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Europeans in control at Solheim Cup

5:18 AM, Aug 18, 2013   |    comments
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Parker, CO (Sports Network) - Caroline Hedwall won her fourth straight match on Saturday afternoon and helped lead the Europeans to a sweep of the fourball session at the Solheim Cup.

The Europeans took all four matches to push their lead to 10 1/2 - 5 1/2 with 12 singles matches to go on Sunday. The Europeans only need to get 14 points to retain the Cup, while the Americans need to get to 14 1/2 to reclaim it.

"Obviously a very disappointing afternoon. It's literally shocking to see us lose all four matches in the afternoon," said U.S. Solheim Cup captain Meg Mallon. "We've got our work cut out for us tomorrow. It can be done. It's daunting right now, but it can be done."

Hedwall and Caroline Masson won their second straight fourball match after besting Michelle Wie and Jessica Korda, 2 & 1.

Carlota Ciganda bounced back from a poor Friday afternoon performance as she paired with Azahara Munoz for a 1-up win over Gerina Piller and Angela Stanford.

Karine Icher poured in a birdie putt from off the last green to give her and Beatriz Recari a 1-up victory over Cristie Kerr and Morgan Pressel.

But it was the first match that was most key for the Europeans. Captain Liselotte Neumann sent out a pair of rookies, Charley Hull and Jodi Ewart Shadoff, while three of her best players -- Catriona Matthew, Suzann Pettersen and Anna Nordqvist -- sat out the afternoon session.

"A little gutsy. You know, [Hull and Ewart] get along good and they're both strong players," Matthew said as the afternoon matches got underway. "We thought 'send them off early' and go out there and get something going for our team. We just feel strong about it."

The 17-year-old Hull, the youngest player in event history, and Ewart Shadoff took down the American duo of Paula Creamer and Lexi Thompson, 2-up.

Hull hit a poor chip at the first, but it stopped within tap-in range and her birdie was conceded. Neither American could match, but Thompson birdied the fourth to square the match.

Ewart birdied the eighth from about 13 feet out. Creamer answered at the 12th, where she made birdie after a rare miss by Hull. Ewart 2-putted for birdie and a 1-up lead at 14. However, Creamer birdied the 16th from five feet out to square the match again.

After the other three players missed, Hull birdied the 17th from four feet to give the Europeans a 1-up lead heading to the last.

"That was a really good shot," Hull said of her and Thompson's close tee shots. It was amazing cause I knew it was for the halve and it had a good chance to get in the hole. I've never had a hole-in-one before. Probably because we're young we don't have much fear, we just hit it at the stick."

When the Americans couldn't make birdie from off the 18th green, they conceded the hole and the match.

"Both teams were making birdies on pretty much every hole. To get that point on the board, it really means a lot," Ewart Shadoff said. "I think we have pretty different games. Charley is pretty aggressive and I'm down the middle and on the green. So we had a strategy that I'd go first every hole and she could be aggressive. I think it worked out really well."

The third match was tight throughout. Masson birdied the second, but Wie answered with a birdie on the third. Hedwall poured in a 25-footer for birdie at the fifth to give the Europeans a lead which they would not give up.

The teams halved six holes in a row before Masson birdied the 12th to push the Europeans 2-up with six to go. Wie got one back at the 14th, but Hedwall birdied the 15th. Korda missed a tough birdie try at 17, then Hedwall lagged her birdie try to tap-in range. The Americans conceded the putt and the match.

"I guess we played really well," said Masson. "We gave ourselves a lot of birdie chances. Most of the holes both of us had chances, and if one of us struggled, the other stepped up and played well. It just worked really well."

Ciganda made a controversial par to help win her match on Friday, but otherwise played poorly. She bounced back on Saturday, however.

Piller birdied the first for the Americans, but Ciganda answered at the second with a 35-footer.

Piller won the fifth after Munoz missed a par try and also won the seventh to give the Americans a 2-up lead. Munoz made birdie at eight, then Ciganda birdied at the 10th to even the match.

Munoz converted a birdie try on No. 11 to give the Europeans their first lead of the match. Piller squared things up at the 14th, and after three tough halves, it came down to the 18th.

The Americans made a pair of pars before Ciganda converted an 8-footer for birdie and the win.

"It was a tough day for me yesterday, but we won the point and that's the most important thing," Ciganda said. "I was a bit nervous and I wasn't hitting it that good, but today I did some work on the range. I just tried to enjoy playing with Azahara. We just tried to fight until the end and we won the point. So happy."

The final match was the Europeans' from start to finish, but not without more controversy. Icher's birdie at the third was conceded to give the Europeans a 1-up lead.

The match remained that way until Icher was conceded another birdie at the eighth. Recari drained a long birdie effort at the 10th, and when Kerr failed to answer, the Europeans were 3-up with eight holes left.

Pressel got one back with a 5-foot birdie putt at 11. The teams halved the next four before Pressel birdied the 16th to cut the deficit to 1-down.

The 16th hole took nearly an hour to play, as both Kerr and Recari found water off the tee. After a bad ruling hurt the Americans on Friday, they made sure both players took the proper drops from the hazard.

Though neither Kerr nor Recari's balls determined the outcome of the hole, the ruling took much longer then needed, with both sides arguing where the other drop should take place. After the long wait and Pressel winning the hole, the teams halved the par-3 17th with pars.

At the last, Pressel lagged a long birdie try within a foot and was given her par. Icher went next, and ended the match in dramatic fashion. No one had come close to holing the shot she had, but Icher rolled in her birdie try to seal the win and the afternoon sweep for the Europeans.

"I don't think either of us certainly had our 'A' game today," Pressel said. "Karine played great, and we just weren't able to capitalize on some of the early opportunities we did have."

NOTES: Hedwall, who is the only player that will play all five sessions, became the third player in event history to go 4-0 through four sessions ... Stanford has lost six straight matches dating to 2011 ... With her late loss Saturday, Pressel's streak of six straight matches won came to an end ... No team that has trailed 3-down or more this week has rallied to halve a match.

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