Team Europe fightback to all square to tee up grandstand Solheim Cup finale

Carlota Ciganda reacts after winning her match on the 17th - Team Europe fightback to all square to tee up grandstand Solheim Cup finale
Carlota Ciganda has been a star performer for Europe on home soil - Getty Images/Stuart Franklin

Since suffering the 4-0 whitewash in the first session of this 18th Solheim Cup, Europe has relentlessly thrown so much blue and gold at the scoreboard that Suzann Pettersen’s team somehow go into the final day tied at 8-8. Very rarely has parity felt so one-sided.

Believe it, the home side here in the Costa del Sol has the momentum, with the sun on their backs and a passionate crowd in their corner. History beckons. If Europe can finish the job and turn a game of catch-up into a complete overhauling, then for the first time the Americans will have been beaten three times in succession.

Sunday could be a classic and it probably needs to be if it is to live up to the first two days. The morning foursomes on Saturday were shared 2-2 before the never-say-die pursuers romped through the fourballs 3-1.

Team USA has never lost a Solheim after “winning” the opening session, so what a feat it would be for Europe to break that run after suffering the maximum deficit. Certainly, Pettersen believes.

“I am out of words. We have to remember we are not there, there are still 12 points up for grabs,” she said. “But we made quite a comeback and now we are tied, and now we put it into fifth gear and keep going.

“This is like climbing a mountain but coming back down is as important, so I’m going to see if I can just regroup these girls before they go to bed, and we’ll be ready to go in the morning. We will be ready to go in the morning. But this was unbelievable golf. It’s only in the Solheim Cup. It keeps happening, every single time!”

Indeed, the standard in the afternoon particularly was extraordinary. Linn Grant, the Swedish debutant, made five birdies in the first six holes and seven birdies in the first 11, as she and Spain’s Carlota Ciganda fended off the unfortunate Danielle Kang and Lilia Vu 2&1.

Leona Maguire and Charley Hull of Team Europe fist bump - Team Europe fightback to all square to tee up grandstand Solheim Cup finale
Charley Hull (right) battled through a neck injury to successfully partner Leona Maguire - Getty Images/Stuart Franklin

Grant has collected three points out of four games, but Ciganda has won three out of three, thrilling her home audience, with her finest Sergio Garcia impression. The woman from Pamplona was not involved in that torrid beginning and the resurrection can be traced back to her entry in Friday afternoon’s 3-1 rising in the fourballs. “Linn is born to do this, Carlota shows up with her A-game in Spain,” Pettersen said. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

Charley Hull played in her second match, after losing in Europe’s wretched opening foursomes on Friday, and the Englishwomen defied her neck strain to accompany Leona Maguire in a 4&3 victory over world No 3 Nelly Korda and Ally Ewing. Hull held up her end - although she very nearly hit captain Pettersen when she pushed her second on the par-five eighth - but it was Maguire, the Irishwomen who won a record 41/2 points out of five as a rookie two years ago, who struck the killer blows in the fourballs.

“Leona played unbelievable - it was an honour to play with her,” Hull said, before explaining her injury. “It’s called a facet sprain. I actually picked up my bag last week and that kind of started it, and then I done it from sleeping on the plane over here as well. It’s been pretty sore. I kind of had to change my swing to account for it. It’s probably about 70, 80 percent now. Hopefully, it’s good for tomorrow.”

Solheim Cup Sunday singles line-up
Solheim Cup Sunday singles line-up

Pettersen will be counting on it, as the home side will need to channel the Sunday spirit of 2019, only the second time they have prevailed when not in a lead going into the concluding singles. Of course, Pettersen, herself, holed the winning putt in the last match on the last green at Gleneagles for a 14 1/2-13 1/2 triumph that began this run.

It may yet take similar heroics to complete the historic hat-trick, because the Americans will come again and are traditionally stronger when left to their own devices. Europe has enjoyed the better in the singles only five times in 17 Cups.

Furthermore, fatigue could be a factor as Pettersen’s line-up has three golfers who have appeared in all four sessions - Grant, Maguire and the indefatigable Dane Emily Pedersen - while each and every American has been rested at least once. The visitors have become increasingly tetchy - with Lexi Thompson bizarrely refusing to comment on her shank on Friday evening - and Lewis will simply pray that this cantankerousness will fuel a resurgence.

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