Catriona Matthew logged the 20th point of her illustrious Solheim Cup career to give Europe an early edge but a whitewash in the afternoon fourballs put the USA in clear command after the first day at Des Moines Golf and Country Club.
The 47-year-old Scot, the oldest player in European team history and an eleventh hour replacement in the team, had partnered Karine Icher to a comeback victory over one of US captain Julie Inkster’s strongest pairings, Stacy Lewis and Gerina Piller, in the morning session.
However both were left out of the afternoon fourballs by skipper Annika Sorenstam and the 2 ½ to 1 ½ advantage at lunch was wiped out as the USA secured their first ever whitewash in a session in the Solheim Cup.
Sorenstam opted to play all her players on the first day and all four rookies in the afternoon session, but the plan backfired as Julie Inkster’s American team rallied from their disappointing morning to lead 5 ½ to 2 ½.
Lisette Salas led the way, recording six birdies in partnering debutant Angel Kim as she and the 18-year-old crushed Carlota Ciganda and Emily Pedersen 6 and 5.
The USA’s two Brittanys combined seamlessly, Lang and Lincicome winning handsomely 3 and 2 despite the luckless Caroline Masson recording six-under figures in a losing cause partnering Florentyna Parker.
Danielle Kang, who had an outstanding morning securing the USA’s only outright point, was again a star in the afternoon, combining with Michelle Wie to pull away against Jodi Ewart Shadoff and Madelene Sagstrom with four birdies in the space of six holes to win 3 and 1.
Europe’s last chance to salvage something from the session was left to the young English duo Georgia Hall and Charley Hull playing Lewis and Piller, who were sent out again by Inkster despite their morning defeat.
Hall and Hull stayed close but eventually had to give best at the short 17th, where both Americans hit in close and Lewis finished off the whitewash with the birdie.
In the morning session Matthew and Icher had to dig deep against a fast start from the US duo, but successive birdies on 13 and 14 erased a two-down deficit and turned the tide of the game.
A further birdie on 16 gave the European duo the lead for the first time, and Matthew’s brilliant sand save on the short 17th preserved their narrow lead.
On the last Piller had a five foot putt to win the hole in par and salvage a half point but missed. With Georgia Hall and Anna Nordqvist winning the other full point and a half for Mel Reid and Charley Hull, the Europeans had a precious one point lead for lunch.
Matthew and Icher had teamed for a win in Germany two years ago and gelled well again.
“We hadn’t done much wrong on the front nine and told ourselves just to keep going and stick in,” said Matthew. “We then had those two good birdies on 13 and 14 to get back in.”
Matthew had been struggling with her putting this year but she got kick-started with a key par putt on the first.
“I was super-nervous at the start, it doesn’t matter how many of these you play in, you’re going to be nervous,” she said.
“But the putt on the first settled me down. You are freed up a bit more in match play and not so worried about the putt coming back.
“The whole crowd, the atmosphere, playing in the team, it does get the juices flowing. If you don’t get them going for this then there’s no point playing golf.”
Catriona had been left out of the second session of fourballs as Sorenstam looked to give every one of her team a game on the first day.
“I think that’s a good idea,” he said. “If Gerina had holed that putt on the last, it might have felt as though we’d lost half a point, but we didn’t and hopefully it will fire the others up for the afternoon.
“I’ve seen over the years that every half point is important and we are now going into the afternoon with a spring in our step.”
Mel Reid and Charley Hull against Cristie Kerr and Lexi Thompson started with a bang, but saw some of the poorest golf of a warm and sunny morning.
In front a raucous crowd in the first tee amphitheatre, Thompson lashed her drive on the short par four first to eight feet and Kerr holed for eagle. With Hull clearly favouring a sore right wrist, it looked ominous for Europe.
However they fashioned a two-up lead with two to play only to lose both 17 and 18 and halve the match.
In the second foursomes Kang’s eight foot par putt on the last secured the point for the USA after she and Salas had led for almost the entire contest against Ciganda and Masson.
Georgia Hall had an inspired debut partnering Anna Nordqvist to Europe’s best win of the day, a 3 and 1 defeat of Paula Creamer and Austin Ernst.