the 17th put Europe ahead, then Grant clinched the win by sinking hers on the 18th.
Stark and Grant, good friends off the course as well, had made their Solheim Cup debuts with a loss in the opening foursomes on Friday.
The U.S. got off to its best-ever start to take a 4-0 lead on Friday morning. The Europeans rallied in the fourball matches in the afternoon to cut the lead to 5-3 going into the weekend.
The Europeans, trying to win three Solheim Cups in a row for the first time, came in touted as the favorites after bringing an experienced squad to Spain. The Americans arrived with a young team but with several players who have won big tournaments recently.
Europe got the first point on Saturday with home-crowd favorite Carlota Ciganda and Emily Pedersen of Denmark winning 2 and 1 against Jennifer Kupcho and Lilia Vu, the world No. 2 who is yet to win a match at Finca Cortesin.
“It felt good to go out early and get that one point so we could get ahead of the Americans,” said Pedersen, who on Friday made the second hole-in-one in Solheim Cup history.
No. 3 in the world Nelly Korda and U.S. Women’s Open champion Allisen Corpuz gave the U.S. its first point by cruising 5 and 3 past Georgia Hall and Celine Boutier in the final morning group. Korda clinched the point with a long birdie putt on the par-4 15th. The U.S. duo had already won their opening foursome match on Friday.
France’s Boutier, the top-ranked European who was playing some of the best golf ahead of the Solheim Cup, remains winless.
U.S. veteran Lexi Thompson and Megan Khang picked up their second win by defeating Leona Maguire and Anna Nordqvist 1 up. The Americans took the lead after Nordqvist, who is also acting as a vice captain for Europe, missed a mid-range putt on the 17th.
“We knew that we had to bring our ‘A’ game,” Thompson said. “We got a few down going into the back nine and just stayed positive.”
Spain is hosting the Solheim Cup for the first time, 26 years after it hosted the men’s Ryder Cup at Valderrama. This year’s Ryder Cup is taking place in Rome next week. It is the first time both events are held in back-to-back weeks, and many had expected more collaboration between organizers to better promote golf.
The LPGA, which helps organizes the Solheim Cup in the United States, said in a statement that they “recognize the logistical complications presented with bringing together two organizations,” but added that “we know more collaboration between the men’s and women’s golfers representing the United States would prove beneficial for athletes, fans and partners alike.”
Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get more English-language news coverage from EL PAÍS USA Edition