Catriona Matthew’s Europe edged ahead by a single point in the first session of the 2019 Solheim Cup in front of big and noisy crowds at a sun-drenched Gleneagles.
The Europeans lost the first point of the 16th edition of the matches between the USA and Europe, but timely victories for Georgia Hall and Celine Boutier, and then from Charley Hull and Azahara Munoz secured the first foursomes session.
A half point from Bronte Law and Carlota Ciganda in the top match against Morgan Pressel and Marina Alex of the USA meant that the crushing loss of Caroline Masson and Jodi Ewart Shadoff to the Korda sisters wasn’t quite as damaging as it might have been.
Gleneagles was in its best bib and tucker with the scenes from the first tee for the first match at 8.10 am matching the atmospheric opening of the men’s Ryder Cup in 2014 – arguably this was better, with the fans and the singing much more synchronised.
But in near perfect conditions with almost no breeze, some of the early golf struggled to match with nerves and the length of the PGA Centenary Course causing the player plenty problems.
The young Korda sisters – the daughters of former Czech tennis star Petr Korda – were the first to be paired in a Solheim Cup and they made light work of what had been a successful pairing for Europe in the past in Masson and Ewart Shadoff.
The Americans needed only to be two-under for the first 11 holes to be six-up, including a eagle concession at the long ninth when the Europeans were struggling even for a six.
The Europeans avoided the dreaded dog licence – 7&6 – by winning the 12th, but that was only the second hole they won all morning and they eventually lost 6&4.
When that first point registered the US were up in the top match and square in the bottom game, and looking to force a lead, although Hall and Boutier were playing the best golf of anyone on the course in tandem .
The former Women’s British Open champion and the French rookie didn’t have a bogey until the 12th, and even that was good enough for a win to go four-up against the US No 1 ranked player Lexi Thompson and her rookie partner Brittany Altomare.
Thompson hadn’t lost a Solheim Cup tie since her debut in 2013, but despite a late rally to win the 14th and 16th holes, Hall and Boutier closed out their point.
Law and Ciganda started quickly, going two-up after four, but then Pressel and Alex won three holes in a row and the Europeans were hanging on coming down the stretch.
Ciganda had missed a number of key putts but the one the Spaniard holed was crucial, a 25-footer for birdie at the 17th which eventually allowed her and Law to claim a half.
The final match was also in the balance throughout, with some of the more sketchy play on the course as US rookies Khang and Park struggled while Hull and Munoz weren’t shooting out the lights either.
However the Europeans never trailed despite five-over figures when their first birdie of the tie dropped at the 14th to take them into a lead they were never to lose.
Khang’s poor tee shot at the 17th meant a solid par was enough to secure the win and Europe’s handy if narrow advantage from the first morning’s play.