Mon, 23 Sep 2002

Europe sweeps afternoon play to seize Solheim lead

Elspeth Burnside, Reuters, Edina, Minnesota

Europe swept the afternoon's fourball competition to rally back from a morning setback and establish a 9-7 lead over the U.S. at the Solheim Cup on Saturday.

After losing three of the four foursomes matches in the morning, the Europeans, lead by world number one Annika Sorenstam and the seemingly unbeatable Carin Koch fought back to win all four of the afternoon's matches.

Europe now needs to win five of Sunday's 12 singles matches to not only retain the Cup but also achieve their first Solheim victory on American soil.

Inspired by their rookies the U.S. had jumped out to a 7-5 lead after the morning's foursomes, however Sorenstam and Koch, who have been friends since childhood, had salvaged Europe's only point with a 4 and 3 victory over Michele Redman and Cristie Kerr.

The pair then sparked the European's afternoon comeback with a come-from-behind 4 and 3 victory over Beth Daniel and Wendy Ward.

Two down after seven holes in the fourballs, Sorenstam and Koch won six out of seven holes from the eighth and ran out comfortable 4 and 3 winners.

For Koch, it maintained a brilliant record in Europe's colors. Two years ago, she holed the winning putt at Loch Lomond, and she has now won seven out of seven points in Solheim competition.

"I just hope to keep it going for one more day," said Koch.

Britain's Laura Davies was another to shine in the afternoon as she produced a string of magical shots and with Sweden's Sophie Gustafson managed a one hole win over Kelly Robbins and Emilee Klein.

Davies' birdie at the 526 yard par-five 10th was the best of her round when she hit a massive drive and an almost pin-point accurate one iron from 277 yards to ten feet for an easy two-putt birdie four.

That brought the match back to level, and European wins at the next three holes completed the win.

Maria Hjorth and Iben Tinning combined to claim their first point with one hole win over Pat Hurst and Kelli Kuehne, while Karine Icher and Raquel Carriedo completed the sweep in the afternoon by the same margin against Kerr and Rosie Jones.

European Captain Dale Reid, who led her side to victory at Loch Lomond two years ago, said it was a moment to savour.

"It was a fantastic comeback in the afternoon," she said. "But I didn't panic after the morning. I knew what these players were capable of doing.

"They're all hugely talented and they won't give up."

As for her counterpart, Patty Sheehan, her fear that she could become the first losing American captain on home soil is still very much a possibility.

The U.S. need 14.5 points to win the Cup, while Europe require 14 to retain it.