The USA stands on the brink of successfully defending the Solheim Cup after another irresistible fourballs performance.
Leading 5½-2½ after inflicting a first-ever whitewash on Europe in the opening day’s fourballs, Juli Inkster’s side maintained their lead after splitting the Saturday morning foursomes matches. However, they won the fourballs session 3-1 to extend their lead to 10½-5½ going into the final day’s singles matches.
They require just three-and-a-half points from the 12 that remain to secure their tenth victory in the biennial contest.
In the history of both the Solheim Cup and Ryder Cup, no side has ever recovered from such a heavy deficit.
Europe drew first blood in the afternoon. Jodi Ewart Shadoff and Anna Nordqvist’s beat Lizette Salas and Angel Yin 4&2 to narrow the deficit to 7½-5½.
Within minutes, though, the gap was back to three. The Brittanys, Lang and Lincicome, picked up from where they left off in yesterday’s fourballs to beat Carlota Ciganda and Mel Reid two-up. The US duo has played 34 holes so far this week and never trailed.
Cristie Kerr and Lexi Thomspon then took down Georgia Hall and Catriona Matthew in the anchor match, winning 4&2, before Paula Creamer and Austin Ernst accounted for Karine Icher and Madelene Sagstrom, 2&1 the score.
Questions will rightly be asked about European Annika Sorenstam’s decision-making. Her side rallied to recover a morning foursomes session that had threatened to get away from them by winning the last two morning matches. However, rather than capitalise on that momentum, the Swede decided to split up both of her winning pairings, Matthew and Icher, and Nordqvist and Hall.
The logic behind that decision will be one of many questions Sorenstam has to answer if – as looks inevitable – Europe finds itself on the wrong end of a defeat this week.
How the morning unfolded...
Commentating on the Golf Channel, Karen Stupples, a former European Solheim Cup star, said that splitting the foursomes was the bare minimum Sorenstam's side could afford on Saturday morning.
It was the bare minimum that they got.
Kerr and Thompson took down Ewart Shadoff and Caroline Masson in the first match out. They hit the front on the first hole and never relinquished that lead, running out convincing 5&3 winners.
Creamer and Ernst accounted for Emily Pedersen and Reid by the same scoreline to extend the USA's overall lead to 7½-2½.
At that stage, it looked as though as though a second consecutive American whitewash might be on the cards.
However, Hall and Nordqvist, pictured above, held their nerve to claim the scalp of Stacy Lewis and Gerina Piller (2&1) to narrow the deficit, before Matthew and Icher teamed-up to win their match, also 2&1, at the expense of Michelle Wie and Danielle Kang.
That gave Europe a platform to build on in the afternoon. Instead, matters worsened, leaving them facing a task so steep that it makes conquering Everest look like bagging a Munro.
Where there are points, there's hope. But let's be realistic: there's not much.
Annika Sorenstam: "I just want to congratulate the US on playing some amazing golf. I've never seen anything like it. I'm so proud of my team. They fought so hard and never gave up. It would have been so easy to throw in the towel but they didn't. So, I'm very proud of them. They gave everything they had but it just wasn't enough. Sometimes you just get beaten by good golf. They were on fire today but I'm hoping it's contagious and that we're on fire tomorrow. We've been using mantra bands all week and tonight I'll give my team one that says: 'She believed she could so she did'. Every 'she' is every player. We've got to believe."
Juli Inkster: "I was nervous today because my team played so well yesterday afternoon. I knew Annika was going to come out firing and, when we split in the morning 2-2, I was really glad to get that over with. We played well. We played probably better than 'well'; we played amazing. But as you know, closing it out is the toughest thing to do and we need one more great day of golf."
Sunday singles order
Anna Nordqvist vs Lexi Thompson
Georgia Hall vs Paula Creamer
Mel Reid vs Cristie Kerr
Catriona Matthew vs Stacy Lewis
Karine Icher vs Angel Yin
Caroline Masson vs Michelle Wie
Jodi Ewart Shadoff vs Lizette Salas
Charley Hull vs Brittany Lang
Carlota Ciganda vs Brittany Lincicome
Florentyna Parker vs Gerina Piller
Madelene Sagstrom vs Austin Ernst
Emily Pedersen vs Danielle Kang
Day 2 MVP
It’s not that long ago that Cristie Kerr’s Solheim Cup record was largely and widely derided. Not any more. The oldest player on the US side, the 39-year-old enjoyed a day she won’t soon forget. Playing alongside Lexi Thompson in both sessions, she became the USA’s record points-scorer with victory in the morning foursomes – overtaking her captain Juli Inkster – and, in the afternoon, she carded seven birdies and an eagle to put her side on the brink of victory. As impressively, she and Thompson led from the first hole throughout in both sessions. A vintage performance.