Delay of game: Europe takes advantage of ruling mix-up, finds itself in lead at Solheim Cup
PARKER, Colo. – For nearly a half-hour, the Europeans joined rules officials in a hunt for a golf ball and a place to drop it while the Americans paced around impatiently, looking for answers that never quite came.
Fans that had been chanting "USA! USA!" started shouting "While we're young! While we're young!"
After that strange scene at the Solheim Cup played out Friday, Spanish rookie Carlota Ciganda dropped a 15-foot putt to halve the 15th hole in her match against Stacy Lewis and Lexi Thompson. It gave the Europeans the momentum for a win in that match, which spurred them to a 5-3 lead after a wacky Day 1 at Colorado Golf Club.
"Obviously, we were extremely happy with that," European captain Liselotte Neumann said.
Ciganda's victory with Suzann Pettersen was still being dissected well after sundown when rules officials, after looking at replays, conceded they had made the wrong call during that 25-minute-plus delay on the 15th hole. Nothing they could do about it after the fact, however, so the result stood.
Lewis, who spent the delay pacing, stretching, bending, trying to stay loose, was livid.
"I'm very frustrated by the situation," she said. "I think there were a lot of things that went wrong within the ruling."
As much as the ruling, she and captain Meg Mallon were frustrated with the amount of time it took.
When the Lewis foursome — the first out for Friday afternoon's best-ball matches — reached the 15th tee box, they were nearly two holes ahead of the next group. By the time they putted out, there were three groups stacked up on the par-5 hole.
The group behind, Angela Stanford and Gerina Piller, had just made their third straight birdie to close their deficit against Caroline Hedwall and Caroline Masson to one. They didn't win another hole and fell 2 and 1.
"Here's my team sitting there, after they are just charging and making a comeback, and then they have to sit," Mallon said. "And so, not only does it change the psyche of my team, but it changes the psyche of the other team, because they can have time to regroup."
Farther back on the course, Brittany Lang chipped in from the bunker on 14 to give the Americans a momentum-proof, 3-up lead en route to a 4-and-3 victory over Anna Nordqvist and Giulia Sergas. In the day's last match, Michelle Wie, a controversial captain's pick, teamed with Cristie Kerr for a 2-and-1 win over Catriona Matthew and Charley Hull.
The Americans got their only point of the morning alternate-shot matches from Morgan Pressel and rookie Jessica Korda. Korda hit her very first Solheim Cup shot straight down the middle, then walked to the edge of the fairway to throw up. Moments later, she nailed an approach on the par-5 to 8 feet and the U.S. was ahead.
"I can't explain what happened," Korda said. "I just knew that the banana did not sit."
Europe is trying to retain the cup and win for the first time on U.S. soil. The team that has held the first-day lead has gone on to win nine of 11 times.
"Not awful," Mallon called the first-day deficit. "But we would like to be in better position, and hopefully, we can get all that back tomorrow."
In Saturday's alternate-shot matches, Mallon is putting Pressel and Korda out first against Anna Nordqvist and Caroline Hedwall. On Friday morning, Nordqvist and Hedwall opened for Europe and defeated Lewis and Lizette Salas 4 and 2.
Neumann, meanwhile, will keep a winning combination together Saturday, sending Azahara Munoz and Karine Icher out against Lewis and Paula Creamer. On Friday, Munoz and Icher strung together 15-foot-plus birdie putts on 8, 9 and 10 to take an insurmountable lead in a 2-and-1 victory over the Kerr and Creamer, handing that power pairing their first loss as a team in four tries.
"It was great to win this match and I think I found a friend forever," Icher said.
Other pairings Saturday: Matthew and Caroline Masson against Brittany Lincicome and Salas; and Pettersen and Beatriz Recari against Wie and Lang.
Ciganda will get the morning off after working her heart out Friday afternoon. She played from the scrub and the trees through most of the back nine, but made some of her best shots from there, as well. Her approach on the 13th from the scrub to 4 feet set up a birdie putt that drew the match even.
Then, there was the 15-foot make from the fringe after the 25-minute delay on No. 15. Talk about a game-changer.
"That completely turned things," Lewis said. "The good news is, we're only two points down."